Today was a very stressful day. What would have already been a challenging day was made doubly bad when I was unable to convince a friend of my good intentions. As I pondered the day’s events this evening, a thought came to mind. I think that God is preparing me for something that I am not going to like at all.
As I have mentioned in multiple posts, I do not – nor have I ever – had a large number of friends. But just the same, I have never had any enemies either. Sure, there were bullies in school with whom I fought. But as they matured, we could look back on those instances and laugh. During my adult life, I have been largely respected by everyone that I encounter. In school, at work, in the church, and in my daily life, I have been almost universally heralded as an upstanding individual and all-around nice guy. But lest this come off as a boast, it occurred to me today that this is not necessarily a good thing. As Christians, we are called to a life that mirrors that of Jesus. And the world hated Him.
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. - John 15:19-20a
The scripture above begs the question: Do I belong to the world? While I know that I am saved through grace by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, tonight I wonder just how much of the world is still in me.
Why does the world not hate me? I believe that it is because I fear rejection. Looking back on my life, I have tended to change my behavior to fit any given situation. While I have never compromised my beliefs, I have historically erred on the side of peace. And while peace is something worth pursing, I believe that I have gone too far. I have been a people-pleaser. If there was an instance where I could proclaim the gospel, I am ashamed to say that I often gave a watered-down version of it in order to avoid offending the individual with whom I was speaking.
Why did I do this? I believe it points to a deep-rooted problem. I needed approval from men and women to feel like I had worth.
If there’s one message that is portrayed in the entirety of the Bible, it’s that God loves me. He doesn’t just like me. He doesn’t just respect me. He loves me. How do I know this? Because he sent his one and only son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sins through His death on the cross. This is the gospel – the good news – of salvation. God – the creator of everything that I know – loves me. But do I really believe it?
James, the brother of Jesus, speaking about Abraham, said the following:
You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. – James 2:22
If you were to ask me right now if I believe that God loves me, my answer would be, “Yes, of course.” But too often, my actions have not borne out that faith. You see, if I truly believed that, then God’s love would be enough. And if God’s love was enough, I would not feel the need to be validated by the world.
I lost a friend today. Perhaps the friendship was already lost and today it only became fully apparent to me. But nonetheless, I have been rejected. And it has bothered me all day. I have not always made the right decisions in this friendship, and I am certainly not without fault. But I have done nothing that would warrant complete rejection. Even still, I spent the day feeling worthless. In a season of personal rejection, this was a new low.
Over the course of the past few months, I believe that God has asked me to do several things. And I believe that one of them is to give my testimony openly, fully and unashamedly. And this is not just a general request. I believe that God has called me to speak to certain individuals. And, like Jonah, I am scared.
I want to follow Christ. I need to follow Christ. During this trial, all that I held dear has been taken from me. God has used this to get my attention. And believe you me, I am listening. And it’s becoming all the more clear to me that, if I truly follow Him, I’m probably going to lose my nice-guy status. I might lose some friends. I might lose some business opportunities. And if I truly follow Christ, I’m going to be rejected by the world.
In his loving grace, I believe God is using my current trial to show me that His love can – and will – sustain me through anything. The question I need to ask myself each and every day is this: Do I believe it?"