The 3 ideas that will change your faith forever

The 3 ideas that will change your faith forever

My friend and retired truck-driver Dave approached me one night – something was bothering him. Dave is interesting. An outdoor man, Dave has never read a book in his life. He came to faith a few years ago and unfailingly attends our Bible-study every Monday night. He enjoys the discussion and has both learnt and contributed a lot. His problem was that he was being asked to help with the church Boys Brigade – also on Monday night.

“Go help at Boys Brigade” I said. My lack of hesitation was not because our clubs need helpers, but because it’s the best thing for Dave.

Living generously

“…Go and help at Boys Brigade. As you spend time helping, laughing, being frustrated and getting cross with those kids, your faith will grow in ways neither of us can imagine. You will learn more of God’s ways than we ever can in a Bible Study,” (…much as I like people to show up for Bible Studies).

As we step out to serve God in new ways, our head-knowledge is made real. God meets us and he equips us. And as we see the people we help challenged and grow, and as we get involved in their lives, God gives us a newer, deeper, conviction.

Growing faith

To be sure, people like to quote that line on salvation by faith: “We are saved by faith alone!” they boast. So we don’t need works (actions). However, the truth is “we ARE saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone”. In other words, saving faith, growing faith is never “alone”. Works don’t save us, but works are the evidence of faith; works are the accelerator of faith.

If you are involved in service for others, you already know this. If not, there are some great activities at your church you can help with right now. And see how your faith grows.

Living gratefully

In the past few years there has been an increasing number of studies, books and now news-stories on the subject of Gratitude. Lots of really clever people out there will now tell you that remembering to be thankful is good for your health.

But not just health. Thankfulness will bring untold blessings to your Christian faith. One of the biggest contributors to my own faith and well-being has been simply remembering to give thanks for the good things in my life that happen – and importantly the bad things that don’t happen.

It is always satisfying to see the secular world running to catch up with Christian thinking, rather than the other way around.

Thankfulness is nothing new, it is ancient Christian practice. Even giving thanks before a meal is good for our faith because it helps us to see God’s hand in the everyday. Unlike the secular world, we as Christians have someone to say thank you to. And doing that shifts our thoughts from ourselves to our maker.

Living gratefully

But it’s a discipline. In poorer countries people may be thankful just for making it to a new day, but we need reminding. Some people keep a prayer diary as a reminder of things to give thanks for – they look back months or even years later. I’ve never done that. So if, like me, you feel a daily habit of thankfulness might be hard to develop, there is a simple way of praying called the Examen that will remind you to give thanks, at the end of each day. It’s seriously easy, you can do it today!

Living slowly

Much of the Christian life is straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy …and sometimes the most straightforward things are the hardest. Like, for instance … slowing down.

Its so easy to be always connected, always occupied isn’t it! Some of us have even forgotten what being bored feels like – there’s always a screen somewhere to gawk at right? But resisting the need for speed brings huge benefits to our faith.

  • During the week, try to have a day, or 24 hours when you don’t work.
    Today work lines are blurred for many. We use the same phone for office and private use, our emails can be both work and personal, and some of us work from home. The old divisions have gone. So a question that can arise is “what IS work?” Say, I am reading something work-related but enjoying it, is THAT work? One idea that may help is that you should try to not change anything or improve anything on this day. On your Sabbath be content to see things as they are; to enjoy a world that doesn’t need to change.
  • During the day, turn your face toward God at any moment. Yes in your quiet-time, but also just for a moment on the corridor, in the supermarket, in the street. Try looking at the sky – it’s always amazing, and will instantly take you from worldly to heavenly, from finite to infinite.
  • And occasionally live life in “airplane mode”. Create space. Let the smartphone or tablet lie idle – in another room so you don’t start twitching when it winks at you.

Living slowly is good for your faith

Live generously, live gratefully, live slowly

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it”.  Matthew 10.39.

