Around the beginning of this year, a remarkable change happened in my life. Although I had been a Christian for about ten years, I had struggled with being consistent in reading my bible and spending time in prayer. In fact, it’s safe to say that I was consistently looking for excuses not to read and not to pray. I found little joy in these things and consequently experienced little growth in my spiritual life. For a reason, or reasons, that escapes my memory now I started reading the Word in January 2008, along with regular times in prayer while doing the unthinkable – getting up early in the morning.
The Lord has blessed me with a great desire to learn more of Him, to improve in prayer, to gain knowledge of his Word. Unlike other attempts to begin regular reading of scripture, this time it’s lasted and I’m now starting my 12th month of regular (almost) daily times of prayer and reading.
In February I felt lead to start a new business; it seemed the natural thing to do, as the Lord had prospered my freelance work and there was increasing demand for my services. After much prayer and examination, everything appeared to indicate this was the direction in which to go. I ran forecasts, played with scenarios – everything seemed to be in alignment. I wanted to act in faith, praying from the first moments that we would trust in God and that come success or failure, His will would be done.
The Lord has been gracious. I have a co-worker who loves prayer, a faithful church family who prays for us, supportive friends and customers and the Lord has increased my faith. I have been blessed by several amazing sermon series, including Julian’s study of the book of James, PMac’s series on Galatians, Paul’s study of John and a tonne of material from Mark Driscoll (Pray Like Jesus, Proverbs, Doctrine, The 9 Questions series, and others).
A consistent theme that runs through all that teaching is the need for active faith. John’s gospel makes frequent mention of those who had false belief. James demands active and living faith, not just words. Galatians teaches about remaining consistent to the gospel we’ve been taught. On and on and on; we need faith, we need to live like we have faith. To be clear – this isn’t about believing what you want so you can get it, it’s about believing what God has revealed because it’s true.
Lately, I’ve been trying to examine in my life what it means to “venture it all” on Christ. What am I willing to lose in the name of Christ – and what am I not willing to give up? My words and actions will reveal the contents of my, my true faith. Even in the midst of starting a new business in a down economy, hearing all this good teaching, sharing the gospel with friends, I know there are areas in my heart that I don’t want to give over to God. In particular, there are two areas that I’ve stubbornly held to for a long time.
The first is money. I’ve been very prideful in my life about the amount of money I made at different jobs, and about the ability to always find a way to come up with some money when needed. In reality, I don’t have much to be proud of, as we’ve never been particularly wealthy in comparison to the average household in our city – but I am very easily impressed with myself and this builds my pride. This pride and love of money has lead me to be hesitant in giving to the church, and only in recent years have I started to enjoy any measure of showing hospitality, preferring most of the time to hoard my “wealth” and spend it on my pleasures.
The second area is the love of the praise of men. I want people – my family, peers, church family, clients, friends – to think well of me. I want them to only see the good things in my life, and to exaggerate those good things in their estimation. I am afraid to show weakness or admit to any shortcomings.
So what do I do?
As the owner of a start-up business, I haven’t been personally bringing home much money. This secretly delighted my heart, since I felt justified in not giving any to the church. Nothing coming in, nothing going out, right? Wrong. I remember being strongly convicted of this sin by a Mark Driscoll sermon from the Doctrine series on the topic of stewardship, nicely coinciding with another sermon on worship. How I spent my money was a strong indicator of the worship of my heart, and it wasn’t heavenward. So, since that day in August I’ve decided to give weekly to my church, something I haven’t consistently done since the founding of Grace Fellowship Church. I don’t write this seeking the praise of men – in fact, I hesitated in writing it at all, but I decided the confession of this sin was more important (as will become clearer later, I hope). I want to give to God first, since everything I have is really His anyway.
How do I combat the sin of desiring the praise of men? By being honest and open. Our business has not performed as well as I’d hoped. Sales are hard to come by, money has run out and we’ve been plagued by numerous problems that we didn’t account for. Everything of this world that we were counting on when we started this business has been stripped away. Popular advice is to “fake it ’til you make it” – that is, to talk like you’re a success until it becomes true. So, when people ask about our business, the answer is always that we’re busy, things are going well, etc, etc. We are busy – but things are not going as well as I’d hoped.
I want to venture it all on Jesus, not just in word, not just by praying before work, not just in my morning study, but by addressing my stubborn sin. I’m venturing it all financially by continuing to give to Him, even until my last dollar. I’m venturing my reputation on Him by admitting that I’m struggling to keep this business alive.
I’ve thought a lot about writing this post, and yet it still seems to have rambled all over. My goal is to lay bare my sin and try to strike at the strongholds of sin in my heart. Since my pride is rooted in what I want people to think of me, I’m trying to deflate that pride by confessing my weakness and failings publicly. I may write on this a few more times.
My hope is that the Lord will be glorified in my life. I pray that He will change my heart to desire Him, to seek His kingdom and righteousness first.