Wednesday 16 September 2015

Guest Post: God wants You to Win at Life

Love Heart Hands from Shutterstock

I've got another Christian guest blogger today, it is going to be a regular thing on a Wednesday for the next few weeks. Here's a little intro to today's writer Emily -

Emily is a super-short (4’10”) kick-ass mummy to three fabulous (and loud!) children who are 5.5, 3.5 and 1.  Married to a Student Pastor of a city-centre church their house is often filled with extras coming to ‘do life’ in the midst of crazy but beautiful family life.  In her spare time (pah!) Emily paints and has been known to pick up the mic from time to time to share from her passion, the Bible. Emily also blogs at Emily's Blog 

You know the setting, trying to have an in-depth conversation with another mummy friend in the midst of children charging around noisily, interrupted by a nappy change, a bang to the head, an argument that needs to be resolved and then continue as if nothing had happened.

It’s in this context that I am imagining one of my mummy friends say – “So why are you a Christian anyway?” 

To help unpack my answer, there’s a bit of the Bible that says this:

You have searched me, Lord,

    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:1-12

I am known
So why am I a Christian?  Straight away – “you know me”.  God knows me in a deeply intimate way.  Elsewhere the Bible tells us that God knows us by name, he calls us by name, he knows the number of hairs we have on our head.  But he doesn’t just know our name, this is the Omniscient God knowing me.  The God who knows all things.

These verses show us that God knows everything about us – our very core – our genetic make up – our fears, doubts, secrets, anxieties.  Our pride, our history, our family, our celebrations and our joys. 

I am known better than I know myself.

I am known by the Omniscient God who knows my thoughts before I have even spoken – I don’t even know my thoughts before I speak sometimes – much to the hubster’s exasperation!  And yet, in spite of being known so intimately, God still chooses to lay his hand of blessing on us. 

There’s an example of this inside-out knowledge when Jesus calls Nathanael in John 1.  Jesus’ complete knowledge of who Nathanael was – his character, his background, his nature, leaves Nathanael exclaiming “How do you know me?” and then later in response to Jesus saying “I see you…”, Nathanael says “you must be the Son of God” – because only God can know us so intimately.  And Jesus says the same to us – “I see you… I see you.”

However, sometimes, I think the idea of someone (let alone the God who created the entire universe) knowing everything about us is a bit scary.  We might think – if you knew, if you really knew… if you really knew the dark thoughts I have, the secret and hidden things in my life, well then you wouldn’t want to know me.  You wouldn’t love me…

But no – these verses in the Bible show us that God, the all-knowing God, the omniscient God knows EVERYTHING about us, further on it tells us that he knows us inside out, and He still places his hand of blessing on our lives.  He knows us and chooses us because he loves us.

So I am a Christian because I am fully known by an omniscient God, and still accepted.

I am known  >>  I am not alone
Every time I have had a baby, after the crazy hormones have settled (do they ever?!) I have tried to take up running as a way of getting some exercise, fresh air, a bit of headspace.  Anyway, after my first two children I tried to take up running and would maybe go for one or two runs, but I just couldn’t do it.  It seemed that running wasn’t for me. 

However, three months ago when my youngest turned 8 months I tried again… and now, I run 2 or 3 times a week and just under a month ago I ran my first 10k race (and smashed it, thank you very much!)  So what was different this time?  I downloaded the ‘NHS Couch to 5k’ app.

What I had been missing initially was a Coach, someone alongside me telling me what to do, someone that knows about pacing yourself when you’re learning to run.  Someone who could increase the intensity as I developed in strength and stamina.  I needed a voice in my ear encouraging and spurring me on, giving me direction and telling me what to do.  When I tried to learn to run on my own, I wasn’t successful – I needed someone ‘with’ me.

We are not alone.

The author of the Psalm above was David.  As a shepherd boy he would have spent vast amounts of time without any other human contact.  Alone, in the fields could be a pretty lonely place.  Sometimes, being a mummy can feel like this.  You spend all day with children, no adult contact, just the housework, to-do list, nappies.  It can be a lonely place.  Or maybe you work in a 9-5 office job that is pretty mind-numbing, your co-workers clock in and out doing the bare minimum and no one ever asks you about your weekend.  It can be a lonely place. 

But God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere.  All the time.

God goes ahead of us and brings up the rear.  He is with us always.  There are SO many examples where God tells us that He will never leave us and that he is with us ALWAYS. 

This omnipresent God is with me… even when I am not aware of his presence.  Just like the travellers on the road to Emmaus, facing the darkest of times, with ‘downcast faces’ as Luke 24 tells us, Jesus himself walks with them, talks with them, even though they are unaware of who he is.  And Jesus himself, walks with us too.

Just like I needed the running coach spurring me on, encouraging me, speaking in my ear, teaching and training me in the way I should go… I need God in my life directing, encouraging, spurring me on and taking me at a pace I can go.

So I am known – by the omniscient God
And I am not alone – because the omnipresent God is with me

And finally, I am strengthened.

I am known  >>  I am not alone  >>  I am strengthened
Verse 10 reads, “your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”

God is not only omniscient and omnipresent but he is also omnipotent – all-powerful – and quite frankly, this is good good news.

Because I am not all-powerful.  I know, shock right?!  Sometimes though, I go through life acting as if I am.  I try to do it all, hold everything and everyone together.  It might work for a bit, but then invariably I burn out, freak out or wipe out and remember that I really can’t do this thing called ‘life’ in my own strength.

Even there, at the 3am feedings of the baby, the loss of a loved one, the redundancy, the set-back on the road to recovery, the isolation and loneliness, the ill-health, the poverty and debt, the exam failure… even there in the brokenness and painfulness of ‘life’… Even there, “your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”  Even if we are in the darkest of places, He shines.

I once asked my three-year-old before going to speak to a bunch of students what I should tell them.  And without any prompting, he responded, “Tell them that Jesus is the light of the world”.

Out of the mouths of babes right?

In our darkest moments, Jesus is the light of the world.  In John 8, He says “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  And a couple of chapters further on, he says that he came so that we “may have life, and have it to the full.”

The Bible shows us countless times where Jesus heals.  He takes the weak, the broken, the weary, the lost, the outcast and he says “what do you want me to do for you?  What do you need?” and then he meets that need.  Jesus heals, restores, encourages, strengthens.  We are all weak, and we all need strengthening.

I can’t run successfully without a coach.  I can’t run successfully and ‘win’ without wisdom, training, support and the right equipment.

For me, sharing why I am a Christian comes out of a place of relationship.  Out of a place of coming alongside other people, sharing life and living in a way that hopefully opens up opportunities for conversations about why my hubby and I live as we do.  I want to show my friends love.  I want to show them Jesus. 

I am a Christian because God knows me, loves me, and wants me to win.  And that’s true for you too.  God loves you, he knows about [insert scenario that is going on in friend’s life] and he cares.  He weeps when you weep, he rejoices when you rejoice.  He is with you in the midst of your situation even if you don’t recognise or realise that He is.  Do you ever wish that someone really ‘got you’?  That they knew you without your mask of being super funny, or super together, or superhuman.  That they know you without your mask – there’s no trying, no striving – that they know you so intimately that you can totally be yourself and totally accepted?  No spouse however fabulous they are always understands, no parent or child, friend or colleague.  But God does.  He knows you, loves you, accepts you.  He sees you.

God wants you to win at life. 

Do you ever feel that it’s too difficult? 
Too tough? 
Relentless or unforgiving? 

Can I show you what God says about that? 
Can I show you love? 
Can I show you Jesus?