“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II
“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” ~ Luke 9:57-58
I returned from a trip to Virginia earlier this May in a poor state of mind. During the long drive back to Georgia, my thoughts wandered; pondering circumstances that I have no control over. For most of the week following, I struggled with anxiety…
and I retreated into a cocoon…
until Christ led me out of it…
and boy, did He ever.
In one form or another, anxiety is often—if not always—a byproduct of fear. If I was to define anxiety for someone who has never heard the word, I would probably define it as follows: the self-pressure one feels when he or she is unwilling to face fears related to failure or an inability to control circumstances. The irony of such anxiety, is that while we are afraid to fail, we typically set ourselves up for failure by trying to control that which we cannot. From the events of the past couple weeks, I now believe that anxiety represents something more for Christians. It represents our lack of trust in God during that moment. In most situations, our level of anxiety is most likely inversely proportional to the trust we are showing God. Let me explain further using the below scripture from Paul to the church in Philippi as a starting point…
Don’t worry. While we should fear the Lord, showing Him reverence and awe, we are not to fear anything of this world.
Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, NASB).
Consider what Paul writes in his letter to the people of Philippi. Paul is telling the church in Philippi to “be anxious for nothing.” In a time period where Christians were being persecuted heavily in the Roman Empire, Paul is saying, “Don’t worry.” Why does he say that the church shouldn’t worry? Because Christians can rest in the peace of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Further, he emphasizes that the peace of God cannot be explained, but that it is possible when followers “guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This, to me, suggests that as we love and think as Christ, the more we will experience the peace of God. In other words, followers are expected to exhibit Christ’s character, and enjoy the peace of God.
To become like Christ is to become a new creature:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB).
So what does it look like to possess a Christ-like character? Let us now look at Paul’s letter to the Romans for clarification
POSSESSING A CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER
Character represents our mental and moral qualities. Therefore, to possess Christ-like characteristics would be to possess the mental and moral qualities of Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, provides a description of what constitutes a Christ-like character using practical applications:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:9-18).
The Christ-like character of which Paul describes requires love, affection, humility, patience, perseverance, prayer, hospitality, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. To me—and maybe to Christians reading this writing—much of what Paul writes to the church in Rome can come across as common sense. Yet, such character goes against the individualistic, “what’s in it for me,” culture that represents the wisdom of the world. This world encourages us to be independent rather than interdependent. It encourages us to treat relationships as temporary and transactional; abandoning those who no longer fit into the plan that we choose to have for ourselves. It encourages us to possess a commoditized perspective of love, rather than a sacrificial, compassionate, and vulnerable perspective of love—a biblical perspective of love.
Followers exhibit Christ-like characteristics imperfectly, yet are expected to continually strive to do so better over time through the process of sanctification. And by its inherent nature, to exhibit Christ-like characteristics requires relationship—that you behave and act towards another. It is such fruit that provides evidence of faith (Matthew 7:16). Thus, through such Christ-like relationships with others of a same mind—a mind of Christ (Romans 12:2)—Christian community is possible.
Christian community should look different from that seen in the dominant culture. Unfortunately, too often as Christians, we act more like fans of Christ—enthusiastic about what Christ has done for us, but not doing the same for others. Christ calls us to be His followers, and to die onto the cross each day:
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NASB)
I found the following description of what it is to be a follower of Christ convicting, as it helps paint a picture of what it may mean (and it could be more) to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses daily:
‘The most literal way to define a “Follower of Jesus” is “someone who goes where Jesus goes.” I’m not sure how you can call yourself a follower of Jesus if you refuse to go where Jesus went. If you are following Jesus “wherever,” he will take you towards a sinner that others wouldn’t want to be seen with. You will find yourself among the sick that others tried to avoid. If you follow Jesus, expect to find yourself being criticized by some of the religious people in your life. If you follow Jesus you may find that your family thinks you’re crazy…his did. You may find yourself being unfairly accused and unjustly treated by those in political office. Ultimately if you follow Jesus “wherever,” you won’t just end up covered in his dust, you will end up covered in his blood’ (Idleman, 2011, p. 185).
