Tag Archives: Self-sacrifice

J. Warner Wallace: I am not a Christian because it works for me

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Here’s a must-read post from Cold-Case Christianity author J. Warner Wallace.

Excerpt:

Life on this side of my decision hasn’t always been easy. It’s been nearly seventeen years since I first trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. I still struggle to submit my prideful will to what God would call me to do. Christianity is not easy. It doesn’t always “work” for me. There are times when I think it would be easier to do it the old way; easier to cut a corner or take a short cut. There are many times when doing the right thing means doing the most difficult thing possible. There are also times when it seems like non-Christians have it easier, or seem to be “winning”. It’s in times like these that I have to remind myself that I’m not a Christian because it serves my own selfish purposes. I’m not a Christian because it “works” for me. I had a life prior to Christianity that seemed to be working just fine, and my life as a Christian hasn’t always been easy.

I’m a Christian because it is true. I’m a Christian because I want to live in a way that reflects the truth. I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative.

I think this is important. There are people who I know who claim to be Christian, but they are clearly believing that God is a mystical force who arranges everything in their lives in order to make them happy. They are not Christians because it’s true, but because of things like comfort and community. But people ought to become Christians because they think it’s true. Truth doesn’t necessarily make you happy, though. Truth can impose intellectual obligations and moral obligations on you. Seeing God as he really is doesn’t help us to “win” at life, as the culture defines winning.

Winning in Christianity doesn’t mean making lots of money, or being famous, or winning human competitions, or being approved of by lots of people. Winning for a Christian might involve things like building relationships with people and leading them to know that God exists and who Jesus is. That has no cash value, and it’s not going to make you famous. Actually, it will probably cost you money and time, and make you unpopular with a lot of people.

The Bible doesn’t promise that people who become Christians will be happier. Actually, it promises that Christians will suffer for doing the right things. Their autonomy will suffer, as they sacrifice their own interests and happiness in order to make God happy, by serving his interests. Christianity isn’t something you add on to your before-God life in order to achieve your before-God goals. When you become a Christian, you get a new set of goals, based on God’s character and his design for you. And although you might be very successful in the world as part of serving God, there is no guarantee of that. Christianity is not life enhancement.

“The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” is required reading for women who want to marry

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

I’ve been re-reading my favorite book on marriage, and so I thought I would re-post something about it.

Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries read “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands“, and her assessment is here.

Excerpt:

Talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has written a book that is improving thousands of marriages: The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.{1} We need this book because millions of wives either don’t know how to love their husbands wisely and well, or they’re too self-centered to see it as important. Dr. Laura credits this dismal condition to forty years of feminist philosophy, “with its condemnation of just about everything male as evil, stupid, and oppressive, and the denigration of female and male roles in families.”{2} While the women’s movement certainly had a hand to play in the disintegration of relationships and the family, I believe the core cause is our sinful self-centeredness, just as the Bible says.{3}

Which is why we need help, and God instructs older women to train younger women to love their husband and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.{4} The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands is a great resource for learning these important values and skills.

She talks about men’s needs for direct communication, respect, appreciation, support, and sex.

And ends with this:

I can’t recommend The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands highly enough. In fact, I gave a copy to my new daughter-in-law! Let me close with one more piece of wisdom from Dr. Laura: “[M]en are simple creatures who come from a woman, are nurtured and brought up by a woman, and yearn for the continued love, admiration and approval of a woman. . . Women need to better appreciate the magnitude of their power and influence over men, and not misuse or abuse it.”{25}

Sue is the husband of famous Christian scholar Ray Bohlin, PhD, and they’ve been married for a very long time.

And here’s another summary of the book that I found.

Full text:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has written another book that deserves a place on the best seller list with six of her other books, such as Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives and Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess Up Their Lives. The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, from this unmarried man’s perspective, is an excellent manual for women on how to get want they want from men and marriage and, generally, how to be happy. Dr. Laura makes a number of important, practical points, based on her experience in private practice, from advising her radio callers, and from literally hundreds of letters and emails she received from men and women while she was writing the book. Here are the points that struck this writer, together with commentary:

1. Men Need Women, and This Need Gives Women Huge Influence. Dr. Laura states the point as follows: “[M]en are simple creatures who come from a woman, are nurtured and brought up by a woman, and yearn for the continued love, admiration, and approval from a woman.” Women have great power and influence over men, and wives in particular have tremendous power over their husbands. How they use this power essentially controls the relationship, because women are the masters of most relationships and marriages. That’s why Dr. Laura says that she probably won’t write The Proper Care and Feeding of Wives: wives already have most of the power and their marriages depend, for the most part, on them.

