This post talks about my approach to faith and about the commitment that God has placed in my heart for Him. This is the best gift that God has given me, for which I am so grateful. I must admit that I do get complacent at times. At these times I too easily falling into thinking that it is all about my own effort, or that the credit belongs to me. However, in my wiser moments I hope I can recognise that this is all from God.
Before I start…
This is quite humorous, but I also need/plan to write a post which essentially says the opposite of the point I’ll be making in this post! Both are utterly true though!
In case I don’t have time to write that post as soon as I wish, I will insert here into this very post a point I had planned to make in that other post. Once again I would like say a very heartfelt “thankyou” to whoever may have been praying for me. It has made such a profound impact on my life, sometimes in ways that I have not even able to quickly appreciate. For instance, something that occurred to me that I want to write about in the next post is that spiritually speaking, recently I have felt disoriented* and confused. For me, confusion equals depression, which is something I hate and avoid with a passion. And yet by the grace of God, even despite this confusion, I have managed not to fall into depression, and by the grace of God I am managing to meet every day with positivity. It occurred to me that this too could be a hidden consequence of the prayers that have been touching my life, and this has re-awakened a sense of profound gratitude in my heart. So once again, I say thank you so much!
One further reason that I am so happy to be able to express gratitude in this post is because it helps to add a note of humility to a post that might otherwise sound a little “braggy”. I’m sincerely not bragging in this post. I am just trying to express a few of the things that make me me, especially regarding my faith. Actually there are more factors which are deeply relevant to this, but I am not ready to share them yet! (Nothing really bad, the only thing that was hurt was my pride!)
After graduating from university over a decade ago, I made up my mind that I was going to pursue God with absolutely everything that I had. I had already been brought up as a Christian in a very very fervent household. I was always serious about my faith (in my house we had no choice!) and at university I was one of the most committed members of the Christian Union, in my particular college, and also across the entire university. In my final year, which was actually the year I got serious about prayer, I am absolutely confident that I was one of the 50 most prayerful Christians in that entire university, if not the actual absolute most prayerful person. I am absolutely serious. To be fair, I doubt that that was as difficult as it might seem because to be honest prayerfulness was not the top characteristic I would attribute to the Christian Union of my uni, or Christians I have since met of their persuasion. I’m sure that in other universities, for instance in other countries, my prayer life would have been kinda average, possibly even poor. From my own perspective, then, however, I prayed so hard, and I also worked extremely hard academically. By the grace of God, I can now see that everything that has happened in my life since then, including my blogs, has in some way resulted from the seed of prayer that I sowed in that year. That year’s determined combination of hard prayer and hard work also set me up for the goals I currently pursue; to excel both in my walk with God and in my career.
At any rate, when I graduated, after a period of reflection, I made up my mind that this God has to be my life in absolutely every way. As I’m writing this, looking back I’m smiling, seeing God’s hand working to bring me to this point. Ironically that was another period of immense confusion in my life, but as I say I’m not quite ready to talk about it yet!
From my second year of uni, I had been going about throwing around this phrase telling everyone that I wanted to be “sold out” to God in every way. After graduation, if anything this was turned up even more. It was then that a deep-seated fiery determination was birthed in my spirit. I think that spiritually speaking I was pushed beyond the point of no return. I made up my mind that no matter what, I would live for this God. Imagine a clenched fist pounding on a desk, or pounding on a wall. No matter what I have to go through in pursuit of my God. No matter what sacrifice it would entail. Jesus was going to be the absolute centre of my life. I would utterly pursue Him.
Additionally, I made up my mind that my life was going to be directed by what the Bible says. The Bible and nothing else, is going to be my authority in life. That means coming before the Bible with an absolutely open mind to see what it actually says, rather than what I would like it to say. It occurred to me that so many people twist the Bible to make it conform to their own existing prejudices. What this means is that it is easy to fall into this mindset. This by the grace of God is something that I have been guarding against. As part of this, I have had cause to stand up for the truth of the Bible, even against other Christians.
I have also chosen to take the Bible at face value, to believe that the Bible actually means what it says. God means what He says when He directs us to live in holiness. When God tells us to love other people, that is not some kind of impractical hyperbole. He does not mean that we should be insincerely “nice”. For any of this to be real it must stem from our hearts.
