What if I told you that most of us active, godly people in our 20s and 30s are addicted to stimulants? (And I’m not talking about caffeine.) We have addicted ourselves, not as Stephanas did to ministering to others, but to being happy. Ours is a “perks-based salvation”, a Christianity that relies on blessings to keep it strong.
The perks of being a child of God are awesome. I’m not even debating that. There’s a lot to be happy about!
- The Word of God
- Brothers and sisters in Christ
- The house of God
- Uplifting music
- Rewarding ministries
- Sharing the gospel and seeing people saved
But the thing about these perks, is that we’re using them like spiritual mood enhancers. We forget about them and take them for granted until we reach emotional crisis and need to feel happy again. Too often we display a reactionary faith – “I am discouraged, so I will run to the Bible”; “I am going through a trial, so I will pray”; “I am stressed out, so I will seek counsel”. Most of our so-called faith is a series of spiritual stimulants that we break out in response to difficulty. We can’t even process the idea that God exists outside of blessings, or that He puts us in difficulties on purpose.
But what would you think about a person who eats copious quantities of junk food, sleeps erratically, rarely exerts herself, leaves so much junk lying around that she’s constantly tripping and falling, and then medicates herself for depression? I don’t know about you, but I’d say she’s in pretty fragile shape. There are more problems there than she realizes!
“Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.”
Far too frequently, there is nothing medically wrong with me when I am spiritually depressed. Rather, it means that I have spent so much time away from my Source of life, nibbling from His table at intervals, but piling the world’s empty calories on my plate. I let selfish and temporal pursuits become stumblingblocks, and let ordinary stressors become giant obstacles. I become lazy in my devotional life. Then when I cannot bear it a second longer I go flying back to my spiritual mood enhancers (and acid reducers!). Call a sistah! Crank up KNVBC Radio! Holler at God a while! I have known people who love this fix so much, they magnify the mood, posting vague status updates, groaning about “difficult times” to friends, spending long periods in prayer and tears… when if they’d stop and consider, they’d realize they’ve just exacerbated a normal “low” and they’re finally turning to God for a quick fix. “Moods never go by praying,” said Oswald Chambers, “moods go by kicking.”
The early Christians could not afford a reactionary faith. While we face overdue bills, rejection, and illness, they were facing these and wildly unfair trials, prison, and torture. Theirs were not happy lives on the surface. And yet we read accounts of them praising God in their prison cells, witnessing to the passive onlookers, praying for their abusers. Paul said, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things” (Philippians 3:8). Those aren’t the words of someone who sounds discouraged but reluctantly trusts God anyway. That’s the voice of joy. It’s a proactive faith. Despite all the difficulty, it’s a “merry heart” that does good like a medicine before the medicine is ever required. It’s not a “perks-based salvation” where the child of God clings to the benefits of his faith rather than to the One who saved him.
What was their secret to joy? How did they live in gladness and rejoicing when they were unbelievably oppressed? Can we use their recipe to survive our much simpler stressors, and build strength to meet challenges like theirs should we ever have to face that?
Until the next post, I challenge you to consider how you live your faith. Are you a “Jesus junkie”, using the blessings of salvation to improve your mood after you’ve spent too much time under stress or binging on the world? Or are you living in joy, regardless of what you’re going through?