2. Women Err in Favoring Children Over Husband. A friend once told this writer that once a woman has children, her husband is relegated to the moral equivalence of a piece of furniture. How sad if this is true in many marriages. Here’s how Dr. Laura puts it: “Once wives became mothers, they had no time to be wives. The men would even compliment their wives on being great mothers, but expressed considerable pain over not being shown love, affection, or sexual interest. The typical reply from a wife challenged with this was ‘I only have time to take care of one person, and our child is that person. I’m just too tired for you.’ This puts fathers in the ugly and uncomfortable position of feeling competitive with and resentful of their children, whom they love so much.”

3. Men and Women Are Different. That men and women are deeply different ought not to be notable, but for the fact that it is so often challenged today. Dr. Laura says that society tries to make both men and women “unisex.” But men are happiest being men, and women are happiest being women, with few exceptions. The differences start to manifest themselves very early. In one study Dr. Laura mentions, a barrier was placed between 1 year-old babies and their mothers. What did the little boys do? They attempted to get around the barrier or knock it down. The little girls? They cried until their mothers’ picked them up. Men tend to respond to things physically, women verbally. In fact, the two sexes are just right for each other.

4. Not Every Thought and Feeling Needs to be Said. Women tend to be so verbal, so expressive, that they can tire out men easily unless they exercise some restraint. Dr. Laura reports that wives generally overwhelm their husbands with communication. “Husbands imagine (so foolishly) that their wives are telling them something they actually need to know because they’re supposed to do something about it. Otherwise, men can’t imagine why the ‘communication’ is happening at all. It confuses them, frustrates them, and their response is to turn off. That’s when they unfairly become labeled insensitive.” Husbands and fiances are not girlfriends or psychologists, and women who want attention should adjust their communication style accordingly when speaking with them.

5. Men Are Not Mind-Readers. Most men are not very intuitive compared to most women. Many women “get caught up in the absurdly romanticized notion that ‘if he loved me, he’d just know what I’m thinking, what I’d like, what he should say.'” If a woman wants her man to do something, she should just ask him plainly, without nagging, and show appreciation when he does it. To act otherwise, as many women do, shows arrogance and lack of respect for the husband’s difference, and it leads to unhappiness in the marriage and in the family.

6. Man Is an Embodied Soul. No, Dr. Laura didn’t put it that way; “embodied soul” is a Catholic concept. But that concept is what underlies her discussion of how important it is to a man that his wife try to keep up her appearance. What does it mean that we are embodied souls? It means that our bodies are integral parts of who we are. We are not just souls. Our bodies are not like clothing that we can take on or off. There was no time during which we had only souls and not bodies, and in eternity as well we will have bodies. It is through our bodies, in fact, that we communicate to our loved ones and to the rest of the world. One thinks of the beautiful line from the old Anglican marriage rite: bride and groom pledge to each other “with my body I thee worship.” It is ironic, but in many cases men–sex-crazed pigs in the minds of many women–actually have a truer understanding of the beauty of the body and the meaning of the marital embrace than their wives do. “Objectification” may come as much or more from the woman’s side as from the husband’s if the woman sees her own body as being separate from rather than an integral part of herself. Dr. Laura writes: “In reading all the letters from men, I was struck by their depth of senstivity about the issue of women’s appearance. It wasn’t an impersonal, animal reaction (as it is with women the men don’t personally know), it was a deeply personal one. The wife’s comfort with and appreciation of her own body and femininity, and her willingness to share that with her husband, actually fed his sense of well-being, his feeling of being loved as a husband and valued as a ‘man.'”

7. Infidelity by Omission. Brides and grooms make a number of vows, not only of sexual fidelity. Marital vows include and imply words like love, honor, protect, and care for. “[W]hen one breaches those vows by neglect, is that also not a form of infidelity? Perhaps we should start looking at the act of intentionally depriving a spouse of legitimate needs as infidelity, too, because it stems from being unfaithful to the intent of the vows.”

