Today we painted the railings on our deck. It was just a maintenance thing, something that needs to be done every several years to keep them protected. But we painted them and they looked glossy and beautiful…and then it started raining. The forecast was rain-free today. It was just freak rain. And it pissed me off! I tried to rebuke the sky in the name of Jesus Christ, told it off several times, but the rain continued. So God got a stern talking to. (Who am I to give God a stern talking to? And yet, I believe He appreciates my honesty and is actually quite pleased that I’m comfortable enough with Him to be honest when I’m angry instead of trying to be “holy” and let things fester.) Where the heck was He? Such a simple thing to just stop the rain over one measly little house because He loves the people in it and doesn’t want their whole day of effort to be wasted. Is this what love looks like? …
For a long time, in fact until very recently (like a matter of weeks recently), I kept trying to figure out, for evangelism purposes, why Christianity was better than other lifestyles or religions in terms of quality of life. Like I needed to convince people to become Christians by proving that my life was somehow better or more joyful than theirs. I felt like I had to prove the investment was worth it in terms of daily happiness ratios or something. This is why I had SUCH a hard time evangelizing when I was going through a rough time. Who am I to tell someone that this life I’ve chosen is the best way when, frankly, they seem to be doing better than I am? Then I realized that that tactic is never going to work. I can’t try to convince people to decide to be Christian because it will make their life instantly better. In many cases, it will, but that’s not the point. If that’s the only reason they’re in it, they’re in it for the wrong reason. I realized that the best way to evangelize is simply to help people realize that they have a choice: do they want to be best friends with the Creator of the heavens and the earth or not? That is what Christianity offers. That is what sets us apart. That’s it. And that’s EVERYTHING.
So today after I yelled at God, I felt a whisper. “What are you in this for?” And I remembered that I’m not in this so God can keep the rain at bay when I feel like it needs to be. Or so He can make sure my life runs like clockwork and I never waste a moment of my time. I’m in this because I want ALL OF HIM. Because that’s what He gives. When you choose to follow Christ you have full and complete access to GOD. THAT is the gospel. THAT is what Christ died to make available. Not just a nice life. Not just a good time. Life more abundantly, yes. But that’s based on, and honestly pales in comparison to, a friendship, a family relationship with the Almighty God. That’s so much bigger than just having a nice life. In church this evening we were in Psalm 1, and the pastor brought the point home even more.
Psalm 1:3 (ESV)
He [the blessed man] is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
This tree planted by streams of water refers to us being planted in the presence of God and His Word. His life-giving essence is always at hand, always accessible. There’s never any reason to panic or wonder if we’ll have enough. We’ll have enough, it’s all right there. There’s never any reason to freak out and try to soak up everything right now, because the source isn’t going away. The sermon also made the (amazing) point that the tree yields fruit in its season. I.e. not always. It goes through seasons, yet it is always flourishing. It’s flourishing is not a product of its fruitfulness, but rather its proximity to the water, and the fact that it never withers, despite the season. What a great thing to remember! Even if it feels like a rough spell or a dry spell or a cold snap, I’M ALWAYS PLANTED BY THE RIVER. I always have access to everything I need. I’m always within reach of my necessary nourishment, in fact it’s forever flowing over my roots and causing me to grow. Direct access to life itself.
This gospel we have is SO amazing. It’s breathtaking. Who are we that He would bother to glance at us, let alone give us all of Himself? Yet He did that. He took our lives and offered us His own in return. And it may not always be pretty or perfect or exactly the way we had planned, but it’s always with Him. And that makes all the difference.