I recall accepting Jesus in my heart when I was eight years old. However, as years past, the transitions of life slowly began pushing church to the back-burner of my family’s priorities. My parents divorced, and we found our regular attendance to worship service drop off. As a result, and as I grew older, even though I classified myself as a Christian, I neglected maintaining an intimate relationship with The Lord, and whatever talk I had, definitely did not match my walk.
As I look back on those days, I realize I was grouped in with other believers who shared my struggle. There was nothing in our daily life that stood out from the rest of the world. We were all dabbling in worldly affairs, although claiming to be people of faith. How can this be? Clearly, we know we will always be pulled by our flesh, the world and Satan to indulge ourself and our desires. However, if we are not relying and seeking The Lord on a consistent basis, we lack the inner strength and conviction provided by the Holy Spirit to flee these temptations. Self discipline can only take us so far, and thus, we become worldly and our testimony is diluted and destroyed (John 10:10).
A larger concern is why believers ever allow this to happen. Yet we see repeated examples in the Bible of the Israelites doing the same thing, and many times they witnessed and heard God visibly and audibly! So, we shouldn’t be surprised, but we must be on guard (1 Corinthians 16:13). Some of the key areas in our life where our faith is tested and our walk is placed in jeopardy can be highlighted and easily remembered through F.A.I.T.H.
Failure. When we encounter failures in our life, we either learn from them and trust God to work them for our good, if we love Him and are called to His purpose, or we begin to make excuses for them, manipulate them, or even deny them (Romans 8:28). Looking back over the experiences of my own life, I now see how every failure was overflowing with hidden treasures. They were like gold mines in my character development, faith and testimony (Isaiah 45:3). However, many of us get embarrassed by our mistakes and want to make excuses for them. We don’t realize their value and would rather deny fault, or try to manipulate the way we share them so they really don’t sound like failures. Still, we must remember that no one appreciates superheroes. Instead, we tend to rally behind wounded warriors because we can relate with them. Those who appear to have only success and never failure, are quickly dismissed as irrelevant, or not in touch with the real world. As believers, let’s not throw away the testimony God gives us. Our failures, when shared honestly, can be used by Him to build His church, encourage others and provide hope to those in need.
Ambition. We see this stumbling block throughout the Bible, especially when Moses’ brother and sister tried to overthrow him and assume lead position (Numbers 12). We even see ambition in the life of Jesus’ disciples when they argued about who was and would be greatest among them (Luke 22:24). However, we also see a Godly example in David, when he denied his opportunity to assume power over Israel’s king in his own strength, but instead waited for The Lord’s timing and promotion (1 Samuel 24 & 26). We applaud healthy ambition, but it also causes many to stumble in their witness because it’s usually all about us. We are typically consumed with our self and how others see us, and how much power and prestige we have. But by whose standards? Typically it’s the world’s standards. Therefore, even though we must always give our best for the glory of God, we should resist the desire for more, simply to have more (Matthew 5:16). There is power in the contentment of walking closely with Christ and trusting His timing for all things, while we invest the talents, time and treasures He has entrusted us with for His Kingdom expansion – not ours.
Insecurity. This is clearly another killer to a believer’s walk, as seen in the life of King Saul. His jealousy for David was a major contributor to his downfall (1Samuel 18). Insecurity destroys relationships and causes us to compromise our convictions so that others will accept us, or it causes us to put on appearances in order to impress. An insecure leader will most always create devastation wherever they go, because it’s all about them and never about others. Insecurity destroys families, businesses, friendships and churches daily, but as we begin to place God first in our life, we begin to experience His love, and His love begins to overflow in our lives. Then, as we seek to love others, insecurities fade (1John 4:18).
Temptation. Clearly we will always face temptation, and the variety of temptation is endless. Jesus was tempted (Luke 4:2). It’s when we give in to it our testimony is destroyed. For example, we may be tempted with laziness, alcohol, lust, lying, greed, anger, vengeance and that’s just to name a few. Having these thoughts, or feelings can’t always be helped, but they don’t have to take us captive. Rather, we can take them captive and seek to overcome them through the power of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Although difficult at times, it can be done for He always provides us with an escape route, but we must be courageous enough to take it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Temptations when acted upon will destroy God’s testimony in our life and most often harms those closest to us in the process.
Hypocrisy. This word comes from the greek word hypokrisis, which was used to describe play-acting, where one actor from that day would play different characters by putting on various masks. We do the same when we act one way at work and another way at home. We may put on our church “face” on Sunday, but another when at a party, or social event. This is clearly seen in King Herod when he met with the wise men seeking the new born Messiah. He informed them he desired to worship this new King, when in fact, he was planning murder (Matthew 2:8). We have all seen Christians stumble because of hypocrisy. I have been guilty of this even though it was not my intent, or plan. By claiming to be a Christian, but then neglecting my duties in fellowship, prayer and Bible study, along with dabbling in worldly distractions, I was unintentionally insulting the faith and any testimony I had to help lead others to Christ. More so, it disrespected the sacrifice my Lord endured. I was lukewarm, neither hot, nor cold, and that is dangerous ground for anyone to be on (Revelation 3:16).
In closing, for us Christians to maintain a Godly walk does not involve legalism. It’s not a matter of checking off dos and don’t, but rather, it’s a heart issue. I eventually realized that having it my way, was destructive to myself and everything I cared for, despite the apparent success I may have had in the world’s eyes. This realization served as a wake up call and drove me to my knees, seeking the Lord’s help and divine intervention. I recommitted and surrendered my life to Him for His use, not mine. We all have a choice to make – will we live for ourselves and strive for things that come and go, or will we live for Christ and leave a legacy that enriches others, brings honor to God and lasts forever (Mark 8:35)?