8. In the Bedroom. To her credit, Dr. Laura gives due place to the importance for marriage of the marital act: “The bedroom is the foundation of marriage and family.” St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, that supposedly conservative institution within the Church, put it this way: “The marriage bed is an altar.” Enough said?

9. Women Should Appreciate Men’s Masculinity. Dr. Laura relates a trip she made recently to a swimming pool. A mom and a dad were wading with their infant child. Mom held the child against her chest, cooed to him, and swooped him up and down. She passed the baby to dad. He turned the baby’s face outward and swooshed him forward and up into the air. “Mom equals protection and nurturance. Dad equals autonomy and adventure. It is the perfect balance that helps produce a functional, secure human being.” Too many women, though, act like Alice Kramdens, constantly belitting their husbands, shooting down their aspirations, treating them like children. Dr. Laura writes: “When a wife treats her man like he’s one of her children, when she puts him down or thwarts his need for autonomy, adventure, risk, competition, challenge, and conquest, she ends up with a sullen, unooperative, unloving, hostile lump.”

10. Thou Shalt Not Covet. Dr. Laura contributes a novel (to this writer) and insightful contemporary application of the commandment, “thou shal not covet.” Specifically, she understands it as a rebuke to people who want it all, especially feminists. “Perhaps the feminist notions about women having power if they do it all has obstructed too many women’s ability to realize that in real life we all make choices, and that the true joy and meaning of life is not in how many things we have or do, but in the sacrifice and commitment we make to others within the context of the choices we’ve made. The Tenth Commandment, about coveting, reminds us that none of us can have everything there is nor everything we want. Without enjoying and appreciating our gifts and blessings, we create a hell on earth for ourselves and for those who love us.”

PCF Husbands is the best basic book on marriage. Easy to read, tons of wisdom. It’s a great book for women to read to find out what men really want from a wife, and to find out what a wife should do to kep her marriage intact and satisfying. Marriage can be a beautiful thing if both people go into the relationship with the view that each person has to put in 100% effort to make it work. Understanding a man’s needs helps a woman to put in her 100%. It would be hard to take care of a parrot or some other strange creature if you didn’t know anything about what their needs and habits were. This book explains a lot of what women need to know about men.

Should Christians expect to know God’s will by means of feelings and intuitions?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

There are two views on the topic of decision making and the will of God. The view you learn in the church is called “the traditional view”. I call this view the feelings/intuition view. This view that elevates feelings / intuitions to the level of divine communications from God. The more practical view is called “the wisdom view”. I call this view the battlefield commander view. I am a proponent of the wisdom / commander view.

Let’s learn about the two different views:

[The traditional view is] that God has a plan for our lives and that we receive guidance through methods such as “open and closed doors”, “feeling led” and “the still, small, voice”.

[The wisdom view] holds that God does not have an “individual will” for our lives, but rather that all of God’s will can be summed up within two categories, God’s sovereign will and God’s moral will. Basically God’s sovereign will is all the things that god decrees will happen. It is hidden (mostly) from us, and does not play an active part in our decision, although some of it is revealed in the bible. God’s moral will is the part that we must concern ourselves with in making decisions. It is fully revealed in the bible and our decisions must be made within it. We may use wisdom in applying god’s moral will to our lives, or we may be in an area not covered by god’s moral will. We must finally submit in advance to God’s sovereign will, being prepared for him to sovereignty intervene and redirect us through whatever means he wills (see James).

Here’s a bit more from someone else:

Regarding the view that God has a personal will for us individually that we have to discern and find, J.I. Packer says, “The first thing to say is that the idea of guidance is actually a novelty among orthodox evangelicals. It does not go back farther than the last century. Second, it has led people to so much foolish action on the one hand, and so much foolish inaction on the other, as well as puzzlement and heartbreak when the ‘hotline’ to God seems to go silent, that it has to be discredited. Third, it must be said that Scripture gives us no more warrant constantly to expect personal ‘hotline,’ ‘voice-from-the-control-tower’ guidance than to expect new authoritative revelations to come our way for the guidance of the whole church.” (Hot Tub Religion, page 118).

