What is your biggest fear? More specifically, what is it you are afraid to lose by following the call to deeper discipleship with Christ? Don’t say “nothing”, because every Christian who has grown beyond Sunday-only Christianity has had those fears. They don’t make you a bad person. They make you a person the Holy Spirit has spoken to, and they have stirred in you because the very Creator Himself has stirred the waters of your soul. You are in very good company.
You might be afraid to face these fears because they might feel like selfish reasons to you. Maybe you are afraid if you follow Christ into deeper relationship you will have to give up your entire way of life, like the fishermen of the New Testament who gave up their very homes to follow him. Maybe you are afraid of losing the respect of those who would reframe you to be one of “those religious people”. Maybe you fear you’d have to give up Friday night beer time, or those closest friends who seem to truly understand you. Maybe you don’t want to identify with some of the Christians you know, and you feel more affinity to the person far from God. Maybe the word “obedience” scares you and makes your jaw set.
They might also feel like noble reasons to you. Maybe you are afraid it will come between you and your spouse, your parents, or your children. You might feel stretched to the limit already, and you can’t possibly imagine giving more of yourself to one more thing, lest your family or yourvery sanity suffer. Perhaps you have everything in your life delicately balanced, and you don’t want to send all those plates you’ve been spinning into the stratosphere, or shattering to the ground.
Whatever you are holding onto tightly, consider this fact: It’s possible God is not asking you to give up any of those things. What if you kept your friends, your family and still moved intogreater following and deepness with the very God who spoke you into being? Too often we get the cart before the horse, and put obedience before relationship. That doesn’t work in parentingfor very long, and it doesn’t work in relationship to our God either. Because He is not the god of anarchy and chaos, obedience does matter, but it more resembles practices for a better relationship than rules to comply with in order to be accepted. If Jesus followed that line of thinking, he would only have healed the most pious. We know from scripture that is not true.
But let’s take the worst-case scenario: What if following Jesus more closely into deeper discipleship did cost you the things you were most afraid of losing? If that was a reality and if it is stopping you, then you are choosing the thing God has given you over the very giver Himself. You have put your trust in the gifts. You don’t believe you will be ok without them. You believe you have built your own happiness, and he will take that away. I’ve got news for you: Every good thing comes from God. Look that up, it’s in the Bible. Everything that is good in your life that brings you happiness is from your Father in Heaven. And he’s got more where that came from. You don’t trust that He will make you as happy as you feel you’ve made yourself. Again, you don’t trust He will make you as happy as you feel you’ve made yourself.
Let’s be real though, is there a cost to following Jesus? Even the Bible admits this. There is a cost to losing weight and getting in shape, but if you deny desserts and sacrifice a little time at the gym, you will be happy to be the new person you have become. There is a cost to giving up dating every cute person who piques your interest, but when you marry the one you truly love, you commit to leaving the other people behind, and you are happy you did. Nothing replaces trust in a marriage, and no one can be your closest ally on this earth. It’s not loss, it’s sacrificing the good thing to make room for the better thing.
If you are still afraid that God will make you an unlikable freak, a lonely person, eating ants for dinner in Africa, not living in your dream house, friends with boring church people; whatever your fear that keeps you from deeper relationship, here is the truth of all of that: You don’t know Him at all. That’s the harsh reality of your decision. And it IS a decision. You don’t trust him because you don’t know Him. And that, friends, is the place to start.
Don’t give up anything, just move toward getting to know who He really is. Add things to your life rather than take them away. Add prayer. Add scripture reading. Talk with someone closer to Him than you. When you read the New Testament, imagine a real, breathing man walking the earth. Ask God to show Himself to you. Read a book that helps reveal what Scripture is saying. Read the four gospels over and over for a month. Learn who He really is, and let go of the lies that have snuck in over the years. I guarantee a majority of the fears that keep you from him are lies, and the Bible tells us the evil one is the father of lies. What if that’s who you have been listening to? It’s a chilling thought to realize that what you thought was just standing still was actually obeying the one who would be happy to keep you far from God.
There are lots of ways you can move closer to God. Any leader in your church can give you a list, but standing still isn’t going nowhere, it is going further from God. Be fearless. What if your life really would be fuller, more peaceful and centered on an unmoving person rather than circumstances? Dive in and understand what those who have gone deeper are talking about. If you have doubt still, welcome to the club. If you have resistance, do it anyway. If you are afraid, pull up a chair. Come to the table. He’s not angry at you for not coming sooner, he is so delighted in you and that you came. I’ll see you there.