Is This All There Is?
Every once in a while I hear a Christian ask “Is this all there is to the Christian life?” The context is usually about church services not meeting their expectations. Many complain that church doesn’t have enough depth or power to it, or offer more.
I can agree… somewhat. There are times when I yearn to be challenged or convicted at church in such a way that it will upend the applecart of my comfort zone and force me to a higher level in my walk with God. I don’t want easy answers to life’s problems or a neat and tidy sermon with three application points at the end that is supposed make it look like life will be easy if I just apply those points. I want to see brokenness in our church leaders, and to know how God has worked in their lives. I want to hit the painful, hard parts of life and learn how to cope with them, not just fill my head with Bible Doctrine or theology. I want to hear about the sins and situations people struggle with, like porn, lust, masturbation, gluttony, materialism, pride, fear, doubt, being too busy and choked by the things of this world, and how to live my God given priorities. I want purpose, depth, and meaning in my life and to know how to live it out and make a difference. I want to be challenged to be more than I am.
Perhaps most of all, I want to hear from God. I want to know how to be close to Him, experience Him, and discern his voice from the static that flows through my mind and other distractions.
I’ve learned that I can have all of what I’m after, but that expecting it from a weekend church service is unrealistic, unreasonable, and could even reflect laziness or an entitlement mentality.
In our “Have it your way / push a button / take a pill / get what you want now” culture, many put too much expectations on the weekend church service. Some want to show up, be swept away in a powerful experience, and have it carry them through the week. They want their Sunday service to fulfill all their spiritual needs, wants and desires, and if it doesn’t they go into judgment mode.
Church is a group of broken people who struggle with sin, who meet together to praise God, pray (although that doesn’t happen often in our weekend church services of today), and learn from the teaching of God’s word. Hopefully, the Holy Spirit is in control and God is speaking through His pastor, but if not, church is never meant to provide all that we need spiritually.
To me, weekend church services are like the cherry on the top of the cake of my week. It’s not the main event spiritually to me, nor is it my primary source of connection with God.
I have discovered that I can have all the depth, closeness to God, hearing from Him, experiencing His Presence, peace, joy, and life purpose I want, every day. All it takes is God’s word, a quiet place, the willingness to seek and listen, and a heart for obedience. Humility plays a part too.
For the most part, I didn’t learn about what seeking, listening, and hearing from God looks like from church. It came about as the natural process by sitting at God’s feet and allowing Him to teach me, one-on-one, over the years. I didn’t know or even believe I could hear from Him; I thought that was something only the superstars of the faith could do.
The most profound, life changing moments in my life have been when I was touched deeply by the Holy Spirit when alone with Him and He spoke or ministered to me in a powerful way. Nothing at a church has ever come close to this.
I think a big problem today is that many people want church to do the hard work of slowing down, quieting our spirit, listening to God, and learning how to walk with Him. We expect fast food Christianity; run in, get what we need (or really, want), and then we’re on our way to the next thing.
That’s not what a relationship with God is about. Having a relationship with Him involves taking the time to get to know Him, and learning how He speaks and how He works. It’s also about, and here comes the hard part – obedience. Because if God shows us something in our time alone with Him and we ignore it, or worse, rebel, we put ourselves at risk of discipline or unpleasant consequences.
I think that deep down many of us know that our problem is one of commitment. We want to blame church or other people for our lack of peace and joy, but when it comes down to it we’re not willing to take the time to draw near to God, in fact, we dread it. We know that once we start walking with God that He’s going to start putting His finger on some things we’d rather not deal with, one of which is that He wants to be Lord of our lives.
I struggle with the surrendering part; I want to be in control of my life. The idea of letting God have complete control freaks me out. In spite of this, most of the time I eventually pray my way to a place of obedience and submission. I’ve never regretted obeying the Lord, but have grieved over my disobedience many times.
You can have all of the life, love, peace, joy, and purpose you want, but it probably won’t come from a sermon on Sunday morning. If you want to know God, you will need to go after Him, and be willing to spend the time and effort it takes to know Him, just as you would a friend or spouse.
The answer to “Is this all there is?” is a resounding “No!”
A better question might be, “Are we willing to do what it takes to discover ‘all that there is?’”