My friend Dave is a retired truck-driver and an outdoor man who's never read a book in his life. He came to faith a few years ago and unfailingly attends our Bible-study every Monday night. He enjoys the discussion and has both learned and contributed a lot. But as he approached me one night, I could that something was bothering him.
The problem was that he was being asked to help with the church Boys Brigade - also on Monday night. Which should he do? Study the Bible or help at Boys Brigade?
“Go help at Boys Brigade” I said. My lack of hesitation was not because our clubs need helpers, but because I knew helping at the club would be good for Dave.
1. Living generously
“…Go and help at Boys Brigade. As you spend time helping, laughing, being frustrated and getting cross with those kids, your faith will grow in ways neither of us can imagine. You will learn more of God’s ways than we ever can in a Bible Study,” (as much as I encourage people to show up for Bible Studies).
As we step out to serve God in new ways, our head-knowledge is made real. God meets us and equips us. And as we see the people we help challenged and grow, and as we get involved in their lives, God gives us a newer, richer, conviction.
To be sure, people like to quote that line on salvation by faith: “We are saved by faith alone!” they boast. So we don’t need works/actions. However, the truth is we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone. In other words, saving faith, growing faith is never alone. Works don’t save us, but works are the evidence of faith and the accelerator of faith.
If you are involved in service for others, you already know this. If not, there are some great activities at your church you can help with right now. And see how your faith grows!
2. Living gratefully
It’s always satisfying to see the secular world running to catch up with Christian thinking, rather than the other way around. In the past few years there has been an increasing number of studies, books and now news stories on the subject of gratitude. Lots of really clever people out there will now tell you that remembering to be thankful is good for your health.
But not just health. Thankfulness will bring untold blessings to your Christian faith. One of the biggest contributors to my own faith and well-being has been simply remembering to give thanks for the good things in my life that happen – and importantly the bad things that don’t happen.
Thankfulness is nothing new. It is an ancient Christian practice. Even giving thanks before a meal is good for our faith because it helps us to see God’s hand in the everyday. Unlike the secular world, we as Christians have someone to say thank you to. And doing that shifts our thoughts from ourselves to our maker.
But it’s a discipline. In poorer countries people may be thankful just for making it to a new day, but we need reminding. Some people keep a prayer diary as a reminder of things to give thanks for – they look back months or even years later. I’ve never done that. So if, like me, you feel a daily habit of thankfulness might be hard to develop, there is a simple way of praying called the Examen that will remind you to give thanks, at the end of each day. It’s seriously easy, you can do it today!
3. Living slowly
Much of the Christian life is straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and sometimes the most straightforward things are the hardest. Like slowing down.
Its so easy to be always connected and always occupied. Some of us have even forgotten what being bored feels like - there’s always a screen somewhere to gawk at. But resisting the need for speed brings huge benefits to our faith.
- During the week, try to have a day, or 24 hours when you don’t work. Today work lines are blurred for many. We use the same phone for office and private use, our emails can be both work and personal, and some of us work from home. The old divisions have gone. So a question that can arise is “what is work?” Say, I am reading something work-related but enjoying it, is that work? One idea that may help is that you should try to not change anything or improve anything on this day. On your Sabbath be content to see things as they are; to enjoy a world that doesn’t need to change.
- During the day, turn your face toward God at any moment. Yes in your quiet-time, but also just for a moment on the corridor, in the supermarket, in the street. Try looking at the sky – it’s always amazing, and will instantly take you from worldly to heavenly, from finite to infinite.
- Occasionally live life in “airplane mode”. Create space. Let the smartphone or tablet lie idle - in another room so you don’t start twitching when it winks at you.
Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10.39). This is one of those razor-sharp statements that Jesus made which applies in all kinds of situations. Whether it’s losing your time to serve others, losing your pride to say “thank you!” or losing your busyness to enjoy stillness. You will find life, and with it a newer, more enduring faith.