We’re all going somewhere individually.
This reality settled in my brain a few months after becoming the interim youth pastor at my church. It scared me and gave me peace.
I had organized my whole ministry model and goals in terms of taking everyone from point A to point B. Then I realized that in order for that to happen, we all needed to be in the same place to start off with. Same background, same family dynamic, same academic goals, same state of mind, etc.
News flash. We aren’t.
“We walk the same path, but got on different shoes, live in the same building, but we got on different views.”
That’s a line from a Drake song.
I know, I know, super spiritual.
Pick up what I’m putting down, though.
WHERE IS THERE?
Where are we going?
All of us aren’t called to be volunteer youth pastors!
We can’t all go do medical missions!
Everybody can’t smuggle Bibles into China!
So, what does that mean?
Do we marginalize Christianity to make it suitable for everyone? How do we relate? How have we failed? How have we succeeded? Are we close?
THERE has been our April series at my youth group Planet Red. How it came about was through a stumbling of words. I was sharing a message in March and I happened to go off on a tangent about why being a leader was hard for me. I normally record and listen to all of my messages afterwards to see how I did. I’m very harsh on myself. We went to CookOut after service, then I came back to the church to clean up the youth room. I turned my recorder on, plugged my headphones and hit play. Sure enough, the rabbit trail part came up and I just stood in shock in the empty chapel that I had preached in 2 hours prior.
How do we get there? Well, uh, we get there by loving God with all our heart, soul and mind. Is that it? No. Will we ever be done with that? No. You’ll get close to there. Can you fail? Yes. How? Because you’re human. Why? Because we are in the human bodies and they’re sinful. So what? Keep striving to get there. But here’s the kicker… you’re not. No one is gonna get there. We’re in a race with no finish line. The success we see and celebrate is just checkpoints.
We call it the “Hall of Faith”
Take everyone who ever did it big in the Bible, and the author of Hebrews gives them a shout out. It’s awesome. I love it.
The end of Hebrews 11 is what I called the “Honorable Mentions.”
After all was said and done, the writer just hits us with the reality that he’s running out of time and he’s about to leave us with a couple of more shout outs. Here’s how Eugene Peterson put it in The Message translation.
32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
39-40 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
Guess what, if you’re saved, you’re lining up behind these people. I love Abraham and Moses but I feel like I resonate better with the honorably mentioned bros. I don’t resonate with what they endured though!
SAWED IN TWO?
Woah? Wait a minute. I like what they mentioned but I don’t like what they endured. Their THERE came with a cost. Worst part about it is, they never actually received the promise. Let’s skip past that, though, so I can bring up another important–WAIT, WHAT? NO. We can’t skip past that. If ANYONE would have made it, it would have been someone in Hebrews 11. What happened?
A lot of things have a THERE.
The list goes on.
Then you get saved and your goal, similar to us all, is getting there.
What can I do to be the greatest Christian of all time?
How am I going to defeat lust?
How can I love God and people more?
Read the Bible? Okay. I read it through.
Am I there? Nope.
Have an amazing prayer life.
I’m on it.
Am I there? Not yet?
Do ministry, serve, love, grow, learn constantly.
Gotcha. I just graduated from Bible college and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been.
Am I there? No.
15-year-old me was wrecked in an airport terminal.
I was traveling with my dad and I was breaking my neck to look at hot girls. At one point in time, I did a 360 while walking. It was bad. My African dad looked at me and asked me in his Mufasa-like countenance, “What are you doing?” I mumbled and shook my head, and then he asked, with his thick accent, “Do you not think I want to look too?”
I sheepishly nodded, the lecture was over, and we boarded the plane.
But then it dawned on me.
My dad never “defeated” lust!
I was striving to defeat lust, and then my father who has a Masters in Divinity, PhD in Theology, a successful church, 3 kids, and a loving wife and marriage, WAS NOT ABOVE HAVING BOUNCING EYES.
My whole teen existence was based on the idea that one day, I’m gonna be at a place where I’m better than sin and temptation.
Paul is a hero. You can’t talk about New Testament people and not give a shout out to him. He’s responsible for writing over 2/3rds of it, going on multiple mission trips, planting churches, etc.
He was beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, stoned (with rocks, not weed), and left for dead.
Then he dropped the bomb.
I’d like to think that Paul stumbled upon this realization the same way I did with the word “There”.
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Regardless of it all, Paul realized that he was never close to where he needed to be. If he claimed that he was, we’d all be in trouble. It would create a mark for us to hit, and that’s not what Christianity was intended to be about. We all have sinned, we’ve all fallen short, and our “rightlivingness” is like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6).
Where is there?
It’s where God wants you to be.
So your here, is actually a there from the past.
You’re not a mistake, the ones you’ve made don’t define you, and there’s no dipstick, gauge or something-o-meter to measure how far along you are. Trusting God is proclaiming to yourself that He knows all and you don’t (Proverbs 3:5).
Romans 8:28 simply reminds me,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
I’m not called.
Yes, you are.
Do I love God?
You know you.
Am I living according to His purpose?
What is His purpose?
If you own a Bible, then you have 66 books that can help answer that.
Jesus answered a question from a Pharisee in Matthew 22 that has caused me a lot of Spiritual constipation.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Noble question, right? The man wants a game plan to nail. Guidelines to follow. Some X’s and O’s connected by lines on dry erase board. A flow chart. Two minute tutorial video. Anything.
Here’s what Jesus replied back with…
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
I tell my students all the time that life and godly living would be a whole lot easier if Jesus would have said,
“Great commandment in the Law? Psh, take notes.
Follow these rules.
- Pray 3 times a day for 5 minutes.
- Read Christian literature for 1 hour a day.
- Help the homeless for 5 hours a month.
- Give 20% of your income to your church.”
But Jesus didn’t say that. He said, love me with everything and love others like you love you.
And only you know how far along you are.
THERE is where God wants you to be, and faith is the vehicle.
We’re all going somewhere individually.
And trusting Jesus is simply telling Him, God, where I’m at, You are, and where I need to be, You’ll get me there.
I don’t know how,
I don’t know when,
I don’t know where,
I don’t know what, and that’s okay.
I know who.
I know who fearfully and wonderfully made me (Psalms 139:14).
I know who loves me (I John 4:10).
I know who died for me (Romans 5:8).
I know who knew my end from my start (Isaiah 46:10).
I know who starts what He finishes (Philippians 1:6).
And I know who is greater than my feelings and knows everything (I John 3:20).
In the words of Andy Stanley, “Regardless of my past experiences, in light of my current circumstance, looking toward my future hopes and dreams.”
I am going to get THERE.