Faith is under attack. Challenges to us and our beliefs come from every direction.Christians must struggle with countless demands of everyday life. It seems harder and harder to keep contact with the Lord.
We should strive to keep our faith lives healthy and fit, just as our physical and mental selves. Just like other parts of our beings, faith can become cluttered and obstructed; congested with spiritual garbage that has not place in our relationship with God. Here, just as with a blockage of an coronary artery, we can need a stint or the like to relieve the stress and allow full function.
21st century life is complex and difficult; especially it seems, for Christians. Often the future seems to roll over us before we are able to grasp the present. We find conflicts touching faith where ever we turn. In small things and large, our attention is diverted or blocked by countless worldly events and priorities that stand squarely between us and our faith.
Here, let’s take a look at some of the hot-button rifts separating many of us from the fulfillment of our faith and its growth in our lives. Sports events, health matters, political activities, even the exercise of faith itself raise challenges to our faith.
Faith of the field
One competition for faith is on the athletic field. From schoolyards to the Olympics, expressions of faith in Sports are challenged. Prayers during athletic events are increasingly unwelcome.
Also, players’ gestures or expressions that reflect religious convictions draw objections. In some instances, there are efforts to penalize or punish athletes who want to honor God for their achievements.
Disputes about public prayers have led schools and opponents into courtrooms; drawing the legal system into the already entangled mess.
Play or pray?
There is no shortage of discussion about the positions of the organizers of the games and those who object to prayers and such. However, the most important aspect of the subject is typically overlooked by the secular media. That is, the impact on the believing athletes themselves.
To say that many in today’s world object to any mention of God and sincere religious belief, should be unnecessary. But, we must recognize that a sincere athlete of Christian, or other religious heritage, likely carries a desire and commitment to express praises to the Almighty during games.
A devout athlete is placed in the unfair position of having to obey his faith and convictions; or to submit to the authority of humans who administer athletic programs. Certainly, forcing an, often youthful, athlete to make such a profound decision is at least unfair and, at worst, potentially destructive.
Hopefully, these young, strong athletes are still growing and maturing. With the proper guidance and attention, they should be led toward an understanding that would exceed the silliness of those who created the controversy. As a consequence, they could grown to a stronger faith.
Faith or faith healing?
Nothing tests faith like illness and death. A devastating illness or loss of a loved one strikes hard at one’s spiritual outlook and well-being. This is a time when the best spoken words fall far short of soothing pain, anger, and disbelief.
For many, these times are when faith is most needed and often, sad to say, the least helpful. From the time of Adam and Eve to this instant, God’s people have groped and struggled to handle sickness and death. No one has ever found the right formula for all needs.
When we question everything and God
Even worst, mass killings, terrorist attacks and natural disasters shake even the strongest of us. These terrible times reduce us to single-word demands, “Why?”, “How?”, or an emphatic “No.”
We are equipped with a kind of spiritual airbag, if you will. These unimaginable events can put us into an extreme state of shock, followed by an intense grief, then a lengthy recovery and reconciliation. I hesitate to say “acceptance”. We can never accept some things. But we can, with time, patience, care, and support, reach a conciliation with the loss.
These events are the most intense imaginable They can clear away inferior obstructions to faith. As we work through the major loss, we gain perspective on insignificant items that were demanding more attention than necessary.
Who does God vote for?
There are Christian politicians, there are political Christians, and there’s everybody else. These days it’s hard to tell which is which.
Jesus did not associate with the Roman political class. He focused on the poor, the sick, the everyday people; only occasionally dealing with the religious hierarchy up until his arrest and trial.
Jesus exemplified the spiritual life we consistently fail to achieve. His ministry was “hands-off” regarding politicians. Saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” teaches us to steer clear of the political world. Likewise, He emphasized his “kingdom was not of this world,” further distancing himself from the works of unfaithful men.
Faith and politics do not mix well; when they do, the result can be volatile. Such combinations don’t benefit either group. This is even more true at this time as the nation is polarized in the extreme.
It’s the power, stupid
Faith leaders are concerned with salvation and eternity. Politicians are all about contributions, power, and elections. There is little room for the differences to be greater. In this era, the politicians’ goal is to generate and consolidate power in a group or an individual. On the other hand, the faithful person gladly cedes power and control to God; diminishing man’s position to that of a humble servant.
God and country
Say something like this to start an argument: “America is a Christian nation,” or “… a Judeo-Christian nation,” or “…an Abrahamic Covenant nation.” With less than a dozen words, you could ignite an argument that could be endless. Further, it would produce little useful results.
Fussing about Faith
Feuds about faith are the most disappointing. Even worse than political strife, human created differences over religious ideas spawn difficulty for many and challenge our unity. Truth be known, while many different groups call themselves Christian, some of them never speak to each other.
Prejudice, dissent, even outright hatred are expressed among Christians and against each other. Automobile brands, soda-pop makers, and cell-phone producers have nothing over the levels of competition between our denominations.
God is mine, not yours
People seem unable to share anything. They would rather divide it up; or better, just fight over it. This is true for land, money, and even religious groups. Little wonder non-believers have problems accepting the faith we try to share. They see us showing the worst sides of human nature and ignoring the beauty of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Relax, God’s got this
All things considered, humankind has made a pretty big mess of just about everything. How our greed, hate, lusts, and other wicked ways can cause such havoc on the beautiful faith Jesus taught is heartbreaking.
Christianity has been commercialized. Faith has been usurped. Obedience has gone out of style. Dissent and discord are the order of the day. We are turning the great commission into the great omission.
We acknowledge that God created the universe, but argue about everything that has happened since. People of faith must learn that God has control.
God’s people must muster their faith, take control of their egos and emotions and allow God to lead them on the path to eternity. God can handle it. In so many ways, things will work out better if we stop being loudmouthed buffoons and allow God to take control and direct our actions and lives.
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