To be of the world and become like Christ requires an otherworldly transformation; most akin to a caterpillar (earthly) becoming a butterfly (heavenly). I would suggest that it is not typically a comfortable transformation…
AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRANSFORMATION: BEFORE WE SPREAD OUR WINGS
Change and transformation are a process. A caterpillar enters a cocoon before exiting as a butterfly. A definition that I found for “cocoon” and have modified slightly (see within parentheses) for use within this writing is as follows:
To cause to be isolated or protected from (that which is perceived to be) harsh, dangerous, or disturbing realities; to insulate.
In this manner, I consider the sanctification process to be similar to that of entering and leaving cocoons. It is a process of transformation requiring us to repeatedly leave our existing comfort zones to grow more into Christ’s likeness. It is the process where Christ becomes more of our identity and we become less (John 3:30). This process, given its nature, can be difficult—hence, why I suspect we all retreat at times into cocoons when challenged to grow wings. In her book, If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn’t Be Hard: And Other Reassuring Truths, Author Sheri Dew suggests that “if you’re serious about sanctification, you can expect to experience heart-wrenching moments that try your faith, your endurance, and your patience.”
And while I assume that cocoons may sound like a good place to reside for some people reading what I write—a cocoon can become a tomb. Cocoons are not indestructible, nor are they selective in that from which they shelter us. Moreover, I would argue that none of us possess God’s wisdom, so our discernment on what we should wish to be sheltered from is unsound in instances where fear is our guide. Any time that we trust our fear rather than God’s love and character—when doing what is right and loving makes us feel threatened or uncomfortable—we should question our ability to properly discern what is good. In his book, Not a Fan, Pastor Kyle Idleman (2011) writes about the challenges associated with following Jesus, using the below scripture from Luke as a reference point for teaching:
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:57-58, NASB).
Idleman’s commentary on Luke 9:57-58 emphasizes that Jesus will often call us—no matter who we are, or what we’ve accomplished in this world—outside of our comfort zones:
‘The way Jesus answers this fan in Luke 9 reveals some of the reasons it’s difficult to tell Jesus, “Wherever.” Jesus speaks of following him as a journey of risk and uncertainty. If the man decided he was going to follow Jesus, he didn’t know where he would be going, or if he would even have a place to stay. He says no to following Jesus in part because he’s afraid to say yes. Whenever we are afraid of what a commitment will lead to, our instinctual response is to say no. Fear always asks the question, “What if?” What if I get married and he doesn’t change? What if she does change? What if I take the job and it doesn’t work out? What if I’m not successful? And this is what often concerns us about making a commitment to Christ. What if he wants me to share my faith and he points to my neighbor’s house? What if he wants me to adopt and points overseas? What if he wants me to reconcile and he points to my childhood home? Psychologists tell us that the number-one way people deal with fear is avoidance. We just stay away from the people and places that cause us anxiety. The Old Testament prophet Jonah was told to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah was afraid and we read in chapter 1 verse 3…Jonah ran away from the Lord.
Another reason this man in Luke seems to say no to Jesus is because Jesus calls him to something uncomfortable. If you say to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever,” you can be sure that where he points will be out of your comfort zone…’ (pp. 181-182).
How can we follow anything other than our fears when we’re stuck in a cocoon? Cocoons are not necessarily any safer than when ostriches stick their hands in the sand at first sight of danger. While we may feel more secure wrapped up in a cocoon, we are just as vulnerable as we would be if we were not. In a cocoon, we sacrifice visibility to the world around us, both the good and bad. In a cocoon there is no relationship with others—just us, alone. As a Christian, how can we bear fruit in isolation and with our eyes closed?
Recently, my best friend Jeremy and I were talking on the phone about the challenges with following Jesus, and his words furthered my understanding. We can run away from people and we can run away from places, but we cannot run away from fear. Whether it is felt in a present moment, it is there. As my best friend points out, “until fear is confronted, it will never go away.” And what do I unwisely welcome into my life when I fail to face my fears? In such situations—as in earlier this May—I am saying, to my dismay…
“Hello anxiety. What’s up fear? Feel free to hang out with me.”