This is one of those razor-sharp statements that Jesus made which applies in all kinds of situations. Whether it’s losing your time to serve others, losing your pride to say “thank you!” or losing your busyness to enjoy stillness. You will find life, and with it a newer, more enduring faith.

This article was also published by Premier Christianity and the Baptist Times.

  • Simple truths Chris and how much our world would change if we took these 3 simple truths to heart to live generously, gratefully and slowly. It may well be that the last one is the one which opens us up to the other two and so much more. As we slow down our capacity to give generously and be grateful expands because we allow the space to increase our awareness of God and His goodness to us. As you mention, apparently straightforward but by no means easy – a life long discipline to develop.

    • Yeah its the simply things that confuse us the most right!

  • Some really helpful thoughts here on volunteering and serving in the local church, and beyond. One thing that often happens in churches is we get so overloaded by our involvement in so many ministries, and this can lead to frustration and the opposite of a servant heart. Churches have a part to play in making space for their volunteers to find God in their every day, not being stressed out of their ears by all their different ministry commitments.

    With that said, it’s something that isn’t always easy for churches to manage, and we, as individuals, need to learn how to say no – this may include saying no to good things, where we could really make a difference. If we think we can do everything, though, or that everything ‘needs’ us, we fall in to the trap of being proud.

    Downtime is great, and, as you say, we shouldn’t waste our free time – I’ve tried to cut back on a few habits recently that just take up time throughout my day. Certain websites that aren’t wrong, but take up a lot of time, which I’ve now started trying to use reflecting on God’s word instead. Not easy, with all the distractions, but even these tiny steps have made a difference in my life so far.

    • That sounds good Joe! On your point about church volunteers being overloaded, that certainly happens (and often its the same small group of people who volunteer for everything). One important ministry which I think most churches neglect is how do we look after our church leaders and volunteers? We can be so busy that it just doesnt occur to us.

      • Absolutely, it’s a ministry all of its own!
        *who ministers to the ministers*

  • Thanks for sharing, Chris. I’ve had seasons to learn each of these lessons at different times, but I also need to be reminded consistently of the need to serve, give thanks, and slow down. That first and last point have an interesting relationship, but I think the most important point is intentionality. Sometimes I’ve seen this break down in my relationship between time at work and time not working. When I’m at work, it’s easy to get on Facebook or get distracted by news articles, but often what this produces is the need to work into the evening after work hours. What’s important is intentionally focusing on work when I need to work, and intentionally focusing on rest outside of that time. The better we can make this distinction, I feel, the less we’ll feel burned out because we’ll be controlling our schedules rather than the other way around.

    • Yes thanks for pointing out the complicated relationship between serving and resting Camden. And i agree on the intentionality point – eg I think it’s sometimes good (even necessary) to block rest / recreation time into our calendars as we would a work meeting, in order to ensure it has some priority.

  • Stephen

    Thanks Chris – I think this article is very helpful.
    On a small point should we create our “own Sabbath” ? Is that focusing the Christian life around me ?

    • Thanks for the comment. Interesting question. To what extend can we / should we change our faith traditions because of the way we live? For some cases (eg ministers as we often work on Sunday) I think its clear, but in general I don’t think it is and I think there is a danger that we “create God in our image” ie “my life is like this and God must somehow fit within it”.

  • Chris Anderson

    This makes a lot of sense to me. Practical. Humane. Good.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Chris, these are all good reminders that us busy people need. We all need to not be so busy, that we fail to see how God loves us. We can become so enmeshed in our schedules. Time needs to be taken to slow down and be still with God, to feel, see and enjoy His love.
    I find looking up at the sky brings calmness to my busy mind. It centers me in the One I serve. How many of us notice that EVERY sunrise and sunset is different?

  • What a brilliant simple post that we all need to read every once in a while. Off to share it now. Mich x

    • And what a brilliant, simple comment! Thanks for taking the time Mich