I had an interesting conversation last night about the houses we as Christians live in, the stuff we have, the money we spend, etc. The person I was speaking with talked about a “conversation” she had heard many times between two pastors. One of them might be called “generous to a fault” – he tended to give away most of what he had. The other saw no issue with using his hard-earned money to purchase personal items. The item used as an example by my fellow coversant was a big-screen TV. The first pastor said that was not of God. The second one disagreed and said it was okay to buy himself a TV. It’s an interesting theological discussion that goes deeper than just whether or not we buy ourselves a TV.
One of the things that prompted this story to be told was a conversation about homes and how we as Christians deal with what we do have, what we could have and maybe, what we should have. Over the course of many years I have felt God nudging me in the area of the “stuff” I have and the “stuff” I dream about having. When I think about the future and I dream about the home Jan and I might someday have, my imagination runs the gamut. One, I think of a nice house with a river behind it and a media room to enjoy movies with my family. Secondly, I think of a simple home with simple amenities. Then, thirdly, I think about a duplex-type home where we could provide a place for people in need to stay for a time and get their feet underneath them. As I consider these options I have to ask, which one does God prefer? which one does God require?
In my mind, that last one pleases God the most. The question is, does God hate the other options? Is it only of God to choose option 3? Is it still of God to choose option 2 since it tends toward simplicity? And does option 1 really just make God mad? Can I be a good Christian and choose the nice home?
In the wording of that question comes the answer. Can I be a good Christian… Can I? You see, the question is not just what is of God and what is not. The question is also what would God ask of me? I find that following Jesus and letting the Holy Spirit influence my decisions means that God is going to challenge me, and He may do it in ways he would not challenge you. Consider the issue of what Peter was told he would face and how it was possibly different from what John would face:
17 [Jesus] asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”
20 Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them. This was the one who had leaned against Jesus at the meal and asked him, “Lord, who is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw this disciple, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain until I come, what difference does that make to you? You must follow me.”
(John 21:17-22 CEB)
The lesson here is that Peter’s call is Peter’s and John’s call is John’s. It is always dangerous to universalize such matters. The key is to pay attention to and seek to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of Jesus. It is not, “does God hate big-screen TVs?” but more importantly, “does God prefer I did not get that big-screen TV?” Our call is our call. Our faithfulness to God may not look exactly like someone else’s faithfulness to God. It may be that God is working with me where I am in my faith journey while working with you where you are on yours (and, by the way, be careful not to assume you are further down the road based on what you are called to do – that can be arrogance or self-pity, which hinders our growth).
So, it all comes down to the question – what would God have you do? If you’re having conversations like I am having, it’s possible that God is wanting you to consider new options in your dreams and plans. It could be that God is using you to prompt others in new directions.
The key to growing in Christ is not to let it go. Don’t dismiss the subject matter because you don’t like it. Don’t decide you must go one way or the other without a real sense that doing so would please God more than the other options. And, if you are like me and you can’t shake the ideas but you also can’t get yourself to move that direction, pray. Pray that God would give you courage, that God would move you in the right direction. But, a word of caution, those prayers can cause major upheaval to your life. God may just answer your prayer by giving you little choice but to go the way you need to go. And that can be a tough road. It will be an amazingly blessed road, but it can be tough. I don’t want you to be afraid, I just want you to be aware.
I’m not sure I did anything more than stir up muddy waters, but such is my calling on Monday mornings at times. I plan to seek God and pray hard. Hope you plan to do the same.
Holy high-five to you,