Too often, I have seen people—sometimes it has been me (especially when I was younger)—run away from good situations and loving individuals because of fear. We can mistakenly attribute our fears to these situations and people. Many times, the pressures we feel and anxieties we hold are from within. We associate or project our fears onto these situations and people because we are often afraid to take a risk similar to one we may have taken before; considering that our past experience may have been extremely traumatic for us. We doubt ourselves and our abilities more than we doubt these situations or people. We live in a denial of opportunities that may very well be good for us. And everyone loses out in such circumstances…until, at least, the fear is faced, and the opportunity seized. I’m fairly certain that we all have areas where we allow our insecurities and fears to delay or prohibit us from walking the path we should follow.
Allow me to share a personal example…
I knew that the Lord called me to return to academia and pursue a Ph.D. back in 2005. Yet, a fear of my ability to understand statistics kept me from this pursuit for seven years. The only course grade that I ever received below a B in my soon-to-be ten years of college education was in statistics during my first semester at James Madison University. It was an introduction to statistics class that I took my freshman year. It was an afternoon class, right after lunch.
The instructor had a big drawl and would often depart from the material he was supposed to be teaching to talk about his passions as a farmer. I remember hearing stories about heifers and how limestone is dropped into the Shenandoah River to maintain a healthy PH level for fish. I cannot remember one thing said about statistics. Of course, with the class being after lunch, and my instructor’s drawl serving as a hypnotic lullaby, I would often doze off throughout the class—though, I truly made every effort to stay alert and attentive. Others whom I knew in the class would regularly mention how easy they thought the class to be. Yet, at the course’s conclusion, I could muster no better than a C….minus.
And I still think, to this day, that my C- in that statistics class was a mercy grade from my instructor.
For those who are not familiar with what pursuing a Ph.D. entails, a major component is research. And where there is research, there are statistics. While it may seem silly to some, I was terrified of taking a statistics course. My experience as a freshman at JMU always manifested itself into my thoughts whenever I considered applying to programs. The fear of failing left me anxious, and I would question whether God really wanted me to go back to obtain a Ph.D.—I doubted my ability. Though, He made the call to go obvious over those following years. There was no question in my heart—and through the numerous ways that He had communicated this task to me—that it was what I was called to do. He has not explained to me why He has called me to pursue a Ph.D.—just that He has…
My fear of statistics as a college student may have been as paralyzing as my fear of drowning as a child.
Once I was accepted into my current program at the University of Georgia, I still lacked confidence in my ability to understand statistics and conduct research. Entering my fourth year, carrying a 3.9/4.0 GPA, and having taken seven statistical methods courses; there are times that I still battle anxiety and fear of mastering statistics. How illogical is that! Sometimes emotions must be ignored—especially when it is obvious they are wrong. Fortunately, these fears and anxieties associated with statistics have slowly dissipated during my time at UGA to where they do not control me. It is a cocoon from which I have begun to break free…
Yet, unlike caterpillars, I believe that there are many cocoons over the course of our lives from which we must break free. Overcoming my fear of statistics is only one instance in my life where I have struggled in fighting my fears and insecurities to trust God. And I was fortunate, possibly blessed, in that I did not allow my fears and insecurities to subjugate me into a self-fulfilling prophecy of statistics failure. A movie that I watched at the theater recently reminded me of how easy it is for us to become so fearful of creating a worst-case scenario that we actually do!
