For many of us Western suburbia Christians, there may come a point when being a Christian seems a bit dull and dissatisfying. We may start to wonder and worry why we feel that same nagging feeling we had before we committed our lives to Jesus– the one that whispers, Is this all there is?”
For me, that was actually part of the reason why I didn’t want to fully submit my life to Jesus as a teenager. It looked boring. I thought living a Christian life was characterized by driving down the street to the same place every week to smile and say hello to the same people.
Regardless of our belief system, life is unavoidably routine sometimes. It can easily start to resemble a hamster wheel between our carbon copy morning routine, the repetitive work week, yard work every Saturday and church every Sunday. Even with faith, we can find ourselves with the feeling that something’s missing.
When we first profess that Jesus is our Lord, everything about it is so exciting. There’s so much to talk and learn about as we seek more of who Jesus is and what God has said and done. There are destructive habits we’re suddenly empowered and motivated to let go of, and healthy ones to create.
But at some point, we seem to cross some kind of invisible line. There’s more to learn, yet our excitement and motivation to keep digging just isn’t there.
It can be pretty discouraging when this happens. For some, this is when they give up on faith. They thought it would feel better to believe something so life-changing. But it didn’t work. Bad things are still happening. House chores are still boring. Temptation still pesters them. Pursuing an unseen God just no longer seems worth as much, and so they pull back on the faith thing and start pursuing some other stuff that promises to make them feel better.
There’s a dangerous path even for those who are determined to remain faithful. They might start to guilt themselves into believing they just need to step up their studies. It’s the tendency to think that if they know more, it’ll stick better. Maybe learning Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic will do the trick. Maybe going to a few Christian conferences will help (nothing against conferences; I think they serve an awesome purpose). It’s just a matter of reviewing the information again, memorizing more verses, and adding a couple new books on advanced theology and doctrine for the sake of getting us back to that exciting and passionate feeling we once had.
The fact is, though, if the feeling of excitement is our motivation, we’re bound to end up back to the same place as before, wondering, Okay… now what? And it’ll likely to be even more discouraging each time that dreaded hamster wheel starts coming into view because nothing we learn is helping to keep the excitement of being a Christian going like we want it to be.
But that’s the point. Learning isn’t the end goal.
James 1 is controversial because it talks about deeds and because we know that salvation is not through works. But James’ point was that what we learn about faith is not meant for the classroom. It’s meant to totally alter how we live, what we do, and where we go. It’s active, and until it’s active, it’s going to seem stale, unfulfilling, and dissatisfying.
It’s like getting a new RV and just studying the owner’s manual. At first, we might often step back and admire with thankfulness what we have and all that it can do. Every Saturday morning, we get the ladder out and wash off the water spots from the previous week’s washing.
Surely you see the insanity of this. It’s not our knowledge about the RV that offers the excitement we’re looking for. That was meant to be found in the freedom and adventure that our new RV equips us to go out and experience.
Almost all of the directions we’ve read from the kitchen table talk about what to do with the RV while it’s not in a driveway or in a specially-built garage. They’re directions meant to be taken with you while you’re out on the open road– out living what the RV represents.
The same goes with our faith.
As we mature and God’s history lessons get slightly less new and exciting, that’s our cue to start recognizing and inviting the often-neglected part of the Trinity to have a more-active role in our lives. The Holy Spirit isn’t just a feeling that directs us to what book of the Bible to start studying next. Many of us are so wrapped up in learning about Jesus and God’s character from the past that we don’t consider God’s Spirit as the current form and character of God in our lives.
When we first decide to follow Christ, there is definitely some research and preparation that should be done. It’s important to understand more about the story of who Jesus has been, but only as we prepare to take part in the current story of what He is doing all around us every day.
Take the book of Acts, for example. This is essentially the story of how the Church as we know it began. It details individual stories and describes how people put what they believed into action.
I wonder how many of us consider our lives to be part of the extended chapters of Acts. It may not be physically written there, but it was meant to be. Every Christian’s life story is part of the Bible. God is doing just as much now in us as He did back then, and we will realize this as soon as we own it and decide to put it into action like it was intended to.
Boring days still exist. Chores don’t go away. And hey, bad moods are inevitable. But none of that changes the fact that our faith was meant to take us places we never imagined going (in our neighborhoods and beyond), leaving us in complete awe of how much more real He is than any book or manual we can read about Him. The Church is not just a history lesson but a way of living– a way of unpredictable, unparalleled adventure in following Christ.
Be the Church. Take part in the adventure of what God is doing in our communities. Maybe that starts with getting to know your neighbors better, or investing more love and time in developing your family relationships. Maybe it starts with serving somewhere and being a witness to who Jesus is. All of it, wherever we are and whatever we do, is about who He is and how we can actively follow Him.