The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God

by Michael J. Klassen

God, what in the &*%! am I doing? I prayed early New Year’s morning as 2008 welcomed me with the force of a WWF wrestler throwing me into the ropes and then body-slamming me to the floor.

Twelve months earlier I was living on Easy Street. Working my dream job and enjoying a regular paycheck. A manageable number of writing gigs on the side. Life was safe, but deep down I knew it would eventually (soon?) come to an end.

As 2007 progressed, elements of my secure working environment began falling apart. Funds were running dangerously low. Coworkers were being laid off. But I felt pretty secure because I had recently been granted tenure-type status in my church.

Then the week of Christmas, I was told that my salary would be cut in half…beginning in two weeks. Such a happy alternative to a lay-off!

“But how can I replace my salary in only two weeks?” I asked the team of people burdened with informing me of the decision.

“You can just make it up with your writing,” they answered.

“But the publishing industry is dead until the end of January!”

As I left my meeting, a deep, gnawing feeling inside told me that I was being pushed into the life of faith. Kind of like pushing the baby bird out of the nest.

The Life That’s Pleasing To God

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Did you notice the first part of that verse? Without faith it’s impossible—IMPOSSIBLE!—to please God. As a writer, I do my best to avoid extreme words like “impossible” because I can usually find an exception to any hyperbole. But I pay attention to words like that in Scripture because they often communicate a powerful truth that shouldn’t be overlooked.

In case you’re tempted to assume it’s hyperbole, a different person–Paul–wrote in Romans 14:23, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

Something tells me this faith thing is pretty important. Extremely important.

The writer of Hebrews defines faith for us: “Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

My most trusted theological resources tell me that faith means “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance—‘to believe in, to have confidence in, to have faith in, to trust, faith, trust.’”

In this context, I spell faith R-I-S-K.

Faith includes a semblance of assent on our part, but if it doesn’t translate into everyday living, it isn’t faith.

Abraham Knew How To Please God

Abraham is the paragon of faith in the Bible. Although plagued with poor judgment—especially in regard to his wife Sarah—he deeply believed in God’s ability to take care of him.

The writer of Hebrews points out that God called Abraham and Sarah to leave their home and move to another country. And Abraham obeyed, even though he didn’t have a clue as to where he was going. Imagine inviting all your friends to help you pack all your possessions into a moving truck.

“So where are you moving to again?” your friends ask you over and over.

“I don’t know. We’re just going to take off and see where God leads us.”

Reading about Abraham through 21st century eyes, we often overlook the risks Abraham and Sarah were taking. Moving from one place to another in our modern society is a hassle but doable. In Abraham’s day, it was life-threatening. Family and tribal agreements ensured a semblance of safety and security. Venturing into new surroundings meant that you were extremely vulnerable to attack. Murder, robbery, rape, drought, floods, ignorance of your surroundings, ignorance of customs, wild animals, injury, and sickness were constant threats.

Nevertheless, Abraham left his comfortable life on Easy Street for a life of risk—and the world has never been the same.

Free-Falling

So January 1, 2008, I decided to resign my position. I felt like I had jumped off a cliff and now I was free-falling–which can be terrifying or exhilarating.

The first order of business: figuring out how to make up for the salary shortfall.

January 2 I received a phone call from a man living in the Midwest. He told me how much he enjoyed my book Prayers To Move Your Mountains (pretty ironic title, huh?). Then he said, “I’m speaking at a large church next Sunday and I’d like to sell your book to anyone there who wants it. Do you have any extra copies you can sell me?”

And with that 10-minute phone call, my salary shortfall was met for January. The next weekend I resigned my position and embarked on a new life of faith.

Within the month, I knew God was calling me to plant a church. He eventually led me to Eugene Scott, my co-pastor who also contributes to this blog. Month after month, we somehow paid our bills.

Three years ago today—July 1, 2008—I sat in my office at home and realized I had zero prospects of any income for the month. And our family was scheduled to take two weeks of vacation.

“Lord,” I prayed. “You’re going to have to do something or we’re in trouble.”

Later that day, my phone rang. A publisher needed me to help three co-authors finish a book. Because it was a rush job, they would pay me well—and fast. And with that 10-minute phone call, our bills were paid.

Three years later, I can look back and see how God strengthened my faith.

Here’s the clincher, though. The life of faith is the only life that is pleasing to God. But there’s only one way that faith grows: we must be in a position where faith in God is necessary. Unemployment, hardship, sorrow, and grief are optimal environments for faith to flourish.

