I confess that many times I’d prefer to take an easy road. The secular culture shouts its “follow your heart” mantra and honestly, my heart generally prefers the path of least resistance. It’s a smoother ride to go with the flow than it is to paddle upstream against everything the world says makes sense. But this isn’t the healthiest approach, because the only way to build true strength is to successfully endure struggle. Experience confirms that when little is required of me, I am less likely to grow in a way that benefits myself, my children, the church, or the world in which I live. Our world desperately needs a fleet of lifeboats powered by followers of Christ who have the perseverance to face difficulties on the stormy seas of life. I’d like to suggest four challenges that are worth accepting right now as Christians.
ACTIVELY CULTIVATE A RESILIENT FAITH. Authors Brown, Phillips, and Stonestreet write in their book, Making Sense of Your World, “For the Christian, the Bible is not merely a book to be looked at, it is also a lens to be looked through.” Unfortunately, Bible literacy is at an all-time low and recent studies indicate that only six percent of American adults hold to a Biblical worldview. The only way for Christians to withstand the pounding cultural waves that come against us is by diligently studying and meditating on Scripture in conjunction with doctrinally sound resources. This requires more than just reading a Bible verse or two out of context followed by whatever a popular influencer has to say about it. We need to engage in deep and consistent thinking about God’s Word by appreciating the multifaceted way it reveals Him to us rather than placing ourselves at the center of it. As we engage in study methods that help us dig beneath the surface of the Biblical text, we will begin consuming meat rather than just milk. This healthy diet helps us fortify our shields of faith to repel the fiery darts that the enemy relentlessly launches against us. It also prepares us to go on the attack and skillfully wield the sword of the Spirit. As Paul prayed for the recipients of his letter to the church at Philippi, we should desire to grow in knowledge and discernment so that we may be pure, blameless, and filled with the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:9-11). Additionally, we should remember to test all things against Scripture and hold only onto what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21) by being alert to any message that is emotionally manipulative, me-centered, or simply uses Scripture to proof-text a desired application.
ENTHUSIASTICALLY ENGAGE WITH YOUNGER GENERATIONS. Research overwhelmingly confirms that as the number of adult believers a child or student has investing in their lives increases, the chances of them walking away from church when they leave home decreases. We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are younger in the faith. Scripture repeatedly tells us that God is the defender of the weak and vulnerable and He commands us to vigorously protect His spiritual children in the same way. We should strengthen our resolve to disciple those within our spheres of influence in the truth of His Word so that they are not tempted to look to the culture for answers. When we have the courage to answer hard questions and doubts without turning blind eyes or deaf ears, we protect susceptible young believers by arming them with the superior answers found in the Biblical worldview. It takes effort to develop clear critical thinking required to understand the deceptive ideologies that lurk in the world and to help younger generations recognize the danger in falling prey to them. It’s more important than ever for seasoned believers to put our own self-interests aside and equip younger generations to resist the temptation to be conformed to the world. In a culture that is actively catechizing our children to devalue life, look out for number one, and redefine identity, it’s up to mature followers of Christ to offer something counter-cultural.
SELF-SACRIFICIALLY SERVE THE BODY OF CHRIST. Our world has a consumer mentality that caters to pleasure, entertainment, and seeking out whatever makes us happy as individuals, but being part of a church family often requires that we set aside our own preferences for the benefit of the body as a whole. God calls us to humbly demonstrate deference to our brothers and sisters in Christ even when it isn’t convenient or comfortable for us. Scripture says that as each individual part works together in cooperation out of love, and is led by Christ, the entire body will be healthier (Ephesians 4:16). The church can only be an effective force for good in the world if each individual fulfills a precise role while utilizing the unique gift with which God has equipped them. I believe that God has put my church family together to serve Him in a specific way in this exact time and place, so it will not promote the health of the church if I neglect my own role or step into someone else’s. First Corinthians 12:4-7 says, “Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit.There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God works all of them in each person. A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.” Christ’s body was broken and bled for His bride, the church, so the least we can do is offer ourselves as a living sacrifice for her. As each member of the body supports the ministries of the local church through our consistent presence, persistent prayers, affirming words, and self-sacrificial deeds, we will be able to function as a healthy part of the body of Christ, our love will be evident to all, and He will be glorified.
COURAGEOUSLY SHARE THE TRUTH IN LOVE. Truth-telling is not in vogue today and is often met with considerable pushback in a world where truth is redefined according to individual preferences. While it can be uncomfortable at times, as Christians we are called to speak things that comport with reality and to do so in the most loving way possible. First Corinthians 13:6 says, “Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.” I’m not loving my neighbor if I don’t speak the truth based on objective and knowable reality. As we share true things, our interactions should be defined by gracious, well-seasoned speech and marked by wisdom in how we answer difficult questions (Colossians 4:6). The enemy of each human soul sets a trap with lies designed to steal, kill, and destroy. As believers we know the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life…the One who is the only sure source of our identity…the One who grants each human life value, dignity, and worth. May we not be fearful of what man may do to us but be bold as we endeavor to set captives free by sharing truth so they may experience abundant life in Christ.
In a world that tempts us to do easy things like flaunt our authentic selves, look out for number one, despise our neighbors, and accept redefinitions of truth, I pray that we would have the courage to accept life-changing challenges with grace. We can be thankful that God promises to never leave us or forsake us, especially in the middle of difficult circumstances. We can place our trust completely in Him as we set our personal agendas aside to see His kingdom advance. The maker of the winds and the waves won’t abandon us as we set sail and do hard things for His glory.