Posts Tagged ‘discontent’

Many people don’t want to believe in the Christian faith until they understand everything about it.  This is very understandable – after all you don’t want to buy into something and later find things that shock you or you just can’t believe.  However, the problem with this is that, as humans, we will never be able to understand everything about the Christian faith. As finite beings we will never be able to understand an infinite God and His infinite ways.  It will never be possible.

 

In some respects that is the key.  When you understand that you will never be able to understand something, in some senses, you can stop trying. You can focus your energy on the things you can understand. If you speak to Christians you will find that Christianity hold no bad surprises.  You don’t suddenly discover that behind a front of goodness and love God is really an evil dictator – but because you’ve believed in Him for so long you just continue to believe in some sort of brain washed state.  God is who He says He is right from the start and the only surprising thing that you discover is that He never changes.  If you speak to Christians you will also discover that Christianity doesn’t give you all the answers to life’s questions. It does answer some of them and it puts even more into some sort of context but there will still be questions that we will never have answered. For centuries people, Christians and non-Christians alike, have grappled with the issues of suffering, evil, existence, conscience, love, death, the afterlife and so on. No satisfactory answers have been found and we will all continue to grapple with them. Christianity won’t give you neat, conclusive, simple answers to all of life’s big questions. However, it will give you context.  What I mean by this is that, for example, if you believe in a creator God who loves and wants the best for His creation it helps you to see things in a correct context.  In some respects it may appear to make things more difficult. If God loves His creation why does He allow it to suffer? Again there are no easy answers but we have a context within which to explore.  Is all suffering always bad? Is suffering caused by the freewill of others? Is God causing the suffering or just allowing it? If we see this world as the entirety of our existence does that change our view on suffering? What if we believe that this life is but a minute part of eternity?  If we see suffering as part of a much greater plan does that aid our understanding? If we truly believe that God is GOOD and He truly LOVES His creation how does that affect our view of suffering and God’s part in it? These are questions that Christians still have to work through but in the right context it brings far more meaning and understanding even if nice simple satisfying answers are never achieved. We constantly need to remember that the finite cannot understand the infinite.

It would be really nice to be able to put Christianity in a box, evaluate it, understand it and then decide whether to believe or not to believe. If only life were so simple. However, I do believe that the Christian faith is intellectually viable. To have faith in it is not blind faith. It is a faith worked out using our intellect and our experiences. We don’t have to understand everything about it to believe. Just as you don’t have to know how the engine of a car works in order to drive it. You need to know enough, you need to know what all (or at least most) of the buttons do, which pedal will make you go and which will make you stop.  You need to know what fuel to put in the tank and the fact that a service no and then with help prevent breakdown. However, you don’t need to know how the engine works or how the engine drives the wheels or how the fuel powers the engine in order to bring movement. Yes, the more you know the better it is, especially when things go wrong. If you can strip and engine down and rebuild it – great – but it is not essential to your everyday driving. The same is true with Christianity. You need to know enough but you certainly don’t need to know everything. You can learn more, if you choose to, along the way. That’s why we have churches and vicars and theologians to make up for what we don’t know.

 

However intelligent we are (or would like to believe we are) we will never understand the complexities of God – however hard we try. We can’t put God in a box and study Him. Trying to understand Him fully is a futile exercise which will only lead to frustration and ultimately dissatisfaction. We need to understand enough and ultimately understand that God is infinite and will never be fully understood. When we can understand that it is then that we can get into the car and drive away!

We live in a blame culture! When something goes wrong someone has to, not only be to blame but they have to, take the blame as well! We love to point the finger, proclaiming our innocence and somebody else’s fault!

 

Terrorists pilot planes into buildings and those fingers never stop wagging. We blame the terrorists; their families and friends; their religion and country of birth; we blame people in power for not stopping it; we blame airport security firms for not preventing it; we blame our government for causing the hate in the first place; we even blame emergency services for not saving more lives. All this is even before we turn our wagging fingers of blame at God!! How could He let this happen!! Why did He not prevent it? How can He love us and yet allow this to take place!!

 

When tragedy strikes it is easy for us to blame God. We don’t think about Him for years on end but when something goes wrong He becomes the focus of our wagging finger. It’s so much easier for us to blame something external. We blame God because He’s big enough He can take it. We blame God because that gives us some solace. Although we don’t usually acknowledge His existence when the chips are down we gain comfort from the fact that someone is in control. When our lives fall apart we want to know that someone has it all together, even if we don’t understand their actions and in fact blame them for what has happened. We may never thank God or even admit His existence in the good times but when the bad times come along God becomes a little more real in our lives even if He is just the butt of our anger and blame.