At the time, I made up my mind that God was going to be my career. You know how people say that they are working for the best graduate employer of the year or of the last twenty years (or whatever?) Well I joked to myself that I was working for the best graduate employer, the best employer full stop of all time. Yes baby! There are other issues concerned with this. I also made up my mind that I wanted to excel deeply in life. And yet it occurred to me that this desire to excel, even to excel for God, would itself be the biggest challenge to truly living for God. And that has proven to be absolutely right. In the years since then, I have had to keep pulling myself back, even pulling myself back from my “ministry”, to make sure that my focus is directed not at greatness, but actually at God Himself. You know what, even above everything and I do mean everything, God must be my life. I have said it so many times, and I absolutely mean it: if I have to place down, and walk away from absolutely all my dreams, then so be it. This my life, belongs to God. This my life is totally given over to God to use as He wills. This means that above all my other dreams, above wanting to achieve extraordinary things in my life, I am working to see people saved into the Kingdom of God. I believe that Biblically speaking, this is our “number one imperative” as Christians. Everything else will eventually crumble to dust, no matter how amazing it might seem down here on earth. God first. God’s Kingdom first.
One great aspect of being ambitious, and investing my life into God, has been this: As a recent graduate, I was reflecting on what I knew of church life, and what I had experienced within university Christian Union. I made up my mind that purely because I was deeply ambitious, I was going to invest myself into God as deeply as I could. For this simple reason: There is no glass ceiling in God! In God I can go as high and as deep as God will allow me to go. And, newsflash: God does not place a limit on this! So in practice, I will be limited only by myself and my own determination. Man, I like that. I like that so much! And yet, this is specifically about investing myself directly into God Himself. Sadly, this is not true of the Church that claims to subscribe to the teachings of Christ, because to be honest there are glass ceilings at work within the Church, and this will remain true as long as the Church is made up of people with insecurities and sinful natures. While I work with the church, my real investment has been directly into God Himself.
This is what occurred to me those years ago, and guess what?! It has been proven to be truer than I could have imagined back then, in my wildest dreams. In my experience, the Church as a whole is so devoid of Christlike…anything, that I would encourage absolutely everyone reading this, to invest their effort, their determination, their everything directly into God Himself. What this means is this: Make every effort to know God yourself, to read the Bible yourself, to learn how to pray yourself. Once you are strongly grounded in God, then you are strongly grounded full stop! The alternative would be to run around in church activities, without actually investing into your own relationship with God. When that falls through, and those “Christians” reveal to you the paucity of their commitment, and the lack of their sincerity, you will be left empty-handed. By the grace of God, it is because of my own approach to my faith and my personal relationship with God, both of these gracious gifts from God, that I am still standing strong even as various church situations and interactions with “Christians” have bitterly fallen through. So please do not rely on anything or anyone else. No pastor, no teaching no anything – not this blog (surely there is no-one out there who would do that) but go directly to God Himself. Take hold of Him, take hold of His word, invest yourself into prayer, ground yourself in it.
Striving after Christlike character
Part of pursuing God has been about pursuing Christlike character. There are two big aspects to this. In a way they are in tension. However that tension actually contributes to me striving harder than ever.
Firstly, I strive after Christlike character for the sake of pursuing God Himself. I want to glorify God through my life. This means pursuing holiness, righteousness, integrity, truth. This means being honest with myself, bringing my heart before God so that His Spirit might examine my heart. Everything for Jesus!
And yet I am also driven by very self-seeking reasons for pursuing excellent character: because I am ambitious, and I know that if I want outrageous success, which I do, the surest way to accomplish that is to hide myself in God, on God’s terms. Which also means pursuing the character that He has set out for us. In the most pragmatic terms, God is the boss, yes? He is the most powerful Person in the universe, and beyond it (in truth the only powerful Person in the Universe!) His is the favour that I need to seek. If He says “jump”, trust me, I’ll jump! This is why I am at an utter loss for words about Christians who fail to strive after Christlike character. If not for the sake of being holy, then how about for the sheer sake of being ambitious, and wanting to excel in life…? I don’t understand these people at all. I find it so confusing to interact with them that I just prefer to give them a nice wide berth.
