“For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth.” –A.W. Tozer
From the time I was 8 years old until I left for the military at age 22, I had attended church. I had heard what was taught as the truth. I heard many words in that place and in my home, wherever believers were (for the church is not a building, but the people themselves).
Words of God’s love. Words of His promises. Words of sorrow. Words of joy. Words of failure. Words of hope. Words of redemption. The Bible has it all.
Yet in all those years of hearing those words, I was not the better for having heard those words. I honestly loved going to church and learning about God, but inside I struggled with so much insecurity because of how I was treated at school. I would spout Scripture I had memorized every Sunday and I regularly attended Bible studies. No one knew my struggle and I never thought to ask myself, “Do I believe God’s words are for me personally? Do I believe God truly loves me?”. Had I asked myself that question then, I would have said “No”. Looking back I was living in religion, not relationship with Jesus. I did all the “right things” from the outside looking in, but Jesus wasn’t Lord of my life. He had no authority; I did what I wanted. He certainly wasn’t my Savior either. What did I need saving from? I was an angel child!
Five bucks says my mom is laughing as she reads this;)
Have no fear mama; I have repented!
Pretty much all of my life I had faced rejection. I heard many other words that were spoken over my life. And not kind words. I wasn’t pretty enough. I had a big nose. I didn’t know how to curl my hair or do my makeup. I didn’t wear all the trendy clothes until they weren’t even in fashion anymore. My family shopped the sales since we didn’t have a lot of money ($12 Roxy shirt at Ross! Whaattt?) I didn’t shave my legs until I was 13 while all the other girls started that two years prior. Anything was fair game for ammo in bringing about my humiliation. These words were much louder than anything I heard in the church. Though they were only opinions of others, I took them to heart as my truth. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Insert eye roll here. Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
Those words felt like death.
Dealing with the cruelty of the world I felt that I didn’t really know how to connect with others, much less God. The world didn’t seem to accept me, so what would God want with someone like me? So when push came to shove and the world finally offered me something I had always wanted, I took it. For almost 10 years I lived how I wanted to live my life, basking in the acceptance (no matter how temporary) I was offered, while still proclaiming to believe the Word of God. #DoubleLife. Ok maybe I wasn’t living how I really wanted to live, but I was getting some of the things I wanted from the world. We all know something, even if it’s not the best thing, is better than nothing right? Maybe?
Make no mistake – God wastes nothing. And His Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). What I learned and heard of God while I was growing up were merely seeds planted that had not yet taken root in my heart (Rocky soil, party of one!). I deduced in my mind that God’s Word was truth and He was real (nothing else seemed to make as much sense), but I did not believe with my heart that He loved and accepted me. I have come to learn now that knowledge and belief are two different things.
Knowledge is defined as “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation”.
Belief is having “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof”.
There are so many who would say that they are Christians, but are not living it out in their everyday lives. If you think about it, we don’t live out what we’re merely “acquainted with” in our minds. We live out what we believe in our hearts. I was acquainted with the truths of God, but I had no confidence in God Himself. Jefferson Bethke wrote in one of his books something that struck a chord with me and I haven’t forgotten it since.
“I had too much of the truth in me to be happy in the world, but too much of the world in me to be happy in the truth.”
If that isn’t the story of my life, I don’t know what is. Just reading this quote again right now, I sense that God is telling me this is another reason why He calls us to live holy lives. For one, We cannot live two different lives and not expect to be torn apart inside, even if no one else can tell what’s going on. Living a holy life is not arrogance or an “I’m better than you” attitude. Holiness means to be set apart. It means there should be something different about us when the world looks at our lives. It is obedience to Christ, plain and simple. We’re either all in or all out (Revelation 3:15-16).
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matthew 16:25-26
So where do you stand? Do you believe in God, or do you only know of Him?
There is no shame in honesty, only freedom. God already knows our hearts. Tell Him everything! Your doubts, your fears, past hurts or failures. He’ll take it all. The more we surrender our pride and come before Him in humility, the more healing and transformation will take place in our hearts. God cannot work with what we do not give Him.
“Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” -A.W. Tozer