Today, young adults aren’t the only ones fleeing the church and, sadly, in many cases, their faith. I see it happening with seasoned saints and some ministers as well. For some, the pat answers and Bible quotes have become bromides, boring clichés that no longer seem relevant to 21st-century life. Others are frustrated at how churches have become museums for the hypocrites instead of hospitals for the broken, or fiefdoms of petty power brokers instead of places of truth and grace.
In their commendable efforts to keep the sinking boat afloat, many have amped up their services, either in church or in outside service to others. And it works . . . for a while. But just as surely as the wick in an oil lamp burns itself up if it’s not saturated in oil, so the believer will burn himself out with good works if he’s not saturated in God. It is the oil of God’s presence that should be burning through us, not our good religious works, no matter how lofty.
Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s a vicious cycle of being a Martha servaholic instead of a Mary “who has chosen the better and it will not be taken away.” In our attempts to be “good Christians,” our fruit for God grows smaller and drier until we become exhausted scrub brush, striving to stay alive, instead of lush, fruit-bearing trees offering shade to a weary world.
Does this mean we forgo serving others or forget about Christ’s great commission to share the Good News? No. On the contrary, it makes the Good News all the better and the success of our efforts all the more powerful.
The truth is: God can do every bit of the work on His own. Initially I hated that idea. It shattered my whole reason for existence (and my secret need to earn God’s love and favor). But the fact of the matter is God doesn’t need me. Seriously, what can I give Him that He cannot give Himself?
The answer? Nothing.
Well, almost nothing. There is one thing: my friendship. From God’s point of view, all my projects, all my service, all my sacrifices are good. But more importantly, they are reasons to be with Him. The works and service are merely Father/son projects, things we can do together as we enjoy each other’s company as we hang with each other, as we love and cry and even joke with one another. That’s what God wants. That’s what the Creator will not create for Himself—my friendship, my fellowship, my sonship. That’s the primary reason I was created. And once I grasped that concept, while falling dozens of times along the way:
My service no longer became tedious.
I was no longer frustrated and anxious to reach the end result.
People were no longer a means to God’s end . . . or mine. (This was huge. God’s children could no longer be objects I used to earn His approval. Instead they returned to being His children—to be loved and cherished and enjoyed.)
As a result, I am no longer overburdened, overextended, or burned out. The wick of my life is now saturated with His presence and will burn for a lifetime . . . and beyond. The paradox is mind-boggling. Now, as I experience the joy of the Lord (real joy, not theological comfort), I am more productive than ever. I no longer wake up and sit on the edge of the bed praying, “Oh, Lord, I really need Your help to accomplish Your project today.” Now I wake up saying, “Thank You, my Friend, that we have a project to hang out and work on together.”
It’s the difference between night and day. Between Martha and Mary. Between being an overworked servant with an impossible agenda (but highly-esteemed by his fellow overworkers) and a son who basks in the love and friendship of His father.
That’s what I want to share in this book . . .
How to prevent our faith from drying up. And, if it’s happening, how to soak in God’s presence so His life resumes flowing through us as “rivers of living water.”
It is absolutely possible to return to the excitement and joy we had when we first met Christ. And it is absolutely necessary to replace intellectual philosophy with intimate relationship, to leave being a fearful and dried up servant to become a rejoicing child. A quick and fun read, this first installment of The Last Fool series will make you chuckle while pausing to think.