I was pretty excited when my dear friend asked me to write for her blog.
My first thought was, “God, I have so much to share about everything You’ve done for me!”
I was convinced the Lord would lead me to talk about worship, His great provision, or His ever-present nearness in dark, difficult times.
When He did speak to me about what to write, I felt dismayed.
I asked, “Really, Lord? That?”
So, here it goes. I get to write about my sin. The ugly, nasty attitude that I carried into church with me for several years.
I was cynical.
The Lord gave me a really beautiful, vibrant faith at a young age. I was passionate about what the Lord was doing. I felt close to Him and He spoke to me clearly. I loved to read His Word and man, did I ever love worship. In the church I grew up in, it was strongly suggested that I stand in the back because I would become a distraction due to my demonstrative worship style.
Several factors contributed to the decline of my childlike faith. Some had to do with how I wanted others to view me and others had to do with attending a Christian college. This put me in the mindset of treating scripture like a textbook rather than the holy word of God. None of this was anyone else’s fault. At the end of the day, I chose to revere my own intellect and the approval of my peers over the dynamic relationship I had with God. Essentially, I went from eager expectation to encounter God at each church service to a less-than-pretty series of thoughts.
“Ugh, here comes another football metaphor. Let me tune this out.” “Wow, this message has been all over the place. What’s the main point?” “Lots of scripture, but what’s the practical application for this week?” “This pastor probably takes great care of his flock, but his teaching is really lacking.” “That misspelling on the slide is ridiculous. Did no one proofread?”
Are you seeing the main theme? I was distracted. I was focused on the things of man. I was acting like a professor of a student in a public speaking class. I was not humbly entering the house of God, ready to hear what He wanted to tell me that day.
Here are some truths:
- Childlike faith is essential to hearing from God.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
The more I thought I had church all figured out and the more I treated the sermons like academic exercises the less I heard from God. He began to seem terribly silent and I nurtured an environment for my cynicism to grow.
2. If you are in the church — God is speaking.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20
I sat around waiting for the message from the pastor to be good enough for me to hear from the Lord. The quality of the preaching was never the issue. The real problem was the quality and humility of my heart. There were always more than two people gathered in the churches I attended… so God was there. I just wasn’t listening.
3. God’s not looking at the slides.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
When I would look down on the media team or the pastor for not meeting my standards of presentation, the Lord was not pleased with my heart. When a sincere offering is made to the Lord with love and the best of our ability, He smiles. The Lord’s favor was surely on those messages I wrote off while scrolling through my phone because the offering was true worship. The Lord’s favor couldn’t be on my cynical, rebellious attitude.
At the end of the day, what I did in each service was only poisoning myself. I poisoned myself with cynicism so that I only saw the work of man and missed the hand of God. I missed out on hearing from my God and growing in wisdom because I thought I already knew so much.
Here is the part where I do get to brag on God and all He has done for me. My life really fell apart in a major way after years of this bad habit. My life upheaval was not punishment, but in God’s great mercy He didn’t allow my circumstances to destroy my faith. When life became overwhelming and scary I ran to Him. Suddenly, every church service, every Bible study lesson, every scrap of spiritual conversation I could get my hands on became a place where He spoke loudly. He spoke to me in worship songs, through moments in nature, through friends, and He showed up in MAJOR ways during those sermons I had previously tuned out.
So, there’s my confession and God’s amazing love: He speaks every time I go to church now because I’m actually listening. The poison has been drawn from my self-inflicted wounds and I am healing in the presence of my savior.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:19