I recall asking a good friend a while back, what makes a Christian different than any other person. She answered the only difference between a person of the world and a Christian is our faith. As Christians, we have great faith in our God and that is our life’s firm foundation. I was confused after hearing that answer. At the time, I believed in God. However, I couldn’t just sit around and live on faith alone! Sitting in my living room while being faithful doesn’t pay my bills, doesn’t help me be a good friend, and it sure doesn’t help accomplish all of the things God has put on my heart. So what does it mean? God, what does being faithful mean?
God answered by putting me through tremendous pain.
It is said in the Bible that pain purifies our faith. As I go through my season of change and trial, there have been many hours where I laid on my bed, paralyzed by pain. I pondered and prayed for mercy and for the day when things would get better. After a few days, I grew tired of my sad state and I began to dig for the root cause of my pain. The root cause is how little faith I had in God. Instead of putting my faith in Jesus and trusting in His plan, I put it in other worldly idols such as people, my own abilities, my own craving for control and my insecurities. Instead of letting Him satisfy me with His wisdom and blessings, I try to judge my life by my own standards. These realizations made me question myself: how strong is my faith in God and where does it need to be? My faith needs to be as strong as the illustration below.
Once upon a time, there was a young man who wanted to be successful. So he decided to go visit the most successful guru to understand how the guru became successful. When the guru heard the young man’s request of wanting to be on his level, he was gracious with his time and asked the young man to follow him to the beach. As they approached the ocean, the guru said, “follow me into the water”. The young man, desperate to know the secret, followed the guru into the freezing water. When the water got to be waist deep, the young man began to doubt. He was cold and he didn’t really know how to swim. So he stopped and shouted at the guru that he didn’t want to go any further. The guru looked back and asked, “do you want to be successful or not?!” The young man murmured that the old fool was crazy, but decided to go on with it. When finally the water got to be chin-deep, the guru stopped, turned around and looked at the young man. He asked the young man, “Do you want to be successful?” The young man said, “I do.” So the guru pushed the young man’s head into the icy water and held him down. The young man, surprised by the attack, fought and clawed and twisted. As he was about to faint from his last dying breath, the guru pulled him out of the water. The young man, after catching his breath, looked at the guru with great anger and shouted: “Why did you do that?” The guru said: “When you were underwater, what did you want?” The young man said, “I just wanted to breathe.” The guru said, “If you want to be successful as badly as you wanted to breathe, you will be at my level. Because when you were under water, you didn’t care about insecurities, girls, cars, sad/happy feelings. You cared about nothing but that last breath. The only way you will be successful is if you want success like your last dying breath!”
After hearing that story, I realized the only way I can be a disciple of Christ is if I want to be faithful to Him as much as I want to breathe. I realized that ever since I became a Christian, I only “kind of” wanted to be faithful to God. For years, I wanted to party and be irresponsible in a way that has led me to drunken debauchery and misrepresenting Christians in the world. I would rather sleep and be absent from church than to want God. I lust over being accepted and I would do anything to fit in, even if it means to lose myself. I need to find the perfect girl, and I’ve left a trail of broken hearts as I’ve toyed with people’s emotions. I made money, earned accolades and taken jobs just for the titles to boast and hide my resources from my ministries. I want to be well-known so I hang out with only people who will get me there. I need to be beautiful so I spend hours in the gym, working on my body to show off to others. I needed to be loved by everyone around me so I befriend people not because I actually care about them. I I I… it’s all about me. Where does God fit? I was so busy satisfying all of my insecurities and my idols that I threw my Savior to the side for when it was convenient for me.
My life has changed significantly since these realizations, nowhere more significant than on the basketball court. I loved and hated basketball. I hated basketball because I hated losing, because losing would determine my mood for the rest of the day. I hated basketball because it never brought me the attention and accolade I thought I deserved. I hated basketball because I was so afraid to fail that I didn’t even show up to my high school’s varsity basketball tryout. I hated basketball because my abilities were not strong enough to carry my team to win any basketball tournaments I’ve ever entered. I avoided basketball because I was insecure about not being able to jump as high as I can imagine myself jumping and because I was not as quick and fast as I boasted about. My hatred for basketball symbolized all of the different idols I tried to satisfy. It revealed so many of my weaknesses I had tried desperately to hide. But we can only serve one master. We can serve only one idol. We can serve only our God. When I truly put all of my faith in my God, He frees me from all of my insecurities and all my past failures.
Today, I love basketball. I play for the love of the game. Everyday, when I am at the gym working out, I am doing it because I am driven to be better than yesterday. When people ask me why do I work out or play so hard, I answer it’s because God demands the best from me in everything I do. I am so grateful to the Lord that I have the ability, the health, the skills, and the resources to play a game I enjoy. I have tremendous faith that will honor my hard work. That honor will not come in results but I am rewarded in the process. I get to play a game that I love.
As I look to the future, my heart is healing. It heals because it can take comfort in knowing that my life is in His hands and I have nothing to worry about. All the pain and hurt is truly temporary. Not only do I have the most glorious reward waiting for me at the end of my time on Earth, but life is too short to be trapped by my own insecurities and sadness. I have a purpose in life to serve my Father and I don’t want to go back to my old ways of shelving my faith for when it’s convenient.
Father, I want you like it’s my last breath.
If you would like to send me encouragement or if you like to share your own pain and struggles, I can be reached at [email protected]