 

However, is it right that God be the focus of our blame when things go wrong? Well I guess in a small way it is. God created us, He brought us into being and therefore is in some part responsible for all the pain, sickness and tragedy that occurs in our life. He created the universe in which we live so anything bad that befalls us that is a result of our environment could be blamed on God as well. But do we blame our parents for all bad things in our lives just because they brought us into being? We may blame them for a poor upbringing or lack of love or a whole host of other things but do we blame them for us being born? I would say that we’re more thankful to them for the opportunity that they gave us in giving us life. Do we blame the builder of our house when bad things happen within it? Not usually, I would guess, because we have built upon the shell of the house. We have created our own environment within our homes so when we burn ourselves on the cooker it is not the builder of the house who is to blame. The same is true of our world. God created the world but man has created the environment in which we live.

 

Here we are not just talking about a physical environment but also an environment of greed, lust, selfishness, anger, lies, injustice, violence, hatred, pride, materialism, secularisation, power, unfaithfulness, crime and the list could roll on and on. Many of the so called natural disasters that we used to blame on God are now being shown to be man-made. Famines are no longer seen as being natural occurrences but are now seen as the greed of the few at the cost of many. Environmental changes that cause floods, droughts and other so-called natural phenomenon are now being linked to man-made causes.

 

Our actions have seen consequences but many unseen consequences as well. We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect, domino effect and chain reactions, these clearly illustrate that small actions can have far reaching consequences. What we do matters. What we do has consequences and we need to be aware of that both as individuals, communities and the wider populace. Many of our actions have far reaching consequences that we don’t really understand. Many time when we may be blaming God we should perhaps be pointing the finger back at ourselves. There is a wonderful saying that says that “God allows in His wisdom that which he could prevent by His power”. God had given us freewill. It is a most wonderful gift. For God to prevent many bad things happening would be an infringement of this freewill. We are free to be greedy and allow others to starve. We are free to get angry and inflict pain on others. We are free to lie, cheat and make any number of other poor choices. God loves us enough to allow us to make our own mistakes. Just as a parent allows their child to learn to ride a bike knowing that they will probably hurt themselves, God allows us to do things where we will get hurt or indeed hurt others. Would you blame a parent for allowing their child to further themselves?

 

Perhaps it is time for us as individuals and us as a society to stop wagging the finger of blame at each other and at God. Perhaps we need to wake up to our own responsibilities and take on some of the blame ourselves. I guess it’s an easy option to blame God, His shoulders are broad enough and it’s unlikely he’s going to come round after dark to pick a fight. But if we are going to blame God when things go wrong, if we are going to get angry at Him (and that is allowed) we also have to thank Him when things go right. He also wants us to trust Him when things don’t go as we’d like. He is big enough to take the blame (even if undeserved) but He is also big enough to care for you when things go wrong. It is at these times that we most need His help and He is there to do just that!

 

Imagine, if you will, a trip to the Grand Canyon. You arrive and spend a week exploring one of the greatest sites on the planet. You see it from the air as you arrive, you walk down into it and spend the night at the bottom. You visit the North, South and West rims. You visit the gift shops and buy your souvenirs. You see the canyon at sunrise and sunset and every time in between. Finally you head for home. When you arrive home you’re told that the Grand Canyon doesn’t exist. Imagine how you would feel. Imagine your unbelief of what you are being told. You’ve been there, experienced it and now you’re being told that all of that was untrue.

 

I guess this is a little of what I feel when I try to imagine Christianity not being true. I’ve believed it, I’ve stepped out in faith, I’ve experienced it, I’ve found it to be true. I’ve tested it and evaluated it. I have seen God at work in my life and in the lives of others. I have felt His presence and seen answers to my prayers. This is all to say that trying to imagine that Christianity is just a Myth is an extremely difficult things for me to do. I know you can discount the experiences of others but when you’ve experienced something it is hard to discount it.

