Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
There is a common theme that I have heard time and time again among my fellow Christians and have even said myself as a new believer. I keep hearing that we (the Christian community) need to stop putting on false smiles and acting like we have it all together when we don’t, really. That we need to stop pretending all is well when it isn’t. That we need to get real.
The odd thing, however, is that I don’t actually know anyone who does this. I know no one who acts as if they have it all together, none who put on a happy face and waltz around pretending the world is unicorns and music and roses. Not one.
Among my brothers and sisters (and sadly, from my own mouth), what I do hear plenty of is grumbling. I see plenty of sad faces and sorrow and regret. I hear so many stories of how we are a mess. I see much groaning under the burdens of life and much fear and anxiety.
In fact, I see plenty of reality, so much reality that my mind would be overcome by it if I did not have my mighty Refuge to run to when all the world seems hostile and alien.
But that’s all an aside. What bakes my noodle is this:If I don’t know anyone in Christ who plasters on a mask and pretends, and yet the people I know keep saying we all need to stop doing that, where is this idea coming from? I fear that it is actually some bit of spiritual propaganda that has wormed its way into the center of modern American Christian culture. And frankly, I don’t understand it.
If there is someone with a smile on their face, how can an onlooker know if it is a real smile or a mask? What if that person smiles because they are consumed with the joy of their salvation? What if the smiler is genuinely filled to the brim with the joy of the Lord and that joy is his strength even in hardship?
What if someone is caught actually, truthfully rejoicing in their suffering because they know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us?” (Romans 5:3-5)
What if… what if there is a Christian or two who are real, and whose reality is rooted in a belief that “…the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us?” (Romans 8:18)
What if some believers do not have it all together, know very well they do not have it all together, but trust entirely in an Almighty God who does have it all together?
What if these believers have absolute confidence in Him and are content to fight the battles He has given them to fight. What if they are honestly delighting themselves in His Word and relying on the belief that He who began a good work in them “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ?” (Philippians 1:6)
Aren’t those the very things we ought to be doing, the very things that separate believers from the rest of the world? Isn’t it the absolute trust in God despite our circumstances that make us, in fact, Christians. Isn’t joy and peace a direct result of that trust?
Maybe I’m crazy. I don’t know. But I wonder sometimes if our “reality” lines up with what is written in the Scriptures; if, perhaps, we need to get real with our faith. I wonder if our getting real doesn’t need to include a little less about us — our messes and our failures — and a little bit more about the incredible victory of our Jesus.
I somehow doubt that the world needs to hear very much about our troubles and temptations. It has plenty of its own. What the unsaved world needs is to hear more of the victory of our Savior, of the hope we have in Him even in the midst of life’s pain, of a greater Truth that is steady and sure when human wisdom falls short.
I believe the world needs to see us honestly crying to God to overcome our unbelief, genuinely and humbly repenting of our sins each time we fail, dying to our selves and living with Christ.
So let’s get real. Real hunger for the things of God, for His presence, His glory, His Word, and His Kingdom. Real work of faith, real labor of love, real steadfastness of hope. Real submission to Christ. Real love for God that overflows in love for others. Real self-sacrifice and real belief in a real God who really does save. Really denying self and living for Christ.
Lord, help us to be real with You, to have genuine faith in You, to be real imitators of Christ. Forgive us our complaints and our self-focus. May we only use our troubles to point others to Your greatness, amen.