In Barbara Brown Taylor’s epic memoir Leaving Church, she tells of an experience that altered her perspective (and now has altered mine).
A local pastor asked her speak at his church. Her first question was, “What do you want to speak about?” His response stands as one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard.
“Come tell us what’s saving you right now.”
For most Christians, salvation is a single moment in time when they give their lives to Jesus. It’s the moment you say a prayer or decide to be baptized. Salvation certainly happens in these moments. You were lost, after all, separated from God.
The definition of salvation isn’t our problem. It’s the scope of it. Salvation is too narrow. If you have walked with Jesus for any length of time, you know evil doesn’t waive a white flag when you become a Christian. Every day, in countless ways, evil rears its ugly head. For some, evil appears as lust. For others, evil appears as a new trinket they don’t need but know it will fill a void. Still for others, evil comes in the form of addiction, bitterness or apathy. Evil is quite the chameleon, changing shapes and colors depending on the place and time.
So, every day we must choose life. Every day, God offers us salvation. And, right now, something is saving you.
What is saving you right now?
Viewing salvation this way changed my life, and I believe it will change yours. What if we asked ourselves this question every day? What if this was the first question we asked friends at lunch? What if we asked our spouses and children this question?
We might be reminded, regardless of the storms and swirling winds, God is faithful. We might remember Him when temptation appears. And we might look for salvation when we would otherwise choose death.
The greatest threat to your joy and peace isn’t your circumstances or accomplishments but your ability to see salvation (and choose it) when evil threatens.
Right now, several things are saving me. I want to share those with you. More than anything, however, I want to introduce you to this question, hoping you will look for salvation when evil would tell you God has left. Here are four ways God is saving me.
Not reading the Bible everyday is saving me right now.
I never thought something like not reading the Bible everyday would give me life rather than death, but it’s true.
I hold Scripture in high regard. I believe it’s the word of God. I’m not struggling with the Bible’s authority. I have, however, struggled with the Bible’s impact (or lack, thereof) on my heart.
For years, I have read the Bible every day. I’m not sure when, but somewhere in my journey reading the Bible became a chore. I found myself feeling better about my spirituality on days when I opened it, even if I gathered nothing from its contents. I would read a miraculous story without feeling the weight of the words.
Ghana’s grandson once said, “People of the Book risk putting the Book above people.”
How true this has been in my life.
In this season, God has shown me that regardless of how much He reveals through Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself eventually requires putting your Bible aside and actually loving him or her. Seriously, how many times will we dissect a passage before we actually apply it?
It seems to me that if your Bible reading doesn’t convict you to close it and go love your neighbor, you’re probably not reading it right.
I’m not abandoning the Bible, and I would never encourage you to do so. But the Bible is not my God, and at times I need to be reminded of this. I will return to the Bible soon. When I do, I pray Scripture stirs something in my heart rather than satisfies a spiritual task.
Realizing there is not a line between sacred and secular is saving me right now.
I resigned from my position as a full-time pastor over six months ago. Since then, God has worked to erase this ridiculous line between sacred and secular. Drawing lines like this severely distorts our view of God and his work in the world.
The more you believe a distinction exists between sacred and secular, the smaller your God will be.
When you work at a local church, your world revolves around the life of that church. Activities, relationships, every waking thought and almost every action are consumed by it. That’s not necessarily bad.
Until it is.
Now that I’m away from full-time ministry and without a connection to a local church, I see God in places outside of a church building. I’m actually starting to believe He is just as present in my living room or the local Starbucks as the local church. I used to say stuff like that, but I never believed it. How could I? I spent more time inside a church building than outside one.
No one asks me to volunteer for Children’s Church or teach Sunday morning class. My thoughts aren’t constantly focused on the church calendar, which has given me more time to see God in other places. As a church leader, I did a poor job of directing people’s focus to God’s movement in daily routines.
Here’s a great example of how I saw God in life’s daily flow when I would have missed him working at church. Last week, I was stressed, overdone with this season of life and battling some anxiety when a family came over to look at our house. This family had twin girls that were three-ish. After showing them our house, the family was walking out of the door when one of the girls said, “Can I give you a hug?”
