Excellence, Bliss, and Success…

“Be all that you can be.” That is (or was) the advertising slogan for one of the branches our armed services. You’ve seen the commercials. But have you heard that advertising slogan repeated on Sunday mornings in pulpits? I’ll bet you have.

The Christian life is sometimes portrayed in a similar vein, where you can be all that God wants you to be and accomplish all you are designed and destined to accomplish. The Christian life is sometimes represented as some kind of self-improvement program or the pathway to moral excellence, marital bliss, successful child-rearing, or professional and financial windfall. Maybe it’s done subtly and by accident, but in many cases, that is the impression given to not only the watching world, but those within the church.

Coupled with that impression is the implication that by trying harder, re-doubling your efforts, focusing more, re-prioritizing, “stepping up to the plate”, or “going to battle” will result in the excellence, bliss, and success you’re aiming for.

Those are the impressions I have after 18 years of “trying” to be a Christian. But recently, I’ve had to ask the question, “Where is the Good News in that? In the pursuit of holiness, which will presumably result in excellence, success, and bliss, where do I find good news?”

I had to start at the beginning. Not Genesis 1:1, the beginning of the Bible, but John 3:16, the essence of the Gospel. “For God so loved _______…” Fill in your name here. For God so loved you and me that He sent his only Son so that we wouldn’t perish, but instead experience eternal life. That’s not just life after death, but REAL life BEFORE death! And that’s no ordinary love, but an extraordinary kind of love that accepts you and me right where we are. We don’t have to strive. We don’t have to try to improve. We don’t have to achieve.

Living with this freedom doesn’t make me lazy spiritually, or give me a license to live any way I please. On the contrary, it frees me to live for God utterly and completely. I don’t have to; I want to! It just happens.

The excellence, bliss, and success will come, but it may not look like we picture it. Instead, it will be real excellence, real bliss, and real success, and it will come as a (super)natural outpouring of the freedom found in Christ. It also may come because of, in spite of, or in the form of failure, turmoil and tragedy, and defeat and suffering.

“For God so loved…” It’s the kind of love that can be trusted… trusted with every fabric of my being. I can trust Him to work for my good, no matter what. It’s a kind of love that brings real freedom to let go. I can trust and let go because He’s got this covered and He’s got my back.

I am a child of God, with Christ living in me, and I live in the unshakeable Kingdom of God.

That’s Good News!

So much it hurts…

I have a friend and co-worker who is also a mom to a 7-yr old. Although she’s busy, she always has time for her son. He has all a son could want: a mom and dad who love him very much.

She was agonizing over a disciplinary decision she was going to have to make with him. She was trying to decide whether to keep encouraging her son to persevere through some adversity or to just pull him out of the situation altogether. She (and every mom like her) just didn’t want to make a bad decision. She didn’t want to screw up. She even said, “I just don’t want to screw him up.”

She had her own thoughts. I offered my advice and said, “You’re a good mom. Your son has all a son could ever hope for and that’s a mom who loves him so much it hurts. Just keep on loving him. That’s the best thing you can do.”

“… love him so much it hurts.” It made me think of God. If we love our children so much it hurts, how much more does God love us? How much did it hurt God to send His own Son to die for us? He must love us so much! So much it hurts!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, especially to my wife, Sharon… a great mom. Just keep on loving your children. It’s the best thing you can do.

That’s what God does… no matter what.