“There is power, power, wonder-working power in the . . .”
You know what I’m talking about . . . Starbucks! Mmmm, the smell, the taste. And don’t forget pumpkin spice season! Starbucks is a salve to our souls. It gives us a boost every day we’re tired or struggling . . . and every day in between.
True confession—I hate the smell and taste of coffee. I’m not the only one. But though we coffee-haters sing a different tune, our odes praise the power of Mountain Dew, shopping, fishing, music, or food. Honestly, it could be virtually anything, but chances are it’s not Jesus.
On Sundays we may sing passionately about how Jesus satisfies our every need. But even a casual reading of our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts may tell a different story. Social media is where we declare our true love for all the things we use to fill our innermost emptiness. There’s often a distinct difference between what we say we love and what we actually love.
What fills you?
It’s a hard question with an easily found answer. Instead of listening to your words, watch your actions. When you feel down, where do you turn? There is your savior. What do you spend your time thinking about and pursuing? There is your Lord.
I can hear you now, “C’mon, lighten up, Justin. It’s just [coffee].” For me, it’s “just” Mountain Dew. That sugary blast of liquid energy often picks me right back up when I’m feeling down. I “do the Dew.”
What do you do? More importantly, what do you do about those things that have taken up residence in Jesus’ space?
This week I’ve been having lots of heavy conversations with my pastor friends. These people we put on a pedestal struggle, too. As I engage their struggles and bear witness to my own, I’m struck by three areas of a disciple’s life that mustn’t be ignored.
First, the depth of our brokenness is profound. We must “watch [our] life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16, NIV) because living in the world often means a bit of the world gets into us. We’re prone to wander from His paths.
Living as a disciple precedes and must always take priority over making disciples. The life of a disciple is one of perseverance. The solution to loving things in the world isn’t knowing more about the gospel. What we need is more wisdom on how to unleash the gospel into our brokenness.
If we don’t, then we quickly run back to worldly ways. Namely, the world’s ways of soothing the soul’s needs.
So how do we experience Jesus as the answer to our brokenness?
I’ve not mastered this by any means, but I know we must consistently cultivate belief about who He is and what He offers. He is both Savior and Lord. When I believe that, I’m able to wait on Him as my portion. We grow in belief by immersing ourselves in the Word (Romans 10:17), prayer, and the lives of others.
Second, we need to wage war on the things that compete for Jesus’ place as our Savior. It’s not that Starbucks, Mountain Dew, shopping, or the like are sinful in themselves, but if we find ourselves moving towards them for life, they become idols. The sad truth is that many of us matter-of-factly proclaim our dependence on/need for/addiction to many things that aren’t Jesus.
As Paul said, “ ‘Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.’ . . . I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12, CSB). We are mastered by things we can’t let go of. And being mastered by anything other than the Master isn’t okay for a disciple.
Finally, we must consider how non-Christians process the disparity between what we claim to be true about Jesus and where we turn to find life. Others can see whether Jesus is the difference or if He’s an impersonal doctrine. How we handle our weaknesses speaks volumes to everyone around us. A mature disciple has learned how to find true life in Christ . . . and how to wait on Him when we feel like something else will satisfy more than He will.
I’m in that learning process. A passage that’s helping me lately is Lamentations 3:22-24, which says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’ ” (NIV).
If the Lord is my portion, then I must wait for Him to fill what’s lacking in me. As I experience fear, disappointment, relational pain, brokenness, or grief, I lean into the truth that He is my portion. Life is found in Him, not in Starbucks, a Mountain Dew can, or anything other than Him.
This is discipleship: the process of becoming like Him. Day by day, taking up our cross by wading into deep uncomfortable waters, denying ourselves the easy fix, and pursuing Him as our Savior. Not just when we feel like He’s worthy, but moment by moment when we experience internal pain.
That’s what Philippians 3:10-11 speaks of: “All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life” (GNT). We must die in order to resurrect.
It’s in these habits that the life of a disciple becomes powerful and takes on a quality that others can experience as they know who we are, not only what we believe. Those close to us can see both our struggle and our inward renewal.
Death, then resurrection, then multiplication. It all begins in us. The life of Christ multiplies its influence through our brokenness.
What are you making your first love?