SELF-fulfilling prophecy: Trusting ourselves to justify our fears. The movie that I saw this past week was Tomorrowland (warning: spoilers to ensue). Tomorrowland is a dimension that was discovered by Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison—eventually becoming a place for dreamers and inventors to create a better future, uninhibited by the power struggles and politics that are commonplace on Earth. The movie opens in the year 1964, where a young inventor named Frank Walker shares his most recent invention—a jetpack. While his invention does not “quite” work, his potential is identified by one of Tomorrowland’s recruiters, and he gains entry into the inventor’s utopia…
It is at this juncture that the movie jumps into the present day; focusing on a brilliant teenage girl named Casey Newton. She is an optimist, whose favorite saying is one that her father, a NASA engineer, introduces to her as a young child:
There are two wolves. One bright and hopeful and one dark and cynical. They are constantly at battle with one another. Which wolf wins?
Whichever one you feed. Feed the right wolf.
Later, we learn that this saying is representative of the underlying premise driving the movie—its worldview. If society chooses to accept a cynical outlook, it will be led to a corresponding outcome: Armageddon. Alternatively, if society embraces a hopeful outlook, it encourages the fulfillment of a better world—a dreamer’s outcome…
Casey is recruited for Tomorrowland by the same recruiter that recruited Frank back in 1964—a robot named Athena. Athena introduces Casey to a middle-aged Frank, who was banished from Tomorrowland for inventing a device that was able to show any time in the past or future; losing hope in creating a better tomorrow. Ironically, Athena was later banished from Tomorrowland for not giving up hope. Of course, how could she? It is her programming…
When Frank confronts Athena about her reasoning for recruiting Casey for Tomorrowland—a place which he believes to now be a dream that has passed—Athena’s response is, “Because she hasn’t given up.”
Frustrated, Frank, having been put in a precarious situation where his introduction to Casey threatens his life, aids and accompanies both Casey and Athena to Tomorrowland. It is no longer a utopia for dreamers and inventors, but a desolate place representative of what could have been. The device predicts the Earth’s apocalypse in less than 60 days.
It is the optimist, Casey, who comes to realize that the device only shows what could happen in the future, not what will happen. While she does not yet know how to change the future, she says, “There’s a plan. We just haven’t come up with it yet.” Later, when confronted with the current (negative) realities, she responds by saying, “There is always a chance at a better future.”
The movie concludes with the device being destroyed and Tomorrowland being reinstituted. Civilization still exists on Earth, months after the device had predicted its end. Human-like robots are sent out to recruit dreamers and inventors to rebuild Tomorrowland; striving for a better future…
Living by promises versus explanations. While some will likely pan the movie, I really liked how the cautionary tale of cynicism was embedded within its story of hope. Frank Walker was once an optimistic, idealistic young inventor. However, when he—with good intentions—invents a device that (he believes) confirms the end of the world, he loses hope. With an incomplete understanding of his device, he chooses to accept an explanation that leads him to place belief in a worst-case scenario.
Frank had originally believed that he could make anything possible if he was determined enough to stay the course. The problem was that his hope was completely predicated on his perceived ability to institute change. Once he came to believe that he was unable to control the future’s outcome, his hope was lost.
We all are at risk of making the same mistake as Frank if our hope is founded on ourselves and our own abilities.
Christians, however, should always possess hope. Why? Because a Christian’s hope is founded in Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB)
We, as Christians, are to live with faith in God’s promises; living in such a way that demonstrates our belief in conviction in our Lord’s character:
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform (Romans 4:20-21, NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10)
Our actions should be for His glory:
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16, NASB)
In a sermon I recently heard, the local Pastor made a particular statement about biblical wisdom that he believed could be gleaned from Acts 27. He stated that Christians are to “live by promises, not explanations.” In the twenty-seventh chapter of Acts, Paul is shipwrecked, at sea for a day, and bitten by a venomous viper. Yet, Paul was going to make it to Rome, because God promised him that he would make it to Rome. God never told him that the path he would take to Rome was comfortable. Paul, who suffered greatly following his conversion to Christianity after his Damascus Road experience, understood that following Christ was not what one would do out of convenience, but could only do in faith. As mentioned in Philippians 4:7, “the peace of God…surpasses all comprehension.” In many instances, we cannot establish a definitive explanation for why we should do those things that we know God has called us to do—only that He has called us to do them. We must rest in His wisdom in such instances instead of our own, because we are not as wise as our Lord. We only see through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Let me share an irony about where God has currently called me that aligns with this nugget of thought. As a PhD student, I am taught to find explanation, share it, and act upon it. Yet, as a Christian, I am supposed to live by God’s promises—not through explanation. While we should seek to understand our Lord, there will be times that we cannot understand in a complete manner. This is a struggle between the world’s wisdom versus God’s way/wisdom. For those of us that believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God, we have to understand that we cannot fully comprehend God. We cannot explain everything; hence, there is a need for faith. There are times that He will explain His intentions for us, but we must accept that explanations will not always be provided to us. We must make sure to depend on His Word through scripture, and trust in the community of our fellow followers that speak from His words and not their own. We must be careful not to create false explanations to fill our voids of knowledge; twisting His Truth.
