Last week I wrote about my realization that I have been living a reactionary life at home, at work, and at church in a way that has prevented me from enjoying life, enjoying relationships, and pursuing excellence in all areas of my life. I received some good feedback and some questions, so I thought I would elaborate on each of those areas as I seek to be proactive in the coming year.
In my job as a pastor I see the reactionary Christian life everywhere. Where there is a professed desire to have a quality devotional life or prayer life, but lacking a plan it never happens. This carries over into how we treat accountability relationships along with how we approach loving people who are part of the church and those who are not a part of the church.
This is a reflection to how we interact with God and what we believe about how we imitate God.
Is God Reactive or Proactive?
Does God wait for us to act and then come clean up our mess? Or let it all unfold until it gets really bad and then come help? Or do we have a God with a plan and the power to accomplish that plan?
Nearly every Christian would say yes to that last question, but if faith is proclaiming a trust in God and His plans so you will follow Him and His plans, then we have to check our verbal answer with the answer of the lives we live. The scriptures are clear that God had a plan from the foundation of the world and works with and through our human history to accomplish His perfect plans that scripture says can never be thwarted.
Now that could open up a number of questions or frustrations, but what it reveals is that we have a very proactive God. He even states His goals as restoring all things to their perfect design, wiping every tear from every eye, and implementing a reign of joy and peace with Christ as King one day.
Since we have a proactive God, the response of the Christian is both in reacting to God’s plans for His people and proactively pursuing His goals and His mission. This occurs in the way a Christian lives and the mission the Christian is on.
In the Christian’s Life
God being proactive in working for and toward specific things challenges us to know and participate in those specific things. For us to know and participate in these initiatives of God we must know God through His scriptures and by prayer. We must be a part of His community of people who worship Him and participate in His mission.
Scripture and Prayer
Many Christians know they should read their bible and they should pray, but many do not. This is both a want-to and how-to problem. The lack of want-to is part having not read the bible (because when you do, it draws you into more) and partly a heart bent on selfish desires that will be confronted by the scriptures. So we can’t just jump to the how-to without appropriately analyzing the lack of want-to. But there are times when you need to push pass the lack of want-to in order to know the benefits of scripture (same could be said of exercise or any other disciplined habit).
For scripture and prayer it often helps to know God’s purposes in giving us these is not a road map for life (though it has good advice) or to offer a wish list to the benevolent gift-giver (though we will never have without asking). The primary purposes of these are to know God and specifically to get to know Jesus Christ, who lived perfectly and died because of imperfections and sins, but then rose from the grave. Once you know the purpose is to know and be like Jesus, the need for these becomes hugely apparent (since I am not like Jesus often enough) and the need for how-to develop this habit increases.
Reading calendars such as the daily lectionary and the slew of other reading plans are immensely helpful guides to reading and reflecting on scripture daily. My challenge is always approaching these with a legalistic mindset of completion rather than in simply trying to commune with God and know Christ. I miss days (don’t tell!) and feel the need to catch up instead of picking it back up to meet with God.
Prayer can be the same way if you do not cultivate an understanding of it or a habit of it. Books like A Praying Life and Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (a MUST read) have been immensely helpful in encouraging and informing my prayer life.
Community & Accountability
The church is intended to be a healthy family that loves one another like Jesus loves them. This doesn’t just happen, it must be pursued. If you are lacking community, become the type of community you want to be a part of by beginning to pursue and care for individuals within the community. Invite people to meals, to coffee, into your normal routines and habits and utilize those times to have personal conversations. I plan on elaborating on this in the coming weeks, so I’ll move on.
When it comes to accountability, we must ask the question of why. Are we pursuing this as a confessional booth or is this the way I become challenged to be more like Christ? The confessional booth accountability leaves people in their sins and flaws, even creates a seemingly inescapable cycle since it is focused on actions instead of on increasing faith in Christ.
Proactive accountability sees the aim of knowing and loving Christ as the true way to put to death sin (Colossians 2:20-3:4) as opposed to harping on getting better morally. Morality is first fruit, not first step in overcoming sin while knowing Christ is what ultimately makes sin seem worthless and trite. So gather in your gender small groups and begin to ask, “How is Christ becoming more valuable in your life?” and when sin comes up ask, “Where did you stop believing that Christ was enough?” Obviously these are a few of the many questions that could be asked, but the aim is always the same, it’s conforming to Christ’s way of life as opposed to your selfish desires.
On the Christian’s mission
God is proactively working to bring His good and gracious reign into reality in and through individuals that make up a community. If this is God’s aim, we must proactively make this our aim. This requires sacrifice and changing your lifestyle. If you are unable to have time to love and serve your neighbor like Christ, it’s likely that your schedule will have to shift to make margin for this. But more than your schedule will be required of you.
Entering into relationships to truly be like Jesus in healing the brokenness in people’s lives will require emotional strain, financial strain, and personal space strain. You have to be prepared for this, because there is so much joy in doing it.
All that goes into the Christian life and the Christian’s mission can seem like a big juggling acts of activities, but only really require one thing. That one thing is to love Jesus Christ and His gospel more than anything else. The result of knowing and loving the gospel is seeking God, loving other people who share your beliefs and loving those who do not. This is the pattern of believers in the scripture. Christ becomes supremely valuable so they devote themselves to knowing more about Jesus and embodying Him to each other and their neighbors.
The reactionary life prevents you from truly knowing God and participating in His mission. For the Christian, there is no other way than to become a proactive seeker of God. Believing in a proactive God leads us to become proactive followers.