Faith Meets Life in the Trenches
When new believers in Christ share their newfound faith and why they changed their way of life, the reaction from many people is to run away from the truth. They pass it off with a convenient comment like: “Oh, you got religion.”
Granted, some people do “get religion.” But this is a life-killing, spirit-killing brand of legalism that has diverted many from the path of true Christian discipleship. I see religion as a Sunday show where people compartmentalize their relationship with Jesus and live the way they want the rest of the week. No wonder a lot of non-believers aren’t convinced there is anything to this “church stuff.”
I was reminded of the incredible power of authentic discipleship, as opposed to mere religion on a recent Walk to Emmaus, for which I served on the leadership team.
I marveled over the stories I heard during the 72-hour spiritual retreat. The guy who led discussions at our table had been a hard-drinking, self-centered man. His past included a six-month streak in college in which he started every day with some kind of alcohol in his hand.
I know what that feels like. Before my conversion, I told somebody when it came to booze, “I can take it or leave it.” Then I thought a minute about the previous seven days, when not a day had gone by that I hadn’t had at least two beers.
This guy’s first marriage had collapsed in about 18 months. His second one was in such bad shape that his mother had helped his second wife find an apartment so she could move out.
He changed after attending a men’s study group. The pastor followed him out one night and said, “You’ve got it backwards. You’re trying to learn about God when you don’t know God. You need to get saved.”
Try as he did to resist the pastor and get away from him, the minister persisted—to the point of getting into the passenger’s seat car when he tried to drive away. That night, the discussion leader made a decision to follow Christ. It changed his life.
Gambling the Rent
Another guy in our small group had both a drinking and a gambling problem—so bad that he had gambled away his rent money. He asked a friend for a loan. Instead of giving him the cash, the friend invited him to a camp meeting where God got ahold of him. Today he is a changed man.
Another man struggled during the event because it started just four days after he learned his cancer had flared up again, about a year after the removal of a large tumor. He considered walking away the morning after it started. Fortunately, he stayed around and was in tears by the time of the closing ceremony.
Like many, he had grown up in church, but eventually rebelled at his parents’ faith (again, a familiar story) and walked away. It took a series of crises to wake him up and persuade him church wasn’t a waste of time.
Real Faith = Real Results
One of the other leaders on the retreat talked about how his self-centered lifestyle cost him his marriage and family. Fortunately, God brought him to his senses, but he’s still paying the consequences of his past.
The men who participated in this even were quite real. Some talked of multiple marriages because they didn’t learn to confront the problems that broke up their first one. They also spoke of life’s struggles with rebellious children, jobs, personal shortcomings, broken relationships, and other disappointments.
Yet, to a man, they also talked about the difference faith had made in dealing with these issues, of a very real God, and of their gratitude for Him working in their life. Real stories. Real people. Real faith. Real results.