And I do not believe that blatant lies are what most often leads Christians astray, but rather, the subtle revisions to Truth conceived through scripturally unsound explanations of God. For example, as suggested in the movie Inception, even a misconceived idea can permeate into a self-deception—and can be deadly:
What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?
An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed—fully understood—that sticks; right in there somewhere…
She locked away a secret, deep inside herself, something she once knew to be true… but chose to forget.
Many times these subtle revisions lead others to take something good and inappropriately position it a place of prominence over God. Placing anyone or anything in a position of prominence over God is idolatry. Sometimes, as implied by the above quotes from Inception, we can choose to forget the Truth, because the lie seems easier to digest. Though, for those that have seen Inception, that choice to forget leads to death. The character who made that choice, Mal, refused to accept reality; leaping from a skyscraper. She believed her world was a dream, an illusion. But it was real…
What do you believe?
TRUSTING GOD: REFLECTING CHRIST’S BEAUTY WITH OUR NEW WINGS
Teddy Roosevelt is known for having said that “complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” Much of what I have shared is a critical analysis of what I see as THE problem for ALL Christians. The root issue that I’ve been focusing on is that we, as Christians, struggle to trust Christ in EVERYTHING. We may trust Him in many things, but do we constantly trust Him in all things?
As followers of Christ, I would argue that we can often find ourselves living in denial about some aspect of our lives. We believe that we’re doing fine. We make excuses to hold onto our fears in certain areas of our lives, because we—whether we admit it or not—trust those fears and insecurities more than we trust our Lord. If we step back and ask ourselves, “How’s that working out for us,” I believe we’ll see the folly in our resistance.
So, let me propose a difficult solution; yet, it is the only solution. TRUST GOD.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7, NASB).
To trust God, we must know Him. We must read about Him in scripture. Scripture is His Word. We must communicate with Him through prayer. We must be His ambassadors, serving others as Christ serves us (Mark 10:45). We must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, rather than listening to our fears; choosing to guide ourselves in a manner that we find comfortable. And to love, we must be vulnerable with others. But to do this, we must first be vulnerable with God.
And when we are not willing to make ourselves vulnerable and open to what God calls for us to do, it is then that we reside in cocoons…
Trusting God for me has recently involved learning how to be lovingly patient. There have been a few times in my life when God makes it ridiculously clear what He is calling me to do. Usually, it forces me to face insecurities and fears that I’m quietly holding.
Another thing that God tends to do with me is to show me the outcomes of His callings for me far in advance. Some people would consider this a blessing, but for a person like me, who prefers to be actively involved in sculpting my future, it can often be a lesson in humility. Much like Paul’s journey that is written in Acts 27, the path that starts at the moment I am given insight into my future is never predictable—or comfortable.
In these few instances of revelation—and I’ve only had three or four such instances in my entire life—the pattern has always been similar. First, I hesitate to accept what He has made known to me. Then, I try to make the future shown to me happen by my own doing. After I seem to completely and utterly botch things up, I surrender that future to Him. Ultimately, when the odds are completely against that future coming to fruition in my life, He makes it happen in only a way that could be from Him. Basically, He makes me uncomfortable. He forces me to place myself in situations that I cannot control; showing me the folly of my independence. He allows me to struggle and fail, only to show me that I must depend on Him.
