by: Embrace Church
Each week, as a local group of people who are trying to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Greatest Commandment, we meet in order to encourage each other, challenge each other, and push each other to be on mission together. Part of that process involves the study of scripture and application to our lives. This includes teaching, asking difficult questions, and giving space for everyone’s answers. We believe that circles are better than rows. But not everything that is prepared for this time of teaching and discussion makes it to Sunday evening. Here are some additional thoughts from Sunday’s time together. We hope and pray you find these additional thoughts compelling, challenging, and encouraging to your faith.
When I was a kid, I used to get strep throat a lot. In fact, every year from the time I was about 8 until I was 19. I’m 34 now and haven’t had strep throat since that time. The last time I had strep throat was right after I joined the Army. I was 19, madly in love with my then-girlfriend now-wife Sarah. Before I had to report to my first assignment, she got me tickets to a concert. I was in terrible pain with untreated strep throat. I didn’t want to let her down, so I played it tough. I grabbed a bottle of that over-the-counter throat numbing spray that tastes like cherries dipped in hot sauce and went to try and have a good time. I was miserable. I went through that entire bottle. The next day, I woke up and drove 5 hours from St. Louis to Fort Riley. I went to the doctor the next day. My doctor was not impressed with my heroic decision to go to a concert and then drive. I got a couple of shots, and after looking at my medical history, said something to me that I will not likely forget. “This has gone on long enough. We need to stop treating your symptoms and start treating the cause of your illness.”
We spent our time together yesterday looking at the parable of the lost sheep. You can find it in Matthew 8:12-14. It’s a short parable that Jesus uses to explain just how far God is willing to go for someone. He uses two examples in this parable. The first is children. Children, being a necessary nuisance to society, were generally treated as third rate citizens. When the disciples tried to shoo away children, Jesus equated God to a shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the one.
But this wandering off is only a symptom. As my doctor told me, we don’t treat symptoms, we treat causes of symptoms. What causes a person to wander off, and how can we bring them back?
Shame tends to be the great divider. When I feel shameful, the last thing I want to do is come around people and confess what I’ve done. The problem with that is shame is multiplied by isolation. When we alienate ourselves from our people, we create an echo-chamber that only repeats what we are already thinking. Whether that echo is “I’m not enough” or “God isn’t enough”, we create a terrible cycle the removes us from the community of believers.
If shame won’t do it, fear will. Shame and fear work hand in hand. Fear will cause us to run away and never return. Fear convinces us that confession and community come at too high of a personal cost to maintain. So, we remove ourselves from the community to save face. We allow fear to influence our decision because of...
Pride manifests itself in many ways. It is the master of disguise out of these three options. It may come across as arrogance. It could also manifest as independence. God doesn’t know what He is doing. God doesn’t care. I should have done it my way. Pride convinces us we don’t need the things that God has for us. If God doesn’t have what we need, why would we stay?
While this list isn’t all encompassing, I do believe that these three responses cover a multitude of root responses to life. Whether its our fault or out of our control, our situations and how we react because of them often come down to these three situations. The good news is that they are all overcome with one remedy. It is a proactive remedy that has already been provided to us for both leading and participating.
Discipleship, by its very nature, is the remedy for the wandering faith. When done the way Jesus modeled, walking through life with someone, teaching them, encouraging them, challenging them, loving them, praying with them, we have the blessed opportunity to witness the building of an unshakeable faith. It requires patience, determination, and perseverance. When these responses show up to our own sin, tempting us to walk away from God, discipleship guides the believer, weakened by life and circumstances, back to the fold.
Is there someone in your life that is teaching you, molding you, going through life with you, praying over you? I pray there is, and I would encourage you to do the same. You are not an island. You are not alone. I know this is hard work. But we have the glorious gift of not being forced to believe that we must live life alone.