What’s Behind Your Faith

Judgment is a bitter pill to swallow. It often slants the outlook of a situation in favor of the accuser. Calling out someone else becomes an easy task, when you’re able to ignore your own faults. I’ll give you an example. I had a “Facebook friend” recently say something like this:

“Man, you write all these nice sayings and interesting quotes; stuff to make people feel better. But, you have no idea how hard it is to actually try living what you’re talking about, all by yourself. I mean, you have a wife who supports everything you do, and she can take up the slack. You’ve got no idea what it’s like to live the way I do.”

Right here, I’m gonna take a pause from our regularly scheduled program and address this, because I feel like this dude could probably benefit from what I am about to reveal. You see friends, this is a prime example of how judgment can cloud a person’s perception. My friend here made the assumption that he’s the only one going through a struggle, and that I couldn’t possibly relate to how hard it is to trust in God during times of trial. He couldn’t be more wrong.

For the first time, I will not receive a tax refund from Uncle Sam, in 2014. In fact, I actually owe him money this year. Now because I didn’t receive any tax relief, the overdue bills I would usually settle with that expected money (you know, the bills I allowed to slip so that I might buy Christmas presents for friends and family this past December) are now in the red zone. Here is what that means.
1.      The water bill is so high, that I have to pay something on it by April 10thor risk the service being shut off.
2.      The family van, the only vehicle we own, is now two months behind. Repossession is a real possibility unless I can make a minimum payment soon.
3.      The heating/electric bill is overdue by a month’s payment, threatening our payment plan.
4.      The combination cable, internet, telephone bill is so far behind that the internet and cable were just deactivated two days ago. Yep, I’ve got to pay that in order to be able to pay the other debts.
5.      Our van is in dire need of repair work. The brakes are bad; tires are balding and I just discovered an alarming leak in the radiator core.
6.      My house payments for the last few months have been late, as I try to continuously play “catch up” with the aforementioned expenses. Late fees do add up. Count this month into the rotation as well.
7.      We owe unpaid medical expenses from hospital visits long past.
8.      On top of everything else, our growing children will always have needs, whether they are academic, social or personal. Isaiah blows through shoes; Jordynn needs a new softball helmet; Dominique needs special dermatologic soap. Nate’s running varsity track and needs new glasses.
9.      We have to eat, which means we need to grocery shop with whatever is left. These days, the shopping is light.
10.  And then there is the big one, which is consistently number one in our family. It’s the first thing to come out of the pay checks: we tithe.

There are times when I honestly want to shake my fists at the Lord and ask Him what He’s doing up there. Does He not see the struggles we go through? Does He simply not care, but expect us to tithe and give our time to the church anyway? Are we being punished for something we’re failing to recognize? Am I wasting my time writing for Him, singing for Him, making beats that no one is interested in…for Him? Am I supposed to teach my kids to expect suffering and nothing else, by following Him faithfully? Will my life continue to be a series of events where people keep asking me to donate what talent I have, for free, while my family struggles?

I talk myself out of tithing all the time, convinced that God will just have to understand that I don’t have it this pay period. If He really wants me to tithe, He’ll provide me with more money than I know what to do with. And every time I feel as if life couldn’t possibly get any worse, something else breaks down. It takes a toll on us. 

My wife doesn’t always support my decisions in times of crisis and vice versa. Just recently, she came to me with a plan to hold off buying groceries altogether until we somehow climbed out of the hole. It was a bold plan to be sure; one with a dual purpose of teaching some of our less than grateful children the value of any type of food available, while simultaneously paying down debt. But that plan just didn’t sit well with me. It’s hard to praise the Lord and give to Him, when everything around you is falling apart. Living by faith is not simple.

But still, we remain faithful to the Lord. I don’t mean we reluctantly give and serve either. No. We give and serve believing that He will supply our needs; not our wants; our needs. We believe He will make a way where there is no way. We remember what He’s brought us out of in the past, and hold true to His promises of a brighter future, despite our continued human failures. 
 My “Facebook friend” has no idea what I live with, daily. He doesn’t know how hard it is for me to write encouragement when I’m feeling as if God has abandoned my family. He has no knowledge of how I use my own words of encouragement, coupled with God’s word, to strengthen myself so that I might be able to encourage my family. I’m the rock. My kids can’t see me afraid, or they will fall. My wife needs her husband to be her strong tower, when things are collapsing right before our eyes. Real life exists within my little box of the world. And real life is relentless.

I tell you these truths about my life, not to garner any sympathy. I don’t have time or patience for that. I tell you because you’re probably going through the struggle too. You need to know that you’re not alone. But you also need to know this: if you claim to be a Christian, and you find yourself in the struggle, dig deep and don’t quit! This is the time when your faith is truly tested. I told you that I talk myself out of tithing, every pay period. Well…every Sunday after pay period Friday, we sign a check over to the house of the Lord. That’s right. Every pay period, I dig deep into my bible and strengthen my resolve to follow God, no matter what circumstance may come up. If Jesus died for me, the least I can do is remain faithful to Him, despite what trials and obstacles Satan may toss before me.

But friend, the real reason I share my trials with you is here: watch how you judge others. You have no idea what the other guy might be going through. Just because he may be wearing a smile, or speaking affirmations all the time, doesn’t mean he thinks he’s better than you. He might be in a situation 20 times worse than yours, and merely hanging on to sanity by the thread of the Lord’s robe.

Judgment is a cancer that serves no positive purpose in the life of believers. In Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” If you want to offer something useful to a brother or sister in Christ, to an unbelieving relative or to a total stranger, offer up a prayer. Pray that God might enter that person’s heart and grant them peace or a deeper understanding of things eternal. Stay away from judgment. Always remember, you never know what someone else may be going through. 

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