As His follower, He does not let me hide or run away from that to which He calls me…but to my shame I almost always try. And get this…usually the future that He has made known to me is one that I am able to quickly embrace! I know this is not always the case for His followers (See Jonah), nor do I believe that it will necessarily continue to be with me. If I continue to grow in my faith and trust in Him, however, I believe it can be. Why? Consider the following scripture from the gospel of John:
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7, NASB)
First, let me make the following clear. This verse does not suggest that we can ask for anything we want, and God will provide it. What I believe it suggests is that as we grow to be more like Christ, the more our desires will align with His will. And, as all Christians know, His will shall be done.
As we grow in our faith, and live out our trust in the character and promises of our Lord, I believe that it will only further reinforce our love for Him. And in such love—His perfect love—fear no longer will have a place to reside in our hearts. We will emerge from that final cocoon in a state of glorification, in a heavenly state of being:
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:16-19, NASB)
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, NASB)
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies Himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-4)
As may have been noticed by the number of movie and book quotes that accompany scriptural support in this work, it seems as though everything I’ve watched or read recently has been used to reaffirm and strengthen my convictions of faith. While I was preparing to entrench myself into a cocoon, He was shouting at me to “get out!”
Maybe, if you’re reading my thoughts, you are thinking about how it applies to you—I encourage people to consider personal application with everything that I write, just as I encourage readers to challenge me on anything that they believe to be scripturally unsound. One thing that I will assure you is that, whether or not you are a follower of Christ, at some point you will find yourself in a cocoon. The question will be whether it is the difficult beginning of a beautiful transformation…or a final resting place.
And I believe it is unwise to believe that you can ever truly be healthy in a complete sense while living in this fallen world. We are told that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). It is Christ’s work, not ours, that offers us salvation (1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Healthy is not a permanent state of being in this world. We are all broken, living at different levels of health throughout our lives. If we believe that we first must be healthy to trust God, then we never will—and the major premise of this work has been missed. Rather, it is that our level of trust in God determines our health as His followers. It impacts our actions towards others—our ability to serve as His ambassadors.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” This is a profound statement, but I caution the wisdom of its interpretation by those who are trusting their fears and insecurities rather than trusting God—it can be twisted to justify residency in a cocoon if approached from a worldly perspective…
For instance, when we are wounded from doing the right thing, we may consider the pain and suffering incurred from doing the right thing to be “our problem.” As a Christian, in faith, we are to rejoice in such suffering; persevering with a proven character that rests in hope in the glory of God:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:1-8, NASB)
A Christian’s problems only come in not following Christ, not trusting in Him. They come when we think our wisdom is greater than His. They come when we fail to act on His behalf, believing that we are acting on our own behalf—the Truth being that we are acting for neither. We must think like Christ to act like Him:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2, NLT)
Remember, that the sanctification process will be uncomfortable for many of us—if not all. We are, in our fallen state, creatures of bad habits. We must open our hearts and listen to Him. And when we hear His voice, we must obey with a devoted love. Otherwise, will we ever? Consider the following excerpt from Not a Fan (Idleman, 2011):
When I was in college I was introduced to the “as now, so then” principle of human behavior. Simply stated the “as now, so then” principle is the idea that current habits are overwhelmingly the most likely predictor of future practices. The vast majority of the time, the decision you make today will be the decision you make tomorrow. If you don’t do it now there is no reason to think you will then.
Hebrews 3:15 says,
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
The time is now. The day is today. Don’t tell yourself, tomorrow I’m going to surrender my secret sin. Don’t tell yourself, tomorrow I’m going to start being generous to those in need. Don’t tell yourself, tomorrow I’m going to walk across the street and introduce myself to the neighbor…Today is the day to start following (pp. 195-196).
Have Faith in His character. Hope in His promises. Love Him and others as He loves us. Leave our cocoons, Spread our beautiful wings, and Soar towards heaven.