 

Having said that lets have a look at the bottom line. Belief in God is a leap of faith. However, let’s not confuse that with blind faith. Belief in God is not blind faith. Belief in God is about looking at the available information that you have, evaluating it and then coming to a decision. So belief in God does take faith and therefore isn’t something you can prove. You have to trust that you have based your decisions on correct information, made wise judgements and trusted in something that not only intellectually viable but is also true! So, at the end of the day what if you based your decision on a myth?

 

Now, I know that this whole subject might just seem like a exercise in covering one’s back but what I’m wanting to convey is that a step of faith isn’t such a major thing. It’s not about diving headlong into a gaping chasm, it’s about taking small steps, carefully exploring and finding out wonderful things along the way. If at the end of the day you decide it’s not true you will have lost nothing, even if you live your whole life as a Christian only to discover it was a myth you will have lost nothing. If Christianity is not true, when you die that is it, no judgement, no hell, just nothing!! Your body, mind, spirit, soul is no more. Whatever you believed makes no difference. We will all find ourselves in the same boat.

 

But will you look back with huge regrets? Regrets of living your life for something that’s not true? If I were to get to the end of my life and discover somehow that Christianity were not true I would be gutted, but not because of a life wasted. I believe that so much of the teaching of the Bible is the best way to live. Even if you were to take away the bed-rock of the truth of the Bible, if you were to say that God didn’t exist I would argue that much of the teaching of the Bible, even being man created, gave us the best way to live. Even disregarding the Bible altogether I believe that it is…

 

  • better to love than to hate

 

  • better to pursue peace than war

 

  • better to give than receive

 

  • better to put others first than yourself

 

  • better to faithful than unfaithful or faithless

 

  • better to be sincere than insincere

 

  • better to be truthful than to lie

 

  • better to be selfless rather than be self-seeking

 

  • better to be polite rather than be rude

 

  • better to be satisfied rather than be dis-satisfied

 

  • better to be focussed rather than be aimless

 

  • better to see the good in people rather than the bad

 

  • better to be trusting rather than sceptical

 

  • better to hate injustice rather than embrace it

 

  • better to work for the good rather than evil

 

  • better to help rather than to hinder

 

  • better to build up rather than to destroy

 

  • better to see people as equal rather than superior or inferior

 

  • better to provide rather than withhold

 

  • better to respect rather than disrespect

 

  • better to persevere rather than give up

 

  • better to live in unity rather than in discord

 

  • better to forgive than to hold grudges

 

  • better to seek forgiveness rather than revenge

 

I’m sure the list could go on. Surely a life lived by these principles won’t hold too many regrets. If God does not exist a life lived as if he does exist will not be wasted or full of regrets – it will be a life lived along great principles, for others, with passion and with hope. But hey, I truly believe that you’d have an easier task convincing me that the Grand Canyon didn’t exist than convincing me that God didn’t.

 

 

Wake up.  Get ready for work or school.  Go there.  Do your thing.  Go home.  Eat supper.  Get ready for bed.  Go to bed.  Get up and do it all again the next day.

Then there’s the weekend.  A little different, but basically a repeat of last weekend.

Add into the mix struggles with money, school, job, family, friends, your own self…what’s the point of all of this?

Will it ever end?  Or at least seem meaningful?

As in “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.

The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.

All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.”  (Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 – NIV)

Do you feel like that “teacher”?  I have.  I understand very well his ponderings.

Why do I live each day to only get up and do the same thing all over again?  Some barely make it through each one, others seem to “successfully” breeze through their days, but most of us regardless of our situation have found ourselves saying these same things.

Is there more to life than “this”?

Yes, there is.

Life is much more than each of those repetitive things we seemingly do without purpose at times.  We are not here to become successful and make profit.  We are not here to find our inner selves and attain the highest level of inner peace possible within us.  We are not here to get over our low self esteem and achieve a place of having self worth.  Meaningless, meaningless, that is all meaningless…like chasing after the wind.

No, we will never find fulfillment in who we are or what we can do.  Sometimes it may seem like it, but that too is fleeting.

We are on this earth because our Creator loves us and has a specific plan for each of our lives.  He wants to commune with us and share with us glimpses of Who He is and who He plans to make us.  He wants to have us all come home to spend our eternity with Him, though in the mean time, He deliberately has each of us on this planet at this very time for an appointed reason.  And, while we are here, He desires for us to live this present earthly life abundantly by accepting His free gift of eternal life, right here, right now.

