What does it take to have faith that can move mountains? How can you become closer with someone that you can’t actually text and go hang out with? How do you hear from the Holy Spirit and know what God wants you to do?
I’m no expert at this, but the more steps that I take on my journey the more that I realize that it takes me being intentional about my faith and relationship with Jesus. That’s what really kicked off my journey from being a mild mannered, fair weather christian to being on fire and serious about becoming close with Jesus. When I just kind of did things like reading scripture or praying on occasion, there was no positive change in my faith. If there was any change, it was me drifting away from it and not growing closer to Jesus.
I had to actually force myself to take the time for daily devotions, both on my own and with my wife. After a little while of having to force myself, it became a habit that I began to look forward to. The more that I read scripture and did devotions, the more that I realized that my prayer life was significantly lacking (nonexistent to be exact) and that in order to move forward, I would have to begin to have a more active prayer life. As I began to pray more, I felt closer to Jesus and noticed some things in my life changing a little bit at a time. Small things mostly, but they added up to some much bigger changes.
I’ve always been the type to stress and worry about things. Big things, small things, even things that shouldn’t matter would consume my thoughts and I would just become bitter and negative in a heart beat, even when nothing was really wrong. Most of the time it was stuff that hadn’t happened, but that could happen and I was putting those things before my time with God. I made my problems into an idol and God doesn’t like to have people worshiping idols instead of Him. Just look at Exodus 32:1-35 when the Israelites made an idol of a golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai. God was ready to destroy them and begin making a nation from Moses instead.
It took a lot of work to move myself to a point where I put God first and my problems second and at times I still struggle with it and have to remember to be intentional in giving those problems to Jesus and actually letting them go. It can be really hard to let go of the stress of having vehicle repairs that need done and no money to do it. Or having symptoms of a medical condition and being concerned while you have to wait for tests and doctor visits to let you know what’s going on. But those are big things and Jesus is there to take that stress from you. His shoulders can handle it, ours weren’t made for that. He promises that we will be provided with everything that we need, but sometimes that means that we don’t get what we want and have to be able to reconcile with the fact that maybe it wasn’t something that we needed as much as we thought we did.
I know the there have been times that I have been in a bad spot financially and had something big happen. Not knowing what to do or how I could take care of them caused many sleepless nights, much heart burn and a lot of irritability and emotional breakdowns. Somehow, it seems as though it has always been handled. There have been times when the money was somehow just provided for us through the church or friends. Sometimes we would have to ask family. And others, things worked out in a way that we had just enough to take care of whatever it was.
Just a few days ago, the family took a road trip from Indiana to Florida. I was hoping and praying that we’d get down there ok and not have any major issues, be it mechanical or relational. We made it down after a a pretty long 15+ hour drive. We stopped for fuel and to meet with my mom to help us navigate to her new house out in the middle of nowhere. As we start the last 20 minutes of our drive, the check engine light comes on and I’m stressing! I had a hard time relaxing for the rest of the evening (even though it was quite short after that long drive). I laid in bed, exhausted and just prayed that I would be able to let the stress go and enjoy vacation. It took me a good half hour of just praying about that over and over, but eventually I began to feel much more relaxed. In the morning, that stress was gone and I just trusted that somehow, vacation was going to be ok and we would be able to make our 1k mile journey home in a few days. That morning, the vehicle went to a shop and they had decided that my oil pan was cracked and would be ready fairly quickly. Problem solved.
Now there are a lot of things that we would love to do and aren’t able to because of various responsibilities, both financial and because of decisions that were made for our family. It can be disheartening to not get to go on a long vacation far away from home. It can be frustrating to have to drive a vehicle that has some issues. It can be a little embarrassing to not be able to take care of some home improvements/repairs. At the end of the day, we get to spend time together, we have vehicles to get us where we need to go and we have a home to live in. Do we have the best of everything? Do we have everything that we want? Certainly not, but we do have everything that we need, so we shouldn’t put the stress of not having what we want before our relationship with Jesus.
“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)
Jesus is letting us know that it is up to us. We must go to God in prayer. We must seek a relationship with Jesus. We must knock on the door so Jesus can welcome us with open arms. It’s up to us to be intentional in seeking Him and beginning the relationship. He has always wanted a relationship with us, but He can’t do anything in us until we decide that we need that relationship and go to Him. He has stood beside you your entire life, but if you weren’t intentionally looking for Him, you would miss that He was there for you. You wouldn’t see that He was trying to comfort you in times of pain and high five you in times of triumph. You would miss that He tried to show you a better path to go down that would lead to Him instead of the path that the enemy wants you to follow that only leads to pain.
Intentionality is one of the things that saved our marriage. Learning from friends that in order to have a Christ centered life and marriage meant you had to be intentional about having that. It doesn’t just happen because you go to church on Sundays and maybe a bible study during the week. If you only spend an hour or 2 each week working on your faith, you’re really not going to get very far.
If you’re into sports or any kind of hobby really, then you know that you don’t get good at it by just participating once a week. You have to put in some time. A little bit a day can go a long way towards honing a craft or skill. If you just pick up a guitar once a week, you’ll never be able to play like many of the guitarists that you’d like to emulate. Most of them put in countless hours, every spare moment that they had, when the first began playing. They devoted themselves to getting their hands to make the music that was in their head. Then they devoted countless hours to writing better music and learning skills that would take them to a whole new level. Rinse and repeat. You can’t play like Steve Vai by only playing an hour each week. You can’t have the faith of Paul by going to church on Sunday and not honing your faith on a daily basis.
Building a stronger faith and closer relationship with Jesus requires that we take action each and every day. We have to choose each day to wake up and follow Him. We have to decide that today, we are going to read scripture and seek to understand who we are called to be. We have to pick up our cross and follow the example that Jesus set for us. We must choose every single day to be intentional in our faith. If we don’t do that, then we can’t take a single step on our journey.