You don’t realize the value of what you have until someone else is willing to die for it. This is how I feel about my faith in Jesus Christ.
When I boarded the plane headed for Indonesia by way of Dubai, I was captivated by the joys of travel. We hadn’t even left the airport and I was already relishing the various languages around me, preparing my palate for different foods, and basking in the bright colors of national wardrobes. When we landed, my eyes couldn’t take the sites in fast enough as we whizzed by landscapes covered by huge rustic buildings and small shanty homes. By the time we arrived on the conference site, I had already met participants from South Africa, Serbia, Jamaica, Niger, and Barbados. I was overwhelmed with everything around me and overjoyed by the fact that it was a love of Jesus that brought us all together.
Yet, as the week progressed, I realized that I was there for more than just an international Christian party. As an American Christian, God placed me there to remind me of what faith should be. It wasn’t until I listened to their stories, heard their perspectives and understood their struggles that I realized the deep faith gap between Western Christians and the rest of the world. I was struck with the reality that I don’t always live like I believe God.
As a Christian living in a religiously free nation where wealth can be easily gained, I admit that I have subtly and slowly subscribed to the notion of the “God of the Gaps.” I depend on God when there is a gap in my own ability or in the abilities of those around me. If I can do it or if I can get someone to do it, I rarely depend on God. Some critics could call this Christian atheism: believing in God, but living as if you don’t.
One night, as I was wrestling with these ideas, Becky Pippert, a world renown speaker on sharing your faith, made the following statement: “The greatest weakness of the Western Church is her lack of dependence upon the Holy Spirit.” With her words, I felt a deep sorrow, not only because of the state of the church, but because of the state of my own heart. I recognized in that moment that my greatest desire is to live a life dependent on God through the Holy Spirit; a life that looks like Jesus.
This does not mean that we are called to abandon the gifts that God has given us in good doctors, quality education systems, or well-paying jobs. But, it does mean that we must constantly deny their power over us in an effort to reaffirm God’s sovereign power over them. We must live in a mindset that acknowledges that doctors don’t heal, God does. Jobs don’t provide, God does. Education doesn’t give wisdom, God does. While these are tools that God can use, we must learn, by depending on the Holy Spirit, that God is still in control of all things and all things come to us through Him. While I have been gifted, I cannot fall into the trap of depending on myself more than I depend on God.
These notions came to clarity while listening to the story of a participant who shared that he was not sure how long he would live after leaving the conference. He had come from a Muslim country and his conversion would very well cost him his life. Yet, knowing what was on the line and understanding the risk of coming to the conference, he boldly declared that he was not afraid of dying for Jesus. He believed so deeply and understood God’s grace so fully that nothing would keep him from following Jesus in this life and into the next.
I stood with the crowd, clapping in standing ovation as tears rolled down my face. I want to have a faith worth dying for. I want to be bold in sharing the Gospel. I want to depend on God as if my life depended on Him. As my mind whirled through clarifying statements, a song bubbled up in my soul that my grandmother used to sing:
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
The day we stop singing that song, the day we stop praying that prayer, is the day we loose the core of what it means to follow Jesus. This is what faith is all about. Through the stories of my sisters and brothers from around the world, I was reminded that faith is not just about what you gain from following God, but more so about what you’re willing to give up to do so. Lord, make us Christians in our hearts.