Striving after Christlike character also means this: not passively waiting for a life lesson to just wander across my path but investing my all into striving after all I can of holiness etc. Something I constantly have to acknowledge is that I have 24 hours in my day, like everyone else. I cannot do everything at once. I need to have order and structure even in my pursuit of Christlike characterictics. Life lessons still hit me, sometimes from out of the blue. And yet when someone is sincerely striving as much as they can, when someone is determined to keep pressing forward, pushing forward, how can that possibly not be outstanding, relative to people who are making seemingly zero effort? For many of these people, I’m sure that church and a weekday service will be their only interaction with God and His word over the course of the week, as well as brief quiet times every day. And it will be those results of their undeveloped character that they present to you which will affect your life as they interact with them. So how can it be a surprise that interaction with such people is almost invariably negative? They are still awaiting the life lesson about telling themselves the truth, which is possibly two decades in their future. Similarly the life lesson about integrity is patiently waiting eight years away and in the meantime anyone who deals with them has to live with their deficiencies in these issues.
Such has been my frustration in having to deal with this so many times, that I have come to a simple conclusion for myself: for my own personal purposes, down here on earth, to consider someone for true and deep Christian interaction, that person MUST, MUST be striving after God the way I am. As this is a gift from God, then they must also have been blessed with this gift as I have been blessed. Otherwise I just know that interacting with them would cause me endless pain. It is not that I myself am perfect, of course, but, man! (Shaking my head!)
Self-righteous and Judgemental?
Yes, this is something that I really need to be aware of. I must admit that my posts have been so full of sneering, largely because I want to let these people know how little I think of them. I’ve always considered myself totally justified in this in the face of what I have experienced from them. Of course it is never justified to act this way. By God’s grace I am sincerely now in a place where I can look graciously on these people remembering that they are human beings, that God loves them, that He wants the best for their lives as surely as He wants the best for me. However two things remain true:
1. Thinking graciously about them does not change the fact that their faith is largely lacking in sincerity, and I still think that it is wisest for me to avoid trying to seek Christian fellowship from these people
2. In that I still need Christian fellowship, I still would like to find Christians who are like me, whose pursuit of Christ is like mine.
I imagine if I do find Christians like these, who are able to tell me the candid truth, as I would like, the first thing that they would say to me is this: “Tosin, your attitude stinks.” I concede that this is true and I am working on it. Now that I have finally come to an understanding about how to more successfully choose fellowship, the challenge is to fully forget about all those negative experiences and fix my mind on other things. I also need to fill my mind with positivity. To be honest, I think it will be easier for me to be charitable to these people now that there is a nice wide distance protecting me from what they are capable of doing. What would be great is if I was able to commit to never referring to these people and what they did ever again in my writings. I really wish that I was able to commit to that. However, it will require some further thought on my part because I use these negative experiences so much to illustrate what people are capable of doing, especially on my other blog.
Ironically, one big aspect of my life that has not been a consequence of what happened after graduation is my yearning for an amazing marriage. That yearning [for an amazing marriage] long predates that and has nothing to do with that; it is absolutely outside my ambition etc. I’m very grateful for that because, as much as I am ambitious, as much as I love being ambitious, I do not want my marriage to be an expression of ambition in any way, or something I do for the sake of other people looking on. That thought makes me feel so queasy. In fact, I think I have been unknowingly searching for a soulmate my entire life, without being able to articulate that that was what I was doing. For the first few years of my life I was looking for a female best friend, and then for some reason that I just can’t understand, my yearnings mysteriously started being directed towards a male soulmate! Perhaps someone out there might be able to shed light on this baffling phenomenon!
*This is me donning my grammatical fussiness hat: many people would use “disorientated” Similarly “orientated”. However taking cues from the verb “to provoke”, and “provoked” and “provocation”, I prefer “dis/oriented”. There are a few deeper linguistic reasons for this which make sense to me – I suspect that both variants would be correct, but in different contexts…perhaps I need to do some googling!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Photo of Dove by Rainer Maiores on Pixabay