As to the point of the question, how do I make decisions, I attempt to make decisions in light of three factors: God’s moral will, wisdom, and my personal desires. If something is opposed to God’s moral will, then I should obviously flee from it. If it’s not opposed, then I consider the wisdom of the choices. For example, would it be wise for me to marry a woman who loves Jesus, though we have nothing else in common? Probably not. If the options pass the criteria of wisdom, then I’m free to choose how I wish. If I’m offered two jobs, and both are honoring to God, and both would be wise to take, then I’m free to choose the job I would like more. I don’t need to put out a fleece or await some other confirmation from God. If it’s moral and wise, then the only question as to whether or not it will honor Him is my attitude.

Some examples of this model used in the Bible (in theological circles referred to as the Wisdom Model) are in Paul’s planning of a mission to Rome in Romans 1:9-15, 15:22-24, the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-29), and Paul’s instructions for legal disputes (1 Cor 6:3-6).

The best book on this topic is Garry Friesen’s “Decision Making and the Will of God”. In it, you’ll find a full assessment about what the Bible teaches on this topic.

When I am trying to decide what will be effective, I look at Christian scholars, at their papers, books, and public debates. That’s effectiveness because it is addressed to a non-Christian audience in public with the force of reason and evidence. It is persuasion and it is addressed to rational minds. I want to change the minds of people who have a large influence on society on the whole. I don’t think that offering Christianity as life-enhancement or self-help is really “having an influence”. I think that offering Christianity as truth, with support, is “having an influence”.

So let me be clear about what I believe:

  • I don’t think that God normally talks to people directly
  • I don’t believe that life is an Easter egg hunt, filled with clues accessible only to emotion and intuition
  • I don’t believe that God expects people to discover a specific will for their lives using non-rational means
  • I think that people make up their own life plan that is consistent with the Bible
  • The goal of the life plan is to be effective, and there are no other considerations
  • I think that there are many good things a person can do, but that some are more effective than others
  • I think that with respect to the goal of serving God effectively, my happiness is expendable
  • I don’t think that the purpose of doing something for the Lord is to feel good about ourselves
  • I don’t think that people should choose ineffective things to do just because they like them
  • I don’t think that people should choose ineffective things to do just because they are good at them
  • I think people should do hard things that they don’t like – as long as it’s more effective
  • I don’t think that any course of action is as effective as any other – some plans accomplish more
  • I don’t think that life is totally unpredictable and irrational and subjective
  • I think that we can know what is or is not effective by studying and learning about the world
  • I think life is like a battlefield that must be surveyed, understood and acted upon deliberately

I think that every person is the commanding officer of his or her own life, and each person must study everything they can, make a plan that is consistent with the Bible’s moral prescriptions, execute the plan and achieve whatever they can achieve for the Lord. And the goal is not comfort or happy feelings, but real achievements. Not for the purpose of being saved, of course, because salvation is a free gift of God because of what Jesus did on the cross. Life is more like a battle than a vacation resort or a buffet or a shopping center. God’s will for us is not have happy feelings, but that we freely choose to sacrifice ourselves out of obedience and service to him. In my case, that means studying hard things, making money, saving money, and giving money away to good scholars, sponsoring good events and being persuasive to non-Christians. None of this necessarily makes me happy, but it does work to bring glory to God. I cried when I had to learn calculus, because it was so hard. But who cares? The main thing is that I have money now to sponsor Christian speakers or to give books to Christians to read, and God is happy with that.

I think that it is very important to realize that God is not impressed by our not being smart and not being effective. If we have the ability to be smart, then we should be smart, whether it makes us happy or not. If we have the ability to make money, then we should make money, whether it makes us happy or not. If we have the ability have a great influence, then we should have a great influence, whether it makes us happy or not. There will be plenty of time for happiness after we’re dead. But this life is a time of serving, and we should try to serve effectively, whether it makes us happy or not. With respect to God’s purposes in the world, my happiness is expendable.

Whenever someone questions my goals and plans by saying that I am asserting my will over God’s will, the first question I want to ask that person is this: “how do you know what God’s will is?” and “what is your basis for thinking that my plan to serve will not be effective?”. I want to know if I have misunderstood something about the way the world is, or miscalculated in some way. I want someone to look at my calculations and show where they are going to produce a less optimal result for the Lord. That’s the only concern I have – effectiveness for the Lord. Usually what I have found is that the other person wants to make the purpose of life their own happiness, and it makes them happier to choose what to do moment by moment, without having to study anything or make plans. It’s not that they have better goals (for God) or better plans (for God). It’s that they want their goals to be above God, and they don’t want to make plans other than to do whatever makes them happy.

