What really matters ...
An honest look at what is truly essential to the authentic Christian life.
... I have attempted to set down nine vital areas of living in conscious contact with the Redeemer God as He can be discovered in Jesus Christ. .... an important, integral part of that life: faith, prayer, growth, praise, service (friendship with Him), giving, what we are like, what He is like, our commitment to Him. All of these matter.
... all have come to be characteristics of the Christian walk. No one, certainly not I, has flawless faith, a perfect prayer life, or uninterrupted growth. I have yet to meet anyone who is a perfect friend to God, whose service glorifies Him in every way. I have yet to meet a totally selfless, generous giver; I have yet to meet anyone who is every moment Christlike; and, although I can speak only for myself where commitment to Him is concerned, mine is permanent, still far from perfect. ... the basics for us all - the basic, recognizable characteristics of what Paul called "the life hid with Christ."
But aren't they just that? Aren't they characteristics? Are they collectively or separately what makes for fruitful lives as Christians? Aren't they results of something else which matters ultimately?
Could we put it this way: All matter, but what really matters?
What makes it all happen?
... on faith, did you perhaps think with some misgivings about the quality of your faith? Did you cringe a bit at times because your faith seemed weak and ineffectual? As I see it, that is a wasteful thing for any of us to do. After having met and talked or corresponded with thousands of people, I am convinced that God is constantly grieved that we have somehow laid hold of the idea that it is we who have to whip up what we can recognize as faith. The same is true of prayer. If your prayer life seems to you to be vapid and only half alive, do you feel guilty about it? That response is also wrong. The same is true of what appears to be our lack of growth, our lack of giving, of praise, and so on.
We are heading in the wrong direction when we expend one single minute in conscientious but useless effort to whip up any of the qualities of the Christian life.
Every characteristic of the "life hid in Christ" mentioned above, and many more characteristics besides, are, by our own efforts, out of reach. Oh, I know how many sermons have been preached on our commitment to God, our lack of faith, our shallow prayer-lives, our pitifully small gifts, our lack of resemblance to Christ, our laziness in service.
The God of the Cross and the Open Tomb did not come to earth to cover us over with guilt. He came to free us from it, and anyone can be free of the self-struggle in the life with Christ if he or she will face the one, irrevocable fact that what really matters— the only thing that makes it all possible— is the fact of God's eternal commitment to us.
The Eternal God of the universe, the Creator, the Good Shepherd, the Comforter, the Greatest Teacher, the Savior, is and has always been totally committed to you and to me … for as long as that God has been in existence. And there has never been a time when God was not in existence.
If for some reason I had to blot out every other word in the entire Bible, I would cling for dear life to these lifelines from the first chapter of John's Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the
These tie together to give me all I really need to believe that the true nature of the God who created us is discoverable in Jesus Christ.
There is no way we can stake our daily or our eternal lives on His commitment to us, unless we know beyond the sadow of any doubt that the One who says, "Follow me," is the One who can let the simplest omong us know what God is like in His intentions toward us all. "Without him [Jesus, the Word] was not anything made that was made." A perfect sentence, but also a giant beam of light on the unalterable fact that the Word, Jesus Christ Himself, was not only present at Creation, but that He is also the Creator. "The Word was with God and the Word was God."
The emphasis is mine, but to me every word in the passage quoted above from the Gospel of John could be emphasized. It is that important to everything that has to do with everyone God loves, and that is everyone who has ever lived and who will ever live.
I have spent hours leafing back through my earlier books while thinking my way through this one. the necessity of our having at least some idea of the true nature of God Himself runs through those books like a bright thread. I have looked at tragedy, at monotony, at failuure, at disappointment, at death, at grief, at one dark corner of the human dilemma after another, and always the Answer is: This, too, can be coped with if we know God's intentions toward us in it.
But there is no way to know His intentions unless we know Him. I repeat: my commitment to Jesus Christ is permanent — life without Him would for me be one-dimensional — but my commitment is far from flawless. It runs an often erratic course, because a perfectly committed follower would always obey, never disobey, and who does always obey? Certainly not I. I do happen to be able to sound Christian when I don't feel Christian. I can say what's expected of me, and because I've had to make so many public appearances, I can cover my true feelings with quite convincing prose. Of course, I don't fool me. And naturally, I don't fool God.
Even when our commitment to Him falters, His to us is as steady and unshakable as it has been from the beginning. Especially when we are recalcitrant — and that usually means we are hurting ourselves in the process — He proves the durability of His eternal commitment to us.
Since this amazing truth about His commitment to us lighted up my mind, I have stopped struggling to perfect my own commitment to Him. I can't perfect it. If my mail is any indication, hundreds of His sincere followers are still struggling to perfect their commitments. In fact, in some Christian groups they keep committing themselves over and over. We don't need to. I see it as futile. Instead, I have begun to count, even when I'm annoyed, on His commitment to me. I find that by doing so I can begin to put my foolish struggles into perspective far more quickly than if I agonize over my own stubborn streaks.
This is an edited excerpt from What Really Matters by Eugenia Price.