Have you been asked, “If you are a Christian, how can you do that … or say that?” Sometimes I don’t feel much like a Christian, especially when someone makes a remark like that! However, I have to say that my idea of a fulfilling Christian life has changed quite a bit. I was raised on the importance of “food, fresh air, and exercise.” Food was reading the Bible, fresh air was talking to God in prayer, and exercise was telling others the message of Christ (all good things, truly). Then we had to tithe, go to church regularly, believe the right things, and not go to unwholesome places. We were not to tell dirty stories or use bad language. For the most part, I think I did okay most of the time, but I spent far more time trying to keep from sinning than I did loving God and my neighbor. I did find that the more I hung around people who believed and did the same things, the easier it was. I realized finally, that I really wasn’t depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance, but I just had to adjust to the Christian culture around me.
There came a time when I realized that God wanted me to throw away my sheet of do’s and don’ts and beliefs that I was using largely to judge other people (not that the beliefs were wrong, but they had become empty).
Then God asked me to sign my name at the bottom of a blank sheet and let Him fill in what He wanted me to do. As I learned to truly trust Him and make Him the God of my plans and interruptions, life took on a whole new dimension. He has a habit of sending us out as sheep among wolves; praying became a necessity for spiritual survival. The things that were “have to’s” now became the joys of life. Now the results of what I do are not important. The Lord gives the increase … and sometimes He gives us a glimpse of the results.
Years ago, a 1 a.m. call from the hospital for a ride home was definitely an uninvited interruption. This girl had failed in her attempt at suicide. She and her small child spent the rest of the night in our guest bedroom. This was one event in a continuing saga of her dysfunctional life.
Last year my wife took a call I wish I had gotten. This girl called to tell us she is now married, has another child, both she and her husband are active Christians, have a steady home life … and wanted to call when she didn’t have any problems.
The Bible tells us that we are to be known by our fruits, not by our gifts or even our right beliefs. One fruit of the Spirit is love. If we do not have love, we do not even know God, for God is love (1 John 4:7). He adds to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22). These things are not things I am to try to get and refine; these are fruit – gifts from the Holy Spirit, who works them into our lives as we allow Him to fill in that “to do” list to which we signed our name.
“I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly” – Jesus
Written by Wendell Seward Contributed by Marilyn Seward, 2009
Marilyn and her husband Wendell served together in rural pastoral ministry for more than 60 years.