FOR EIGHTEEN YEARS I had a testimony that proved people change because I did after meeting Jesus and becoming a follower at thirty-two years old.
Like magic, my favorite sins were no longer as fun as they had been.
I turned into a goody-two shoes and I liked it. No more roller coaster life, no more “morning after” shame and humiliation, no more wandering through life hoping to find meaning and purpose.
For eighteen years I enjoyed learning all I could about God’s word and I enjoyed sharing the good news of Jesus with anyone who wanted to know my secret to success. I volunteered my time down at the church, dutifully gave my tithe and offerings, and taught Biblical principles in my work as a business consultant. I had disappointments along the way, but my life was, without a doubt, full of blessings and bounty.
It was only when the wheels of my bus fell off and I was stuck in a ditch, albeit without sin, that I learned I had not changed one iota from the day I first met Jesus. Caught in the stress of the storms of life, I still needed a power greater than my own to save me from destruction.
And I did not believe God could help.
The irony is that when I met Jesus, I wasn’t looking for him. I already had the power, possessions, people, and prestige I so highly valued. But then, at fifty something, those things were disappearing and I was indeed looking for God. Who didn’t seem to care.
Why would he bring me on a long journey of faith and ignore my pleas for help? Why would he allow bad things to happen and destroy my testimony in which I proclaimed “God is all you need.”?
The simple truth is that God is not a genie in a bottle that needs to prove to me that he is who he says he is.
Furthermore, if I don’t even believe he can help me, should he perform a miracle anyway? Does he owe me something? Did I purchase the right to call on him when I need him?
The answer is no, no, and no.
God is not evidenced only by a certain measure of blessings and bounty. To say this is to believe that the absence of blessings and bounty is the evidence that God is not who he says he is.
But, God is good, even if I think he is bad.
He is trustworthy, even if I think he is not.
He is fair, even if I think he is unjust.
He is capable of anything; even if I think he is impotent.
He never changes.
It is only through my belief about what I deserve that reduces God; as if he is my servant.
It is only through my past experience of witnessing God’s power that I project onto him what I expect him to do for me again.
But, it was that same behavior that caused me to doubt I ever needed God throughout the years of my youth before I met Jesus. In those days, I saw an evil God who didn’t care about me, who expected me to be perfect lest he punish me.
Indeed, I had not changed one iota.
The belief that good people deserve blessings and bounty is as wrong as the belief that children of God should never suffer loss. It is a theology that permeates the western world and certainly the modern church, but it is not based in God’s word.
Blessings and bounty are the very things that will separate a person from the need of God as quickly as suffering losses.
Somewhere along my journey of becoming a church lady, I had elevated myself to a belief that my good works would earn me a life free from suffering.
I had to fall hard to learn that I had not changed. I had to learn that it was his work that cleaned me on the outside, a blessing greater than any tangible thing I lost.
The Lord chose this time of scarcity to reveal how small my faith in him had been and to show me, once again, the depravity hidden deep inside me.
And not a minute too soon, he saved me again. I am now clear I will never deserve nor will I ever be able to earn his amazing love.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28 (ESV)
Job 38:2-5, Deuteronomy 8:3, Romans 5:3-4, 2 Corinthians 4:17, Romans 8:18, 1 Peter 4:1, Romans 8:35, Isaiah 53:4,1 Peter 2:21, Job 1:20-21
As always, it is my intent and hope that my words may encourage you wherever you are in your journey.
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If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.--Jesus (Mark 4:23)