Growing up as the stereotypical Asian child, I always strove to be perfect. I tried to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect friend, and of course, the perfect Christian. I'd pray before every meal, read my bible every night, and basically try and paint myself as a "super-Christian." But every time I slipped up, I would be super frustrated and be so ashamed that trying to be a super-Christian actually pushed me further away from God. I continuously sought out these opportunities to be great and impressive, but as I grew in my faith, I learned more and more that our spiritual lives are not always going to be filled with extraordinary moments. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).
So, how can we structure our spiritual lives to flourish even on the dull days?
1) Understand that your spiritual life will not exist in a constant series of highs.
We go on mission trips and retreats, and we experience such spiritual highs, but when we get back to reality, it's so easy to fall back into a routine and let the boring days pass by. But when you really think about it, there are going to be more days in your life that seem super dull rather than super exciting; that's why it's so important to make these days count. It's okay that our spiritual lives aren't filled with crazy adventures where we make miracles happen. In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus talks about how even a tiny mustard seed can grow to become the largest of trees. In this sense, it's often the little things we do that can be the most impactful.
2) Reach out and be mindful of the little things you do-- they are often the ones that make the biggest impact.
A prime example that really helped me understand this point is the "mean girls" (Joy, Crystal, Esther, Ester, Jessica, etc) as Howard likes to call them, HAHAHA awk, but I don't know what else to call them. When I was in middle school, I thought these older high school girls were literally the most intimidating people alive. They always came to church all cute and dressed up, and I thought that they were so mature and cool and that I could never be like them. But during the summer of 2013, we went on the mission trip to Sautee, GA, and the older girls, who I thought were so scary and intimidating, took us younger girls in and really babied us; it was so incredibly encouraging to get to connect with them in fellowship. While they probably thought that they were just going about their normal daily lives, their kindness to the younger generation actually made a huge impact. They didn't even have to do anything spectacular or amazing as leaders, but just the fact that they reached out to us was such an encouragement . With that being said, I encourage you to reach out to those who are younger than you or to those that really just need a friend. It might make you feel super uncomfortable (trust me, I know lol), but by doing these simple little things, we can make huge impacts in other people's lives (Philippians 2:1-2).
3) Be genuine and be content.
You don't have to make huge, grand gestures to be an encouragement to others. To quote a sermon that Howard gave in February called The Secret to Life, "the secret to life isn't success, it's contentment." What I personally got from this sermon, (there is an iTunes available on the website for all the sermons if you want to go listen to it), is that our spiritual lives aren't about being the most "successful" or even being the "best" Christian. Being a Christian means focusing on and loving on Christ and letting Him work in your life, rather than trying to trying to force yourself to look like a huge spiritual success. Of course we want to mature in our faith, but our success has everything to do with Jesus, and nothing to do with our own personal actions and pride. Don’t be disappointed if at first you are unable to reach out to those around you. Trust in God’s timing that THROUGH YOU, He will begin to move and stir inside a desire for Christ in that person’s heart.” Essentially, don’t trust that your works from reaching out to others will bring them closer to God, but rather trust that God will do the work. Be content with being able to love God; grow in HIM, not in your desire to look better (Philippians 4:10-13) (Proverbs 21:2).
In the end, don't focus on how bad you are, but instead, focus on how good God is. You don't need to be stressed about trying to be a super-Christian; the little things can be equally as encouraging. As always, God bless & sleep easy, fam.
SUMMING IT ALL UP:
disclaimer: I tried my best to break everything down into points, but they all pretty much run together.
- Understand that your spiritual life will not exist in a constant series of highs.
- Reach out and be mindful of the little things you do-- they are often the ones that make the biggest impact.
- Be genuine and be content.
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.
Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.