God wants us to live in such a way that we’re completely reliant on him. He wants us to take risks on his behalf so we’re forced to depend on him. For one person, it might look like giving sacrificially to a worthy cause. To another person, it might mean befriending and helping a homeless person. To another, it might mean sharing your faith.

He does this because he wants to be a vital part of your life. In fact, he loves you so much that he wants to be your life.

God invites us to a life of risk and reliance. It isn’t comfortable nor is it easy. I still stumble and fall.

But I never want to return to life on Easy Street. It’s so boring. The life of faith, on the other hand, is an everyday adventure.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

9 responses to “The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God

  1. Georgie-ann

    The picture that immediately came to my mind was of an umbilical cord! And I think that I can affirm that as being fairly accurate in my own case.

    It seems to me that faith is absolutely how I “connect” to God, and maintain a connection, whether consciously thinking about it, or not. My faith umbilical cord usually goes “up” and connects to something almost like an umbrella (“made of cloud”), of which I vaguely make out a lower portion of a comforting underside, that eventually fades into something much larger and incredibly infinite, and that contains a whole lot of “meaning” and great significance.

    Yay! I’m a kid again! I think I can remember feeling like that under lovely summer skies with the precious soft friendly clouds floating lazily by! Connected, at peace, safe, cared for,…the universe is a good place!

    I know when I connected to that “feeling” again, as an adult, and was beginning to consciously commit myself as “a Christian in this world.” Now (then!), I would walk down the street, or store aisles, and face the ordinary thoughts/suggestions/”temptations” of life, encounter various “choices” that could be made involving rationalizations that, (“all things being equal”), could justify “cutting some corners,” in order to save some time or money, etc., etc., with personal efficiency and self-servingness as a focus, blah, blah, blah,…as if I were the only person that really mattered in the whole wide world,…

    Well, now,…not any more!,…”all things” are NOT equal!,…some things are sin, and selfishness is SURELY sin!,…oh my!,…how do I adjust my pathetic default-setting to something better?,…so, here’s where the “faith umbilical cord” came in:

    I sense it. I remind myself that God PROMISES to bless me, IF I obey His Will, His Commandments. So, I REALLY REALLY DO want His Blessing, — (’cause it’s got to be WAAAYY better than the world’s garbage so far!) — and so a lot of choices, (meanness, stealing, lying, being sneaky, etc.), are eliminated from the playing field!

    Next step: involves a “passive” form of avoiding complying with sin, and it is ok as far as it goes, but eventually, one gains the courage to ACT on choices and impulses to actually DO GOOD THINGS, that will end up changing the boring old “status quo,” and life for oneself and others for the better,…

    Where the “umbilical cord” came into play, was that unfailingly, if I found myself “wavering” between options, that faith umbilical cord — (I could find it by praying) — inevitably led me, connected me, to the right choice. And once I would embark on that path, I would always “get that good feeling” coming through it back into me to reinforce and reward me for choosing and “doing the right thing.”

    In this way, I think God was training me to “know Him” and to know how to find and do His Will for me in my life.

    With “faith” it is possible to circumvent and avoid a lot of very bad options that will never fail to try to pull us this way or that, — off course, and even into dead ends. With “faith” it is possible to stay on course with God, and to share His Life, His Love, and His Blessings,…now & always!

    God really is SO GOOD to us!

    (-:

    • God really IS good to us, that’s true Georgie-ann. And he blesses us when we obey him. The tricky part is that he oftentimes defines “bless” differently than we do. Nevertheless, he IS good!

      Thanks Georgie-ann.

      • Georgie-ann

        Awwww,…c’mon, Michael! Our spirits recognize God’s Blessings!! Isn’t it our flesh that moans, groans and complains, and makes us feel divided within? Part of the “cure” for this is to become less “identified” with our own flesh and its plans and pains, (which I WILL admit is not so easy these days!). Even when our flesh is sorely tried (especially by some of life’s “unavoidables” — like simply “getting older” everyday!), we can grow to have such confidence “in Him” that we can “count it all as loss”:

        To wit, one of Paul’s mouthfuls:

        Philippians 3:7-9

        7 “But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake.

        8 “Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),

        9 “And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith.”

        I guess that it IS a process, but a very very Blessed one! We “walk by FAITH, not by sight.”

