FINDING YOUR “WHY”
Before you even begin an exercise or diet program, you have to have some motivational factor. You need to have a reason for making the change. It’s been said that a man can overcome any “what” as long as he has a “why.” Motivation. Purpose. Goals. These are the starting points.
For me, I want to get in shape so I can keep up with my sons. I have two young, healthy, active little boys. As they get older they are getting harder and harder to keep up with. When we race or play tag or wrestle, I actually have to put in some effort now! Not only that, but I also want to give them a good model for what it looks like to take care of yourself. Am I perfect at it? NO. I’ve lost track of the number of cookies I’ve eaten this week. But I’m trying to show them to importance of taking care of our physical health. Finally, I want to be around for them as long as possible. I want to live a healthy life now so I will still be there for them long into the future.
My wife. My sons. My future self. These are all motivating me to put in the effort on a consistent basis.
FAITH: YOUR SPIRITUAL STARTING POINT
Faith is the starting point in our walk with Christ. But what is faith, exactly? The book of Hebrews gives us the classic definition:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:1, 6)
We can’t always see God, but we know God is there. We have confidence that God exists. We believe that if we seek after God we will be rewarded. That’s faith at its most fundamental.
But as we all know, sometimes faith is hard to come by. Just like there will be days you don’t feel like going to the gym or out for a run, so there will be days where you just don’t feel God’s presence. There will be days when you question everything or when you feel like the world is just going to pieces around you.
As Fall Out Boy put it, “Sometimes the only payoff to having any faith is when it’s tested again and again every day.”
One of the most relatable statements in the whole Bible for me is found in Mark 9. A man had a son who was possessed by a demon. The demon had tried to kill the boy multiple times, by throwing him into a fire or the lake. The father is desperate, so he brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples. They couldn’t drive the demon out. Desperation becomes despair. Finally Jesus shows up and the man begs him:
“…if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)
I do believe. I know. In my mind I know God is there; I know Jesus will be with me. But there seems to be some disconnect between what I know in my mind and what I feel in my heart. I do believe – help me overcome my unbelief. Those statements seem to be in contradiction until you experience exactly what the father means.
There’s another instance recorded in Luke when Jesus’ disciples simply ask, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). These men were with Jesus every step of the way for three or more years. And they still struggled with their lack of faith.
So how can we do this? How can we overcome our unbelief? How can we increase our faith?
JUST NOT FEELIN’ IT
First, it’s all about relying on God. Realize that faith is a gift. Faith is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. Faith is something you receive. You cannot force yourself to believe more strongly. You can only surrender and let God’s will take over for you.
For some of us this might mean disconnecting from our electronics or the busyness of life to spend quiet time with God. When we do that, God may show up in a big way. I love hearing stories of people who felt God’s presence or heard God’s voice in a tangible way. I’ve had a couple experiences like that myself.
One time was at a church camp in high school. We were spending time at night singing worship songs. I got a chance to lead a few. In that moment I felt God telling me that this was what I was meant to do with my life. From that point on I pursued God’s calling to youth ministry. But there was another instance when I was in a really dark place. I was depressed, and thoughts of suicide were creeping into my head. It was late one night as I was driving home. I thought that I could just “lose control” of the wheel and end it all. But in that moment I heard God tell me that this was not the end. God told me that he wasn’t through with me yet. That better things were coming.
I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Lord, increase our faith!
Some of you may have had encounters with God similar to that. But most of you won’t. And that’s ok.
That brings us to the next step: Living out your faith. In the Gospel of John, the word faith is a VERB. Faith is not just something you have, it’s something you do. And we all know the types of things we should be doing.
If I were to ask you what you need to do to get healthier, we would all say “diet and exercise.” But what if I asked what you could do to increase and strengthen your faith?
Peter reminds us at the start of his letter, “God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” It’s all there. We have everything we need. It’s just a matter of actually using the tools and gifts we have!
FINDING FAITH ON YOUR PHONE
Obviously, my mind automatically goes to the technology of the modern world. Nearly all of us have smartphones or other mobile devices. Too often we let these things drive a wedge between us and God. We let our devices consume our time and drive our thoughts in ways we shouldn’t go.
But what if we could change that? What if we could utilize these tools to help us strengthen our faith and develop habits that would let us grow closer to God on a daily basis?
So here’s a list of some apps that you can download and use on a regular basis. They can help you develop a pattern of prayer, devotion, meditation, Bible reading, and worship in your day to day routine. You may even have some of these apps but not realize their full potential.
So here we go:
YouVersion Bible App – You may have this for the quick on-the-go passage lookup. And yeah, you can read it in TONS of translations. But you can also connect with your friend and share verses together. You can create images of verses to share on social media. You can access countless FREE Bible reading, study, and devotional plans. I have the notifications on so that I receive the Verse of the Day every morning at 7:30. It’s a great way to start the day.
Sprinkle of Jesus – This is another great resource for inspirational and motivational thoughts. You can also access sermons and devotionals, submit prayer requests, and more.
Pray As You Go – from their website: “Pray as you go is a daily prayer session, designed to go with you wherever you go, to help you pray whenever you find time, but particularly whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc. Our aim is to help you to: become more aware of God’s presence in your life, listen to and reflect on God’s word, and grow in your relationship with God”
FaithShare – This app allows you to connect with your friends and share prayer requests with each other. But it also sets up reminders and notifications calling you to certain actions – praying, studying, quiet reflection time, etc.
Adventures in Ministry – This app has a TON of built in features, from worship songs to podcasts to class materials and study guides. This is a great resource specifically geared toward training up leaders in the church and youth groups.
iDisciple – Another resource-packed app that has music, sermon videos, devotional guides, personalized growth plans, and more.
If 7:14 – from their website: “Join the growing network of God’s people today with a simple promise. By committing to pray for revival twice a day, once at 7:14 AM and once at 7:14 PM, you’ll be joining thousands worldwide already in prayer. And since the free If 7:14 app alerts you with an encouraging verse or note to spark your prayers, it’s easy to do.”
With so many resources out there it can be almost overwhelming. I’m not saying you have to go and download all these apps right now. But pick one or two. Get familiar with them. Find out all their functions, and find what works for you. If you are intentional about it, you can take back control over your phone. It doesn’t have to drag you down or away from God. Your phone can be a tool for spiritual growth and development.
May we echo the requests of the desperate father and the clueless apostles: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief. Lord, increase our faith.