Shocked, I responded with, “Of course.”
After the hug, I closed the door, looked up and said, “Thanks God. You knew I needed that.”
Never doubt where God might show up. Learning to pay attention to His work outside your church building might save your life.
Realizing you can change the world even if your platform only includes two people is saving me right now.
For the past three months, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad. A year ago, if you told me I would be staying at home with my boys full time, I would have asked what trees you were smoking. Seriously.
I had a growing blog and platform. Church ministry was going well. Staying at home would have been counter-productive to ministry.
Then God pulled a “gotcha.”
I want to see the next generation flourish and I want my family to always follow Jesus passionately. Those are two of my core values. So, God decided to give me an opportunity to do both. Be careful defining core values and transposing God’s will on them. He’ll throw you a curve ball.
To all the stay-at-home moms (and dads), thank you. You’re shaping the next generation of leaders and Christ followers. No one has more impact on your children than you. It’s incredibly difficult work. It’s messy work. It’s selfless work. But it’s important work.
Our world lusts after large platforms and followings. Sadly, many Christians are too lovestruck by power, control and affirmation to fathom how someone could impact generations without a large platform.
If you’re called to raise your children, don’t expect praise or recognition on earth. But when this life is over, I imagine you standing before God, as He reveals generations of men and women impacted by your children.
Then God will look at you and say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Understanding God’s plan doesn’t unfold linearly is saving me right now.
Three months ago, my wife, Tiffani, accepted a job in Memphis. Considering we live 70 miles east of Memphis, this was a full-time job plus 10 or more hours of commuting. When she accepted the job, we were convinced God wanted us in Memphis. And, at the time, someone was about to place a contract on our house. So we took a step of faith.
More than three months later, we have no contract on our house and no idea why God hasn’t opened any doors.
How did we read this so wrong? What a big fail, right?
A few weeks ago, an opportunity came up in a place far from west Tennessee. Had this same opportunity presented itself three months ago, we would not have considered it. It was too far away from family, sweet tea and competitive college football. But now we’re open to moving anywhere. Maybe this opportunity will come together. But if it doesn’t, we’re moving forward with our eyes open to any door God might open.
Too often, Christians look at decisions as “either/or.” Whether the decision is large or small, life gives you two doors, and only two. Pass or fail. In or out. Up or down. Black or white. Smart or dumb. You get the idea.
The “either/or” mindset says Tiffani accepting a job in Memphis is a failure. But God doesn’t work linearly. Many times, when we’re presented with choices, we stress over making the “right” one. Could it be that God doesn’t stress over such things and instead just wants us to make a choice?
God might ask you to veer left rather than stay on a straight path. In our limited mind, veering left looks like losing our job, battling a chronic illness or leaving ministry at a local church for teaching at a local school. We see this as a failure, sideways energy.
But we can’t see the big picture. Who knows why you’re in this position. But never doubt God is teaching and using you.
These things are saving me right now. I’m currently in a season where it seems like darkness is all around. It would be easy to throw in the towel or numb the pain with drugs, alcohol or shopping. It would be easy to choose depression and anxiety. To be honest, depression and anxiety have been my greatest tempters in this season.
But I know salvation stands right beside death. Everyday, as evil presses closer, God’s hand of grace reaches out. But I must recognize this hand. And, most importantly, I must grab it.
The same is true for you.
Here’s one more thing saving me right now.
Learning that although God can walk on water or raise a dead man to life, more times than not he appears in a gentle whisper. Too often, I relegate God’s appearance to seemingly miraculous events, like a dozen people responding to a sermon or several hundred teenagers giving their lives to Jesus at a youth conference. It’s almost as if God lusts after the next big thing as much as I do.
Everyday, I’m learning to see God in the ordinary. I’m learning He is present when weeks pass without a comment or email from readers. I’m learning He is present when life has me running on a hamster wheel, moving in no particular direction. I’m learning God is present when anxiety threatens my joy. He’s present when I feel worthless because I’m jobless.
It’s quite easy to see God in the miraculous. I must have faith to see him in life’s gentle whispers. And isn’t that the point, faith?
What is saving you right now?
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. Let me know what is saving you right now.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!