By Don Ruhl
Do you ever become frustrated with some of your friends in the church because they struggle in life, especially with their Christianity, when it does not have to be that way? Do you ever become frustrated with yourself because your life, especially your Christianity, does not seem successful? The problem is probably the way you approach life and Christianity.
The decisive versus the indecisive
There are some decisions in life that have to be made ahead of time for all time. This allows us to approach situations with boldness. It also helps us to avoid aggravation each time we are faced with a decision, because the decision has already been made.
A friend of mine, who flies an F-16, says that he has already made the decision to kill if it is ever necessary. If he does not make this decision ahead of time, then he risks his life and the lives of others when he has to decide every time whether he is capable of doing it. Being indecisive in the military makes for a frustrating and dangerous time.
I have a friend who is a sheriff’s deputy and he has already made the decision as a sheriff’s deputy, that, if necessary, he will kill someone. He was telling me that he was talking with an inmate at the jail, and the deputy was trying to persuade the criminal away from a life of violent crime. He told the criminal that, if necessary, he would shoot the criminal to protect his life and the lives of innocent citizens.
What if every time there is a criminal threatening people’s lives and this sheriff’s deputy is called, but he has not made the critical decision, and suddenly he has to decide in a certain emergency whether he could take someone’s life? He will be worthless as a deputy, and your life may be in serious danger.
My point is not that Christians have to make decisions whether they are going to kill someone, but successful Christians, like the F-16 pilot and sheriff’s deputy, have already made some decisions. Unsuccessful Christians have to go through the process every time.
Let us look at one decision in particular, which is really a simple thing, but some Christians make it much more difficult than it has to be. Christians who have already made a decision about this particular thing have done so because it reflects the way they approach Christianity. Christians who have not made a decision about this particular thing struggle in other aspects of their Christianity also.
Attending worship services. Successful Christians are at every worship service and Bible class, if it is possible. Successful Christians do not decide every time whether they should go, because they have already made the decision.
Hebrews 10:24, 25 settles the matter for these Christians, so that in their minds it was not really a decision that they even had to make, but the Lord made the decision:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
The reason it settles the matter is this: Successful Christians have accepted totally the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and they know that it is the will of Jesus Christ that they assemble with the church. If Jesus Christ wants it done, then they do it.
Unsuccessful Christians go through a battle every time Sunday comes. This makes it easy for them to find reasons not to go. They do not feel too good that day, so there is a good reason not to go. Something else is going on that day and they are really torn because they want to do that thing, but they know that they should worship, so deciding is a struggle. Someone was not friendly the week before, so they hold it against the church, and ultimately against God, and they will miss for a few weeks. The worship service was not conducted just the way that they would like it, so the following Sunday they think about whether it would be better just to stay home and watch TV or do house work. The kids have some ideas about what they would like to do and the family goes through a battle about whether they should “go to church” (as they would put it), or do the other activity.
Every week their half-hearted devotion is not sure what their lackadaisical attitude should do. This leads to family disputes. Guilt is felt, at least temporarily. They begin to find more things about the church and the members and the services to criticize. In their minds they do not have to go anymore than once a week, because that is enough.
The workers versus the complainers
There are Christians who are more reliable than a Swiss watch. They know that what makes the church better is for each member of the body of Christ to do his part. Ephesians 4:16 is all those successful Christians need to read and they are persuaded that they must do their part in the body of Christ:
From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
They do not work to appease their guilt, but they see that Jesus gave His life for the church, so it is logical for them to give their lives for the church.
Matthew 6:33 might be an apt description of what moves these people: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” They know that the church is the kingdom of God on the earth, and subsequently that there is nothing greater of which to belong than the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Yes, they know that there are things wrong with the church, or that there are things that need to be improved. Unsuccessful Christians complain, and do not work, and, without realizing it, they are the greatest problem in the church. They do not come away from any meeting of the church uplifted, because they did not come to give, but to criticize. If they talk about the church, then they have nothing good to say about the church, including the worship services, the preaching, the singing, the prayers, the building, the kids, the old people, the mood, and the unfriendliness.
Unsuccessful Christians find it very difficult to find anything good to say about the church. Even if you tell them that you agree with everything that they say is wrong, and then you propose that they try to find some good things to say about the church, they are silent, or if they have any good to say it will quickly digress into a critical demeanor.
The lifers versus the Sunday morning only crowd
Galatians 2:20 is the motto of the lifers. They know precisely what Paul meant and their attempt to live this passage is evident in everything they do:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Worshiping is a further extension of the successful Christian’s Christianity. Jesus Christ lives in their hearts, and this is seen in many ways, including: their weekly contributions, their kindness and gentleness, their dealings with other people, their prayers, which are offered without ceasing, and their views on current issues.
Second Corinthians 5:15 is another passage that reveals how they live: “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
The Sunday morning only crowd cannot see why anymore than one hour of “church” on Sunday morning is necessary. To them dealing with everyday life requires something more serious than Christianity. Besides, they will tell you, where does the Bible say that you have to do more than Sunday morning. In their minds everyone is going to heaven, or at least if you show up on most Sunday mornings, then God owes you heaven.
The majority of Christians who have serious problems of living, and who also expect a quick fix, are usually the ones who come only on Sunday mornings and this is about the extent of their Christianity.
One group takes faith seriously, but the other group just plays at faith.
Successful Christians are not happy with less than a serious outlook on Christianity. Unsuccessful Christians are not happy making Christianity serious.