“If a person claims to love Jesus but never actually tries to learn from him or live the way he taught, its hard to take that claim seriously. The writer of James says that even demons know God exists- they have faith, but that faith doesn’t save them (James 2:19). Why? Because ‘faith by itself, if it does not produce works, is dead’ (V.17). It is a scary thought, but there is such a thing as faith in God that doesn’t save. This is a warning to all those who claim to be Christians: our beliefs must be coupled with lives that are God-honoring. True Christians can’t be separated from the evidence of the fruit of their lives” (Mark Clark, The Problem of God).
I read this as I was ringing in the new year and it scared me. I looked backward for just a moment and saw that my faith has not been where it should (or could) be. I looked back at the year now behind me and saw little to no fruit produced, at least little that was good. I took a peak through the journals of this past year and noticed my heart distracted, divided, self- focused the majority (if not all) of the time. I was saddened at the way I handled certain situations; instead of bringing glory to the Lord I feel I must have brought him shame. My focus was myself, what I wanted and what would make me feel better. I struggled with the internal battle that was raging, trying to fight off lies with more lies and rarely reaching out to God. I became consumed with stress and anxiety. As I sat there on my bed I couldn’t help but ask, Lord, what happened to me?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). In other words, your heart will always pursue what you treasure. And when I thought I found my treasure in Jesus, it turns out, that it is not true. When Jesus is the treasure and deepest desire of our hearts, we experience a fullness of joy and a freedom beyond comprehension. We see a natural outpouring of the love we have received, we find peace in the midst of chaos, we find purpose and meaning even in the most trivial of tasks, we experience a call to serve, and a heart that longs to forgive and reconcile. I can say in honesty that these are not fruits I have experienced this year. In fact, I have found the opposite to be the truth in my life. And what can that mean besides Jesus not truly, genuinely being at the center of my life?
When I started this blog, I can say that without any doubt, I was in a season where I experienced such a desire and love for the Lord and His word. I remember it being a serious trial season, full of pain and heartache, but through it I found just how rich the love of God is. Throughout the following summer I experienced the beauty of joy in Christ and continued to write all that I was learning. But as summer closed, and I moved back to the stressful environment of college, I became distracted and lost that drive. I still love God, I still find the time to read His word (not nearly as much as I did before), but I think that is why I take this both hard and personally. I HAVE experienced this and yet I let it slip away. That terrifies me. “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14). Sure is narrow alright cause I seem to keep falling off!
I have women of faith that I look up to (and they have no idea that I do) but I can just see the Holy Spirit in them and I long to model the example of faith they live out. I am discouraged by the giant gap there seems to be between the woman I want to be and the woman I am. And as silly as all the “New Year New Me” posts seem to be to me, this year I am extremely grateful for the clean slate. And extremely grateful for a God who never gives up on me. I can see that God is taking me to great places and I can now see how hard the enemy has been fighting against that. I have backtracked. But, I am here now and ready to make progress again.
Guys, it is so easy to fall into the snares this world sets for us. It is almost unnoticeable. We get so used to living in the lies that we don’t see the truth when it’s right in front of us. And that is why, as always, the discipline of spending consistent time in God’s word is extremely serious for our spiritual life. The love for God has not wavered in my life, but it is my lack of consistency and discipline that keeps throwing me off course. Sometimes we have to just get to a point where we just do it. And as a new year has started, that is my goal. Consistency. Not just with spending time in God’s word, but in every aspect of my life. Consistency will bring balance and peace to a life that I have let become chaotic and busy.
And with this, I challenge you. Bring God back to where He should be in your life. Practice the discipline of making Him a priority and be consistent with it. Strive for a faith that will produce good fruit and an overflow of love. Not sure where you are at? Compare the fruit production of your life currently to what it says in Scripture.
“…every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. [and] you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16-17).
I say all this with the utmost humility for I am far from the life modeled by Christ. I just hope that through any of these writings, I can bring more awareness to the human condition, reassure that you are not as alone as you think you might be, or maybe even spare someone the pain of making the same mistakes as I.
God bless you friends.