This article by Greg Koukl may be helpful.

And I also found this summary of the Friesen book useful:

In nine parts.

Where to get help if you have a selfish, absent or abusive mother or father

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Today, I want to say something this article about lambs in Scotland, written by Sheila Walsh in the The Stream.

She writes:

I am very fond of sheep. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland with sheep all around me, field after field of white wool and incessant crying when things seemed a little off.

[…]Of all the lessons I have learned from these defenseless, gentle animals, the most profound is the most painful. Every now and then, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and immediately reject it. Sometimes the lamb is rejected because they are one of twins and the mother doesn’t have enough milk or she is old and frankly quite tired of the whole business. They call those lambs, bummer lambs.

Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die. So the shepherd will take that little lost one into his home and hand feed it from a bottle and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up warm and hold it close enough to hear a heartbeat. When the lamb is strong the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.

“Off you go now, you can do this, I’m right here.”

The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls them out, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!”

The first to run to him are the bummer lambs because they know his voice. It’s not that they are more loved — it’s just that they believe it.

I am so grateful that Christ calls himself the Good Shepherd.

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4 NLT)

My older brother and I grew up with a mother who was very much focused on her career and earning and saving money for her retirement. We were both stuck in daycare very early after being born, so that she could go back to work right away. (Me after 6 weeks) My older brother has shown the ill effects of our parents (especially our mother) not having any plan for us, especially morally and spiritually. He dropped out of college after failing his first year, never had a career. Although he has normal intelligence and mental health, he never could stick in any real job.

Although there were early warning signs when his grades started to drop in Grade 5, my parents never took responsibility to make a plan to solve it. Oh, they would yell and scream at him at report card time, but just for a day or two, and after that, nothing constructive. My brother decided that he could just ride out the flak my parents gave him on report card night, and keep going with his plan of having fun and being popular. My parents just forgot about it until the next report card day, because they did not want to be distracted from their careers, hobbies and retirement planning. When dispensing rewards, my brother was always given the same as me, despite our different levels of achievement. And my parents considered this equal dispensation of rewards regardless of performance to be a great virtue, and excellent parenting.

I had the exact same upbringing as my older brother. He actually did pretty well until Grade 5 just like me, but then our paths diverged. From Grade 5 on, his grades deterioriated. He got tired of having to study and he was more interested in the opinions of his peers and conforming to popular culture. In my case, from Grade 5 on, my grades were always high-90s. I remember taking the same classes as he did, in the same high school, with the same teachers. He got a 44 in data processing, I got a 96 with the same teacher and won the award for the entire grade. Every class I went to, the teachers would speak fondly of my older brother – he was a nice guy, very popular with his peers, good at sports. But not a very good student. How was it that I was winning awards when he had scored so poorly. Was I really his brother? How could we be so different?

The difference is that in Grade 5, he got a Gideon’s New Testament and he read it and he didn’t put it into practice, and in Grade 5, I got a Gideon’s New Testament and I read it twice and I did put it into practice. That was the difference. I had the awareness of the moral law (i.e.- wisdom) that allowed me to judge my parents and judge my peers and judge my teachers and stand alone. When you cannot rely on anyone to lead you, be able to judge when others mistreat you is very important. That is what allows you to maintain appropriate boundaries and minimize the influence of friends and family who are teaching you self-destructive behaviors. Awareness of the moral law is what allows you to stop trying to please people who do not want what is best for you. On the other hand, God is always willing to give you wisdom if you ask Him for it, and you can find out all about him because he has left plenty of evidence concerning his existence and character for you to find. It is in knowing God as he really is that you can find your sense of value, purpose and meaning. The God of the New Testament is the God of people who are lost and need a Savior.

For me, Christianity was a simple matter of being willing to go along with what was true, and not insisting on having fun or conforming to peer expectations. The essential characteristic of my faith, in contrast to my older brother’s lack of faith, was this – I did not mind being different, so long as I never lost a debate about what was true. My obedience to Christ has never been conditional on things going my way, on being liked, or anything like that. The only thing that mattered was being factually correct. It never bothered me what other people were doing, or what other people expected me to do, so long as I was acting on what I knew to be true. And God helped me to find out what was true by motivating me to study, and leading me to him with good evidence, and good mentors. Thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, the mistakes I made early did not count against me, and they never will. Jesus’ death on the cross gives me the imputed righteousness that I need to stand before God holy and blameless. This is what allows me to keep learning and keep trying no matter how much I fail on any given day.

