We are so quick to spit the saying “put your money where your mouth is” when someone is “all talk” and “no action”. Which got me thinking, “do we truly put GOD where our mouth is?”
So, I started looking at things in my own life that certainly don’t correlate to my claimed love for our Lord. The term “Christian Atheist” was used to describe this living arrangement in a book by a Pastor named Craig Groeschel. He explained that being a Christian atheist is when we believe in God, but live like He doesn’t exist. He truly opened my eyes about many things and is the reason why I chose to write the following blog. I invite you to reflect and look at your own lives too. How many times have we insisted to attend the Liturgy after a late night out? With all our power, we try to keep our eyes open, but just as the priest starts saying the Absolution of the Servants, very early in the Liturgy, we find ourselves falling to our chairs…
What seemed to be a 35 second slumber somehow becomes the rest of the Liturgy as we are awoken by our neighbour for Communion! So, without fail and shamelessly, we wipe our slobber and wobble over to the line. “Wow, two hours went fast this time,” I remember telling myself. “It must be because I’m so at peace at Church that I could finally rest without anxiety,” I convince myself. Although this is true at the time, it is definitely not an excuse to doze off.
Church and the Liturgy aren’t a lecture you can just skip, then pass the exam. We must be diligent and always “watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).
In a 21st century context, “attending” the Liturgy but not connecting with God is like going to a party, where you forget all your worries and are momentarily “happy” but you don’t bring a gift and completely disregard the host/hostess of the event. It’s common courtesy to at least say “Hi,” right? What’s my point? My point is that it’s not only expected for you to show up, but to give your heart to God while you attend His spiritual party. King Solomon reminds us of God’s beautiful promise: “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26). So simple, yet so hard. Instead, we do the total opposite. We guard our hearts and depend on our own knowledge rather than fulfilling the instruction to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”, knowing that in return for our acknowledgement of Him, “He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We’re constantly distracted with the world and forget Him. How often do we attend the Youth Meeting and suddenly, our phones are blasting with a Justin Bieber track because Georgianna texted? And of course, it would be “rude” to leave her waiting for a reply so obviously, we tune out of the talk and tune into our conversation with our friend? A couple of messages later and voila, “Glory be to God” – the talk is finished! Guilty. If not that, our minds are clouded with worry and Satan uses it to his advantage. For example, we manage to finish 3 series, 10 movies and a documentary about bees without hesitation, but the moment we start doing something remotely Christ-based, e.g. Church service, talking to someone in need, Bible study or prayer etc. our pupils dilate and our hearts speed faster than Usain Bolt because we suddenly have a million things to do and no time left. At times like these, we need calm ourselves and trust in Him. Hmm trust, it’s an interesting topic, isn’t it? This brings me to my next point.
How many times, when life is sailing sweet, do we look up and tell God that He’s our comfort, joy, redeemer and that we trust in Him? But then at failure’s door, we blame Him and ask where He’s been! I’m confused: do we trust Him or not? Often, we think He’s out to get us as though after a couple of good months, He’ll suddenly surprise us with a disaster to test our reaction. No, our God is just and merciful and we must trust in Him and say, like Job the Righteous, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) He may be trying to tell us something through these “horrible” experiences and it is our duty to stay tuned to His word during these times.
Again, how often do we engage in conversation about absolutely any topic under the sun, e.g. who’s getting married, who broke up, what Fabian was wearing to church 6 weeks ago, etc. but fail to mention the One who made us who we are? Guilty. Can we remember every time a non-Christian hopped into our car and we decided to skip the Christian songs on our playlist? Guilty. Although our hymns are of more benefit that what the world will flood our ears with, we remain focused on the what the world has to offer and our image in front of people and forget the Creator of Life Himself. I remember that I was once walking around the City and stopped to appreciate an incredible jazz player entertaining the public. As I stood there, appreciating this lost art form, a group of youth stopped and began to chant loudly and bow down to this man. In a way, we do the same. We worship materials and not God.
So, how do we worship matter and forget God? Two main examples are time and money. We worship money in the sense that we praise our income but curse the spendings and are never satisfied with the amount we have. As for time, we want to live and experience but curse the wrinkles that come with age and are never completely satisfied with how we look and live. Yes, money is essential to live in the world today but “give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). We cut back on our tithes and time in the service to make time for other worldly matters and forget that we have been warned of “redeeming the time, because days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). So, worship God instead. Seek Him, give Him of your time and possessions and let Him guide you because in God we can praise, bask in His presence and be completely satisfied.
Finally, how many of us fast all of Lent, beat our chests throughout Passion Week but coming back to regular Sundays, life’s back to what it was? Yeah, I can blame the food coma too but truth is, we don’t really know why we without direction when left on our own. So often we are told, “Behave like Christ because you might be the only Gospel others read”. So, we tend to just follow blindly without understanding our faith and what our purpose is. I was once stopped by a girl in her mid-20s who proclaimed she was a believer and gave her life to the Lord. Intrigued with her passion, we continued talking as time passed and what seemed to be a same-paged chat vigorously changed as I noticed we were two different books altogether. I paused when she said, “I follow Him and He speaks to me, but at the end I do what I want, I live my life”. Confused, I asked her to clarify. She responded, “He shows me the right path but I do whatever I want”. Still confused, I then asked, “What religion are you?” and bizarrely, her response was “I don’t know”. I thought about those last three words for a while. How could she not know? It doesn’t make sense. But I guess, in many ways we’re the same. We preach, pray, love and follow what we are told (mostly), but when it comes to the nitty gritty of the Coptic Orthodox faith, we are lost and do what seems right to us. When we are confronted by questions about our faith, more often than not, we aren’t actually able to fully answer the question. Friends, I encourage you, if you are unsure, ask. Don’t be held back by the wants of this world. Persevere to understand your faith, delve into the knowledge and remain steadfast in the narrow path!
I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of all the things mentioned here. Though, if there is one thing that I have learned, it is to never give up trying to change. No doubt we will fall many times – scrape our knees, create blisters and probably break a few bones along the way but don’t get discouraged and never doubt His love. No matter what you have done in your life, God will welcome you with open arms. Depend on Him and remember that you “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” you (Philippians 4:13).
SAYG ~ Monica Ghali.