Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is on its way! We are officially allowed to listen to Christmas music to get ready!
I love this time of year. In my family, it is filled with joy and happiness. We have a lot of fun during the Christmas season, and I always look forward to it. We laugh a lot and engage in making fun of each other in a super loving way.
I also drink a ton of peppermint mocha coffee and eat a ton of food. It is a great time.
I realized something today as I was thinking about the upcoming Christmas season. I know it isn’t going to seem super profound to you, but it was for me….
Following Jesus is such a blessing!
I know, I know, I know … I’m a minister, so it is literally my job to say that. I get it. I also know it’s expected of me.
Here is the catch though…. There was a time I wasn’t sure it was a blessing. I also think many people have the wrong view of following Jesus – so maybe it feels more like a burden, or responsibility we have to carry.
I felt the same way early in my ‘ministry’ career.
My junior year of high school I took a psychology class. It was AMAZING! I loved the idea of learning how people think/act and helping people. All throughout college I had one goal and one goal only – become a psychologist!
I was a research assistant, I studied hard, worked hard, presented research at conferences, had such a good resume that I got accepted to Boston University (really good psychology program). I couldn’t wait to go! My dream was coming together – then BAM!
God showed up and started leading me towards full-time ministry. While I was excited, I was scared!!! This was not my plan – I had a 6-year plan that was coming together and God was interrupting it!
At first, I was excited, then the reality that I was dependent on God (we all are I was just made aware in a dramatic way) started to sink in. I was terrified.
Seriously, I was mad God was leading me in a direction that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. Part of me wanted to follow him – but there was sooo much that was unknown. I wanted God to take it away, let me do my own thing.
Sound familiar? – Hearing From God?
Yeah it is a common theme in my life.
SO. When I say following Jesus is a blessing hopefully you see I’ve come a long way.
I learned something HUGE.
God wants us to live life WITH him.
Might not sound like a big deal – but I promise once you grip this it does change everything. So many times our posture towards God is wrong. In my life, I thought I had to live life FOR God. Meaning everything was driven by mission and making sure I pleased him.
While this appears as holiness, and I looked like a rockstar. It was bad for my family and me for 2 reasons.
Reason 1 – I was using God for my benefit – to find purpose. Only my purpose was in what I was doing FOR God, not God himself.
Reason 2 – Because my purpose was in my work – I was super super insecure about my work. IF my worth and purpose in this world is based on what I do FOR God, then it better be amazing! OR I suck.
I was taught (both directly and indirectly) that we have to be effective, do big things, live our life FOR God.
While I’m not saying you should just sit on a couch and never do anything – I am saying that our identity can’t be in our work, volunteering, what we do FOR God, etc.
Where does our identity need to be? God. Period.
This is so tricky and hard to balance. Especially because we feel like what we are doing is from God and needs to be done. Usually what we are so consumed by is a good thing we’ve just made it the ultimate thing.
Remember anytime God isn’t first – things are out of whack.
Why is following Jesus a blessing?
Heaven, get out of Hell, blessings, money, peaceful life, better life, less trouble. There are many reasons to follow Jesus.
I used to think the blessing of following Jesus was in heaven, my work, or things he gave me.
It is so much more than that.
Do I receive blessings? Am I guaranteed an eternity in heaven with God? Is my work important? Is my life better? Do I have peace? Do I avoid trouble? – Yes to all. But none of these are the blessing of following Jesus.
The blessing is in the relationship. Not in what God can do for me.
The blessing is in the fact I have a relationship with the creator God. After I have spit in God’s face and turned away – I still have a relationship. After I said I’d be better and I’m not – I still have a relationship. After I fully realize how short I fall to God’s perfection and holiness – I still have a relationship.
It might seem like a nuance of words, but when explored deeper I think many will find we seek God out of selfish reasons that appear holy or right. For me, I was seeking God to get fulfilled in my work. Is that bad? Yes! When that takes God place.
I wasn’t seeking God for God. I was seeking God because I had an agenda.
I am learning to examine my intentions and seek God for God. Not because I want to use him. Do I look forward to the secondary blessings that come? ABSOLUTELY! But, more than that I’m excited that the God who is way better than me, way bigger, way holier, and way more amazing – wants a relationship with me.
That is a blessing.
***PS If this topic interest you there is a book you HAVE to read. There are four postures most people take towards our relationship with God. Mine just happens to mostly be the life FOR God posture. With by Skye Jethani explores these postures and how to live life WITH God instead of one of the 4 negative postures.
Whatever power I have to influence you I’m channeling it all into you reading this book. I wish I had read With a lot earlier in my life.