Updated: Oct 12
"Waybread" is food designed to strengthen travelers on a long journey. This little weekly column is intended to offer reflections that will strengthen and encourage you in your own long journey in following Christ.
I think it's safe to say that if you're reading this, you would like to be more like Jesus. Part of the reason for this is that we realize how UNLIKE Jesus we actually are. In our best moments we long to be more like Him and hope that one day we will be – so we keep going to church and reading our Bibles and praying the best we know how, all the while knowing that we're coming up short, but we have hope that one day it'll all come together and wonderfully, miraculously, be like Jesus.
Do you realize how good it is that this is the desire of your heart? I can't tell you what encouragement it gives me to attend worship with a group of men and women who are committed to growing in Christlikeness! But have you noticed that almost as soon as you start you run into problems? I want to talk about three of those problems.
The first problem we run into is that we haven't given much real thought to what "looking like Jesus" really looks like. A couple weeks ago I said that there will come a day when none of us will look the same, but we will all look like Jesus. So let me ask you: If you (yes little old you!) looked more like Jesus, what would that you look like? We all have different interests and passions and abilities, and on top of that, when you became a believer you were gifted by the Holy Spirit to be your unique self and to make your own unique contribution to the inauguration of His kingdom. Nobody else can tell you what that "Jesus-you" looks like, it can only be revealed by Him to your deep heart. Are you reading the Scriptures with the intent to hear His voice directing you and revealing Himself to you? Are you asking Him to open up His plans and purposes so you can walk in them and help build His kingdom here on earth? If so, awesome, keep at it! If not, why not start now? I guarantee that this will seem like "small potatoes" to you. After all, you want with all your heart to serve Christ and be like Him, but you can't be that man or woman all at once, friend. It's going to require …
BABY STEPS. Start small. Start where you are. Read your Bible faithfully. Ask Jesus to help you (He will!). And be encouraged by even the smallest progress because you're further along than you were when you started.
The second problem we face is related to the first–we just want to wake up in the morning looking like Jesus. And before our feet hit the floor, we're already discouraged because we're daunted by the tasks ahead of us (most of which we feel inadequate to accomplish anyway), the kids are tugging at our blankets or screaming at each other, or we're reminded of a dozen ways in which our "real" life pales before the vision of a life we once hoped for. Defeat and discouragement are like handcuffs holding us back from real freedom.
I'm here to tell you that the life you long for will not just show up one day when you look in the mirror. You won't wake up one morning and come to the realization, "Oh my gosh, I remember going to bed last night as my old, pitiful, deflated self, but now suddenly I can make breakfast just by speaking the words 'omelette, rye toast, and orange juice, please.' And then after breakfast I'm going to look for some water to walk on!" Real life, Jesus' life, will not just fall in your lap, it's the product of a living faith in the Jesus who lives in you by faith, and with the Jesus you walk and talk with, the Jesus you trust every circumstance, the Jesus you train yourself, day by day by day to live like. When you live this life of faith, His intentions become your intentions, His thoughts your thoughts, His passion your passion, and His love for the Father your love for the Father. Training ourselves in these matters is the work of a lifetime. It's a work of God's grace in us. It's work that's His, but that requires our cooperation, and while we can only do it fitfully at first, even our first little stumbles please Him and before long, we'll be "walking and leaping and praising God" (Acts 3:8). The essential key to Life with Jesus is …
BABY STEPS. Re-think your expectations for how Christlikeness will occur for you. Give up on the instantaneous and invest in the slow, small, incremental growth of mustard seeds and fig trees and olive gardens.
Real life, Jesus' life, will not just fall in your lap, it's the product of a living faith in the Jesus who lives in you by faith, and with the Jesus you walk and talk with, the Jesus you trust every circumstance, the Jesus you train yourself, day by day by day to live like.
The third problem is just simply giving up. And you almost (almost) can't be blamed for this, can you? After all, Jesus is so far ahead of you! Even the people sitting in the seats next to you on Sunday morning seem to be so far ahead of you! Fear not, friend! Your goal is not to out-Jesus the person sitting next to you, it's simply to become more like Jesus today. When you focus on Him and becoming like Him bit by bit, your neighbor's progress will be something to celebrate (not resent) because you're both aiming for Christ! I like to think of it as standing on a beach in San Diego at a contest to see who can swim to Hawaii. There on the beach are you, Michael Phelps, your grandmother, and every other person who attends Grace with you on Sunday morning. Now, my bet is that your grandmother will likely be toast as soon as her feet can't touch bottom anymore. But I'm also willing to bet that, even if he hasn't been training much lately, Michael Phelps will still be going while you're bobbing and spluttering. And I'm guessing that everybody else will fall into place somewhere a little farther on or a little behind you. My point is this: Compared to your grandmother, you've done splendidly! Compared to Michael Phelps? Face it, you're pitiful. But compared to the goal –Hawaii– if you saw the whole picture from the sky, all of you are much, much closer together than you are far apart. Nobody has any bragging rights. EVERYONE is miles from Hawaii. EVERYONE drowns.
You don't have it in you to be like Jesus. It's completely and utterly beyond your ability, no matter how smart or talented or well-networked you may be. We all need grace – God's favor, God's gifting, God's encouragement, God's power. And that power raised Jesus from the dead, so it's more than enough for you. The way to growing in grace is …
BABY STEPS. Surrender to Jesus, but don't give up. Give up relying on your own efforts, and offer yourself–your will, your desires, your relationships, your frustrations, your failures, your achievements, all of it – to God, and then, do the next right thing.
Remember: Growth happens slowly. Imperceptibly. Pray for a vision of who Jesus looks like wearing your shoes. Don't expect instant change. And keep going–surrender to Jesus, but don't ever give up!
Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.