        2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance.” … (or by “feeling”) …

        Love the bungee-jumping!

      • Georgie-ann

        Maybe, I’m saying that wrong,…I’m not “mean” to my flesh. In fact I try to be kind and considerate to my flesh, even “very understanding and sympathetic.” But I always tell it that there is “greater” Truth than what it thinks is true.

        For a tiny, little example, our choir loft in a very beautiful old church is accessed only by a lot of old wooden stairs,…and every Sunday my flesh and I (“I”-being the decision maker) lug a very heavy bag of musical stuff up those stairs. “I” could make other arrangements, store more things upstairs, get help carrying, etc., but I secretly like the idea of this little “faithful service” unto the Lord that we do together, me & my flesh. My flesh does NOT think it can do this, and does NOT like the idea, or practice, AT ALL. But, even though it moans and groans inwardly, I do NOT give it lip service to agree with it,…AND, it is phenomenally well enabled to get this thing done, … on Sundays.

        Btw,…I figure I MUST be getting some kind of angelic help (which is kind of exciting), because on OTHER days of the week, it is sometimes just about impossible for me to do it! So, … who knows?

        Anyway, I like to “doubt my flesh” when possible, while at the same time remembering:

        Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding, … ” because:

        God really really really IS GOOD and very very AMAZING too!

        (-:

  2. Linda

    The life of faith: Bungee jumping with Jesus.

  3. Georgie-ann

    Matthew 4:1-11
    1 “THEN JESUS was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil.

    2 “And He went without food for forty days and forty nights, and later He was hungry.

    3 “And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made [loaves of] bread.’

    4 “But He replied, ‘It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’

    5 “Then the devil took Him into the holy city and placed Him on a turret (pinnacle, gable) of the temple sanctuary.

    6 “And he said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over you, and they will bear you up on their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’

    7 “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written also, You shall not tempt, test thoroughly, or try exceedingly the Lord your God.’

    8 “Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them.

    9 “And he said to Him, ‘These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me.’

    10 “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone, Satan! For it has been written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve.’

    11 “Then the devil departed from Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

    In our time of “eXtreme-everything,” I have to wonder if this relatively new “pushing the limits” of (so-called) “normal activities” for seeking/having “great fun and adventure” — (solely for its own sake) — hasn’t gotten skewed to a point of “daring-do” that could be considered “tempting God.”

    I don’t know the answer to this, but I am quite aware of a generation that seems compelled to invest a lot of time, finances and energy in seeking out physical experiential extremes. Since this is “not my style” by a long shot, I usually just pray for their safety, marvel somewhat, and go on about my own business.

    Often, I’ll attribute our comparative “modern life of ease,” — so lacking in the once very prevalent natural “challenges” that needed to be overcome and dealt with daily, — as being responsible for a lot of “loose energy” and a need for a contrived way to “prove oneself” and demonstrate one’s existential significance in the face of the nonentity-ness that lurks behind a life with no substantial survival challenges, other than to kow-tow to the corporate tune.

    Just thinking, … … … when such a high level of physical and emotional energy is being invested in living for gratuitous and extreme outer demands, — as in the highly competitive and/or physically challenging sports efforts that are so worshipped and glorified (and overpaid, or overcharged for) these days, — are we getting “lost” in these things, being captivated by their outward focus and momentum and suggestiveness of momentary human significance? Is God glorified in these things? Honestly, I don’t really know, (but there are times that I have my doubts!).

    Will we be known (by God) by what we have used our “faith” for in this life? We can use it to glorify ourselves in those temporary fading-away ways of the vanishing externals of life, or make a more permanent investment in the things that will outlive this life.

    I love the saying, “God makes a way where there IS no way.” — (like opening the Red Sea!) — I have definitely seen Him do this in my own life, and have felt “answers” coming that must have been responses to “needs” that were placed before Him “in faith” — faith that had no idea where an answer would come from, except from God.

    As I was thinking about this yesterday, God showed me a picture of people worshipping Him, hands uplifted, in a praise and prayer service. He said to me that these people were creating a “warm” move of faith toward Him, that would melt the “coldness” of the unbelief in the earth’s atmosphere, that “normally” would be hindering their prayers and vision and spiritual understanding. I thought that was just beautiful!

    (-:

  4. Pingback: The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 2) | The Neighborhood Café

  5. Pingback: The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 3)…And It’s Not What You Think! | The Neighborhood Café

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s