How has this affected me? Well, this is the second thing I wanted to say about the bummer lamb analogy. Since I was a victim of this hands-off, me-first style of parenting, it’s caused me to be extra sensitive about being a good spiritual leader to others in the same predicament. The people I mentor can see it in the way that I treat them . I treat them the opposite of the way that my older brother and I were treated. I care what people read. I care what courses they choose. I care what they eat. I care how they feel. I care about their finances. I care about their plans to serve God. I care about their romantic relationships. I care whether they get recognition for doing good. I care whether their life is going in the right direction. One person I mentored who once considered taking her own life wrote to me when she graduated from a STEM program, and she said this: “I wish you could have been here at my graduation. My parents only paid for this degree. You were the one who got me through it”. We have never met in person, but she is going to continue to make a huge difference for Christ and His Kingdom going forward.

I think when you have been a bummer lamb, you are extra careful to make decisions that will enable you to be a good shepherd to other lambs. Being a good shepherd does not mean being pious, spiritual, mystical, etc. Being a good shepherd does not mean making the lambs feel good about making bad decisions. Being a good shepherd means understanding what God has done to lead you, and then reflecting that love back to others in practical, self-sacrificial actions that solve actual real-world problems for other people who want to know and serve God. If you are about to jump off a cliff, the last thing you need is someone with no wisdom or experience telling you that God is OK with you doing whatever feels good to you. What you need is someone practical and competent to give you good advice, however much that advice may make you feel bad, or block your pursuit of fun.

One of my friends proof-read the draft of this post and told me that it made her think of 2 Cor 1:3-5:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Nothing else I do in life matters to me as much as taking care of the people I mentor, especially the ones who are lost and lacking guidance and care. I have good health, good education, good career, and great finances. But by far the most important thing I do is following the example of the Shepherd by caring for other lambs.

J. Warner Wallace: I am not a Christian because it works for me

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Here’s a must-read post from Cold-Case Christianity author J. Warner Wallace.

Excerpt:

Life on this side of my decision hasn’t always been easy. It’s been nearly seventeen years since I first trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. I still struggle to submit my prideful will to what God would call me to do. Christianity is not easy. It doesn’t always “work” for me. There are times when I think it would be easier to do it the old way; easier to cut a corner or take a short cut. There are many times when doing the right thing means doing the most difficult thing possible. There are also times when it seems like non-Christians have it easier, or seem to be “winning”. It’s in times like these that I have to remind myself that I’m not a Christian because it serves my own selfish purposes. I’m not a Christian because it “works” for me. I had a life prior to Christianity that seemed to be working just fine, and my life as a Christian hasn’t always been easy.

I’m a Christian because it is true. I’m a Christian because I want to live in a way that reflects the truth. I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative.

I think this is important. There are people who I know who claim to be Christian, but they are clearly believing that God is a mystical force who arranges everything in their lives in order to make them happy. They are not Christians because it’s true, but because of things like comfort and community. But people ought to become Christians because they think it’s true. Truth doesn’t necessarily make you happy, though. Truth can impose intellectual obligations and moral obligations on you. Seeing God as he really is doesn’t help us to “win” at life, as the culture defines winning.

Winning in Christianity doesn’t mean making lots of money, or being famous, or winning human competitions, or being approved of by lots of people. Winning for a Christian might involve things like building relationships with people and leading them to know that God exists and who Jesus is. That has no cash value, and it’s not going to make you famous. Actually, it will probably cost you money and time, and make you unpopular with a lot of people.

The Bible doesn’t promise that people who become Christians will be happier. Actually, it promises that Christians will suffer for doing the right things. Their autonomy will suffer, as they sacrifice their own interests and happiness in order to make God happy, by serving his interests. Christianity isn’t something you add on to your before-God life in order to achieve your before-God goals. When you become a Christian, you get a new set of goals, based on God’s character and his design for you. And although you might be very successful in the world as part of serving God, there is no guarantee of that. Christianity is not life enhancement.