Having a Sustained Joy for the Journey: Being vs. Doing

Being a follower of Christ is a journey and too many followers sit as abandoned cars on the side of the road to heaven simply because they either lost faith or the joy of the journey.  As believers in Christ, God has saved us for eternity but has not immediately taken us to our eternal reward. The reason for this is because he wants us to experience the joy of the journey with Him, living in fellowship with him and impacting others for Him. Our heavenly inheritance is wonderful, but the journey of our Christian faith after our conversion is just as amazing, just as beautiful and just as fulfilling.  I sense that too many Christians have forgotten the joy of the journey.  Not to say that everything will be wonderful and beautiful, but the one who walks with us on the journey is always wonderful and perpetually beautiful. God doesn’t save you just to have you trod the rest of your days as if lost in a dark cave walking toward a light leading to escape.  There are many whose Christian journey becomes what I call the death march of “doing”.  These people become stuck in a constant state of guilt and shame, trying to measure up to the ideal Christian motif. They measure their journey by the number of holy, religious or spiritual things they have accomplished.  Some feel as though God is only happy with them when they are doing something spiritual, therefore their life becomes a task driven list.  This type of mindset leads to spiritual burnout because the joy of the journey becomes diminished.  True joy, real spiritual growth and sustained faith is never based on what you have done for Him, rather it is grounded in a relationship with Christ and what He has done for you.  Being with Him, learning of Him and placing your spiritual roots deep into what He has done for you catapults you into a greater passion to do more for Him. The Christian journey is not a sprint, it is not a laborious list of tasks, in its simplest form it is a beautiful walk with Jesus Christ.  Author Neil T. Anderson puts it this way,

“We don’t serve God to gain His acceptance, we are accepted therefore we serve God.  We don’t follow him in order to be loved, we are loved therefore we follow Him.”

Salvation in its truest sense is a relationship with the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  When Christ saves you he doesn’t say, “I have saved you, now get to work”, rather he says, “I have saved you, now come and be with me.”  The road to heaven would be much less littered with spiritual refugees if we would spend more time being with him and less time trying to please him through our endless spiritual tasks.  I am reminded of the scene in Luke 10: 38-42 where Jesus enters the home of Mary and Martha.  While Martha was “distracted with much serving” Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.  For Mary, being with Jesus was the priority.  Read carefully Jesus’ instructions to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42).  The “good part” and the “one thing necessary” was simply that Mary chose the relationship over the tasks.  I think that church leaders are partly to blame for the death march of “doing” because so many of our sermons, lessons, blogs and conversations focus on what church members need to DO.

How can we expect believers to have a passion to do the work of faith, if they have not first been grounded in a foundational faith? If church leaders will disciple people (particularly new Christians) on the things that the Father has provided for them through Christ they will be more likely to serve and be “doers of the Word.” (James 1:22).

Am I calling for Christians to stop doing spiritual things, of course not!  But, the reality is that effective Christian living comes from an abiding relationship with Christ and a deep understanding of what He has done for us. Sustaining joy is not based on working through our daily religious tasks.

Colossians 2:6-8 says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ
.” The walk of faith means being rooted and built up in Him.  The NLT says, “let your roots go down deep into Him and let your lives be built upon Him.”  The more we are BEING with Him understanding our identity rather than always DOING for Him, the more our roots will be grounded and firmly established so that when the empty deceit and worldly philosophies come our way we will stand firm.  If our journey is going to be joyful, then we will walk in a daily relationship with Him while being careful not to run ahead of Him in spiritual busyness.  On April 26, 2011 I remember cutting my grass and looking closely at the large pine trees which surrounded my home.  The weather report for the next day was very ominous with the threat of large tornadoes. I remember looking closely at those trees as I cut grass wondering if the forecast became reality which of those trees would remain standing against the fierceness of the storms.  On April 27th early that morning a tornado came through my neighborhood and I was awaken to the sounds of the storm quickly followed by the sound of chainsaws cutting through downed trees.  Of the trees I looked at the day before, some were still standing and some were on the ground (thankfully missing my home).  Why did some remain after the storm while others fell?  They were all equally tall, but not equally grounded.  The trees whose roots had become earthbound and shallow did not survive the storm, while those trees whose roots were deep held their ground.  And so it is among Christians, some will fall and some will stand.  The difference lies beneath the surface out of the view of what we see.  If our faith is firmly established through an active, vibrant relationship with Christ, we will stand against the cultural secular storms. Increase your BEING and then you will increase your DOING, and your DOING will not be a dreary march, but rather a fulfilling journey.  The more we affirm who we are in Christ, the more our actions will display His identity in us.

In Ephesians 1-3, Paul list (at least) 30 things that God has done for us through Christ. In other words he speaks to our BEING and then he begins the practical section of the letter in chapter 4 by saying, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.” (Eph 4:1 NASB) Oh how quickly we forget the joy of all Christ has accomplished for us! When we spend time BEING with him we are reminded of all we have in Christ, therefore our DOING has greater purpose.  I ask you to reflect on the current BEING/DOING balance in your life.  Will you be counted among the many Christians who have simply stopped walking the journey?  I urge you to hold tightly to the hand that saved you and see your journey not as a task driven sprint, but rather a joy filled walk with a friend.  Sustaining joy for the journey is found in the one who journeys with you.

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