I post the article's origin so that you know that these thoughts are not merely the thoughts of a student minister who just returned from a long retreat and despite already being exhausted, didn't get any sleep last night.
We are a drive-thru, convenience-driven society. When we want to lose weight, we count points, take pills, or crash diet. Many times, our garages are full of workout equipment that now operate as great storage racks. When we want to buy something, we don't save our money, we pay later at 18% interest, $10 at a time. And, ultimately, we pay the price for our laziness.
I have been serious about my pursuit of following Jesus for almost 13 years now. I have spent almost six of those years in "full time ministry." It is my observation that we practice "drive thru" Christianity often. Christians have the tendency treat their faith the same way they treat their finances or weight - with a quick fix or Jesus -crash diet.
Maybe I'm still embittered by the "Prayer of Jabez" breakup speech I got a few years ago, or because I get totally annoyed when my church inbox is full of catalogs that market Jesus like he's Michael Jackson. Or, maybe I know myself too well, and I admit that the overachiever in me has always sought the physical evidence that Jesus is pleased with me; i.e., financial blessings, more opportunities, or constant affirmation from people.
Where do we see in the scriptures that God wants us to be financially blessed, drive a sports car, have our dream job, and have 2.3 kids? There are times when our "gospel," or the gospel of the some of the Christian bookstore bestsellers, lean closer toward the "American Dream" than God's desire for our hearts. There is a danger in reducing the creator of the universe to a God who speaks in clever acronyms so that we get it, or a God who is fine with my lack of generosity, so long as I support a missionary or do charity work from time to time.
We must remember, friends, that the name of Jesus has been abused for all kinds of personal gains - and we must make sure that our flesh is not allowing us to do justify doing the same. I have been guilty of reducing my spiritual walk to the standard "I have spent 15 minutes praying, 15 minutes reading, said less than this many bad words, and listened to my "INSERT CHRISTIAN CD HERE" at least 3 times today Christianity." While any of the aforementioned things can be greatly beneficial to a believer's walk with Christ, they can all be accomplished in checklist form by someone who has no real love for Jesus, but a love for feeling good about themselves.
In the articles I read, Schwab brilliantly writes..." the most difficult thing about Christianity is that it doesn’t have anything to do with me. What I mean is that we are called to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves. We give our lives in humility and servitude to Jesus, and he in return gives us eternal life and salvation, along with a life of joy and peace as long as we remain in him. But along the way we must put others before ourselves. And we will find meaning and contentment not in self-actualization, but in giving ourselves in submission to him and to one another in fellowship.These are all fundamental concepts to a Biblical approach to living. Jesus never said “Follow this simple formula to unlock your potential within.” If my desire in coming to God is motivated by what he can give me, or how he can make me feel, then my ultimate desire is self-focused, rather than Christ-focused. If I treat God as the divine genie, or the eternal “life-improver,” then I think I have missed the point entirely. And if I am a teacher throwing in scripture verses and the teachings of Christ to subtly justify faith as a marketing ploy to those who are looking to feel better about themselves, then I am in danger of leading many astray. "
In following Christ, I experience the ultimate paradox: that is, I find life, a GREAT, BETTER LIFE, when I lose my own. However, I ONLY find this "better life" in following Christ wherever he leads me, not in checking off a series of boxes that define a "good Christian."
In my mind, pain equals the perseverance that comes from discipline and day to day faithfulness. Be cautious when someone promises that faith is a means to a better life. They may be subtly trying to give you a message that may make you feel better, while neglecting what you truly need…to be broken and molded into a devoted servant, not a well-adjusted overachiever.