"And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." Luke 18:1
Sometimes I begin to think that I have failed God too much or too many times, and my life is pointless and ineffective. I failed God and my family miserably, because I loved ministry more than I loved God. I had walked, dragging my family with me, into a legalistic, works based ideology of Christianity where I lived for the approval and validation of my peers and elder pastors that pushed this way of thinking. I was hard on my wife and my kids expecting them to just fall in line and follow me without question. This damaged all of us, and that kind of vain religion does not lead to a victorious Christian life. It leads to brokenness and emptiness which leads to failure, because you are trusting in your own strength and talents. So then you work harder and harder, just to find you have been digging the hole of despair deeper and deeper. It all gives place to the devil to come in and wreak havoc on your soul and the souls of your family.
I stepped away from ministry for several years, just performing a wedding or funeral here and there. I preached a handful of times during those years. I became bitter and angry at those elder pastors that I felt led me and some other young preachers astray. The pendulum of my life swung from being super strict to I don't really care. I had been part of the ugly side the Religion of Christianity. I struggled with being angry at God and blaming Him for my mistakes. It took me a while to open my eyes to the fact that I was the one who was unfaithful and chose to do things my way and pursue what I wanted, the applause and approval of man. I was on track to lose everything God had blessed me with, because of selfishness and pride. I wasn't the only one paying the price, my family suffered through all of this with me. This was not the journey I imagined for my life or my family.
Religion without relationship will always end in disaster and death. It is not enough to be religious, to hold a belief and work really hard for it. Pastor Craig Groeschel said, "Jesus didn't come to start a religion, He came to restore fellowship between us and God." That may not be an exact quote, but the truth is God wants relationship. Jesus didn't come to yoke us up to a heavy burden of rules and regulations and traditions. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) We love Him because He first loved us, and when there is a mutual love for one another, it is a light burden to live in a way that is pleasing to the one we love. Love and reverence should be our motivation to fulfill God's commands.
Legalism is hard to shake. The devil loves it, and, frankly, I believe it is more dangerous than the doctrines that propose that grace is a license to live however we want. I fight the battle with legalism, often. I struggle with feeling like I'm not doing enough, and that I have failed so much that God may never look on me with approval ever again. But, the fact is that I have NEVER earned the approval of God, and I never will. You won't either! Jesus earned that approval for us on the cross of Calvary as He shed his blood and died in our place. We stood before God Almighty, guilty with no recourse of our own, no way to pay the debt. Then Jesus stepped in, paid the fine, and stood next to us as our lawyer to plead our case. He presented His blood to Father as payment in full for our debts, and the Father said, "You are free to go, your debt has been paid."
So, sometimes I begin to lose heart, to faint, but I must remember that even when I have been unfaithful, God is always faithful! The blood of Jesus is still there, and when I confess my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive me of my sin and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Every time I fall on my face, I need to trust Him and get back up and keep moving forward with my eyes on Jesus. God is still on the throne and in control. This life is not about me and how strong I am, it is all about Him and the strength and salvation He provides everyday. Thank God that His mercies are new every morning! God is worthy of our love and adoration.
He equips the called. He validates his servants. His approval is what matters. He is our audience. He never fails. He is always faithful. That's just who He is. He won't always meet our expectations. Frankly, not all of my expectations need to be met. Sometimes my expectations are ridiculous. God never does anything half way. He presses down and shakes things together until the blessings overflow. Sometimes the pressing and the shaking are not real pleasant, but the overflow that comes after is amazing! He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we could ever ask or imagine. He wants us to know Him and trust Him this way.
No matter where you are at in your journey, please, don't lose heart! No matter how sick your soul is, there is healing! He doesn't just heal the sick; He raises the dead! Lift up your eyes today, and look full into His wonderful face. Let the things of earth dim and lose their value. Immerse yourself in His love and acceptance, His healing and nurturing touch. God is still on the throne as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He's got this! So, that means you got this, too! You have access to His power and forgiveness to overcome and live with victory in His love.