We don’t wait until we are no longer on this earth to live abundantly and eternally – it starts here and now…the minute you confess that you believe in Him and what He has done to pay for our sin by sending His Son to die on the cross for us.  The minute you accept that free, but by no means easy, gift He gave us.

I don’t know what His intentions for you are on this earth, but I do know that you and I are here “for such a time as this.” (See the story of Esther for more on that.)

I don’t know specifically why you are here, but I know that He says:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11)

And He says:

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I know that our Creator and Father longs to commune with us so that we can overflow with His love and mercy onto those around us who so need love and mercy that they cannot and are not getting anywhere else.  He wants to use us, even the bad things that have been a part of our lives, to show others how precious and freeing and peaceful His redemption and forgiveness can be in our lives.

Our world is hungry and thirsty for things much deeper and more eternal than food and drink.  Just like all of the things that seem so meaningless in this life cannot satisfy, looking inside ourselves or to other people on this earth will leave us feeling void and pointless.

Only He, our God, through His Son gives us purpose and fulfillment in our lives.

He will lead you.  Confess your need for Him because of your sin and lack of faith in Him and accept His gift right now.

He will guide you from there.  He will show you “the point.”

That’s why you’re here.

Most of us spend a little of our time being unsatisfied, discontented with our lot.  When we’re were children we wanted to be teenagers, when we reached our teenage years we wanted to be all grown up adults and when we finally reached adulthood we long to be young again. The rise in the cosmetic surgery industry and the multi million dollar cosmetics industry bear witness to the fact that many people don’t like the way they look.  People who are unemployed long to have a job, those in employment long for a better job and those in top jobs long to retire.  It’s a vicious circle to which there is no end. We must remember that when it comes to the rat race, even if you win, you’re still a rat!!

Many of us live with a “the grass is greener on the other side” mentality. We’re always looking to improve our lives, earn more, look better, be happier, live longer, get married, have children and be the perfect family.  We’re constantly seeking for something else, something better. The words of U2 ring true for many people “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.  Our lives seem to be a constant search for something. Happiness? Fulfilment? Money? Contentment? Love? Peace? Success? Fame? Many people are looking for more.  Yet, even when they achieve more, earn more, gain more, find more it tends to be not enough.  John D. Rockefeller the then richest man in the world when asked once, “How much money is enough money?” replied, “Just a little bit more.”  We live in a dissatisfied state even when things are going really well.  We have a nagging feeling that there must be more to life than this, whatever “this” may be at the time.

Life can be great.  We live in a beautiful world full of wonder and grandeur and mystery.  Many of us have great family and friends and most of the time we enjoy living.  However, life can be tough, friends and family die, we lose our job, we get ill and we suffer terribly from all sorts of things. That’s not to mention the people we share our planet with, millions of whom die each year from disease and hunger.  They are born into suffering, they suffer continuously and they die. Surely there has to be more to life than this? If we believe that we began in some sort of explosion and developed from primeval slime, if we are just the evolved state of apes what is there to live for?  If we truly believe that we come from apes we will treat each other as no more than over developed apes.  Surely we as humans are more than that and indeed deserve more than that?

If you truly believed that what we see, what we can prove, what we can touch and feel was all there was to this life, how would you feel?  If there was more to life than this, something to give some meaning and purpose to our lives wouldn’t you want to explore the possibility? If you received a letter saying that you had won the lottery, even though you never entered, wouldn’t you want to do a bit of research to find if it might be true?  However unbelievable the claim wouldn’t it be worth you looking into it, just in case it was true? Millions of people around the world believe there is more to life than what is seen, provable, touchable. Millions of Christians have faith that there is more to life than this.  This faith is not a blind faith, it is a faith that says “I’ve looked at the evidence, I’ve weighed up the information, I have experienced things for myself and now I have decided”.  I am on a journey of faith, a journey of discovery. The more I search, the more I find.  The Bible tells us that if we seek we will find, if we knock on the door of faith it will be opened to us.  Is there more to life than this?  I believe so. Over the coming weeks and months our plan is to unpack this faith a little.  If there is more to life than this, what does it look like, consist of, mean to us?  We’d love for you to join us on this journey of discovery.  Feel free to ask questions and also feel free is disagree.  We’d love to hear what you find useful and what you don’t.  We hope our posts will make you think and be a springboard for you in your search.  Our hope is that you will walk a while with us and see where we all get to. Until the next What If…? Wednesday, keep seeking.