I’m pleased to feature a guest post from my good friend, Owen Strachan. Owen is a gifted communicator whose work appears in publications ranging from Christianity Today to Atlantic Monthly. He is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He also teaches for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome. He is married to Bethany and is the father of two children. You can check out the website for this book here:
Something has happened in evangelicalism in recent years. We’re like the kid in the corner of the schoolroom with his head down. The teacher comes over to us and asks how we are and we only mumble in response. Recess comes and we walk listlessly around the playground. We feel depressed, we lack confidence, and nobody wants to play four-square with us.
Evangelicals need a shot in the arm today. We need some spring in our step. There are some folks out there who want to help us. They tell us that, if we buy their books and DVDs, we’ll learn the secret to being endlessly buoyant. Our troubles will evaporate; we might even become as rich as <insert name of guru here> if we really pray hard. Other voices take us a different way. They tell us to play down our Christianity, to soften our faith, to focus on making friends and influencing societies. If we would stop representing ethics from a bygone era, we’d do ourselves a lot of favors, and get invited to a lot more dinner parties besides.
There’s another way we could go, though. It doesn’t involve chasing money, being relentlessly upbeat, or backing away from biblical conviction. It is a risk, though. It’s a challenge. In Scripture, Jesus calls us to a larger, bigger, surround-sound faith. He takes us by the shoulder, looks us in the eye, and tells us we can get on mission for him. In places like the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, the Lord of the Word challenges us to break with fearful Christianity, and to adopt a bold, aggressive brand of faith. We have a choice: we can be like the wicked servant who kept his head down, fearful of his great master, or we can be like the faithful servant who took his master’s investment and made more talents. The choice is simple; the options are stark.
We’re tempted in numerous ways today to be like the fearful servant. God seems like he’s out to get us. We’ve embraced a mystical faith that leaves us unable to make even basic decisions. We’re unsure whether to wear the white socks or the tan ones, and we’re nervous that if we make the wrong decision, we’ll mess up the work of the kingdom. We have no plan for our lives because the thought of long-term planning scares us. Better to keep our heads down, muddle through life, not make anyone really mad at us, and hope for God to zap us with wisdom and blessing from the sky.
The gospel offers us a better life than this. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a powerful gospel. It’s got a ton of horsepower. It will swallow us whole. But that’s the point: too many of us are looking for a solution to life outside of Christ and his call to follow him all the way with all our heart. What you and I most need is not a life of ease and comfort, where our daily troubles are gone. What we most need is a big vision of God that will push us onward and enable us to transcend our weaknesses. We need a dynamic Lord of heaven and earth and a plan for glorifying him with our careers, our families, our evangelism, our churches, and every aspect of our lives. Here’s the good news: Scripture gives us just this kind of plan.
This won’t look the same for every believer. God gives us his own specific calling on our lives. We often think of this as a bad thing–”Too bad I’m not her; then I could really be serving the Lord.” That’s backwards. God has given us our job, our family, our church, our friends. He doesn’t want you and me to be living someone else’s life and doing someone else’s ministry. He wants us to be faithful right where we are. He wants us to stop muddling through the day, the week, or the year, and to start approaching every minute of every hour as if it counts for eternity–because it does.
The solution for many of us who want to lead a more God-glorifying life is not going to be leaving where we are. It’s going to be staying in this place and working in Christ’s name. Evangelicals are really good at guilt. We constantly feel like we should be somewhere else; call it “Spiritual Dislocation Syndrome.” We should always be open to God’s leading, and he may call us to something far, far away. If so, great! But many of us need to approach the day-to-day existence he’s given us with greater purpose, purpose derived from the gospel of Jesus.
Maybe the risk God is leading you to take isn’t a career change. Maybe it’s that you need to risk your small vision of your life in order to honor him more thoroughly. Maybe you need to stop pursuing comfort, safety, and security, which we can easily make into false gospels. We think, “If I could just get along with my family, I’d be happy.” Or “If I could just like my career more, then I’d be content.” Or “If I could just get married, then my problems would be over.” None of these pursuits are bad in and of themselves. But here’s the deal: only God, and more of God, will make us truly happy. But to get more of God, you need to reframe your life.
It needs, in other words, to be about him.
How can you get there? What are the tips to happiness? Well, I’m not sure there’s a neat-and-clean checklist out there. I do know that if you truly embrace the call of the gospel, and if you find your identity in nothing but Christ and him crucified, you will find yourself remarkably free to serve your Savior. Christians are those who are loved by God. They know this truth, and it liberates them to lead God-intoxicated lives. There’s nothing holding you and me back from that. You’re not alone. You’re not stuck in the corner of the classroom. God has given his Son and 10,000 gifts to you.
Now all you need to do is open your eyes and start living in the power of the Spirit.