I recently read the book entitled Radical by David Platt. Kudos to Mr. Platt for writing a truthful book that has become quite popular in the church of late. However, as I finished the book I just felt on overwhelming sense of sadness; why should the concepts in this book be considered radical? What the author proposes is that we as Christians live according to the Word of God. To live as Radical Christians, he urges us to first actually believe that God means what He says in His Word and then to obey Him. Um, isn’t that just being a Christian? Isn’t it really just that simple and does it really require an entire book to explain?
Simple, I say. I don’t say it’s easy. It requires studying Scriptures to find out what they say, praying without ceasing, and then doing what God tells us to do in our daily lives. It requires constant diligent thought about our actions and words. It requires discipline. But if we call ourselves Christians, this is the way we must live. After all, we are bought with a price; we do not belong to ourselves but to Christ.
Unfortunately, this is considered radical living in America today. Most people do what they want to do, whether they call themselves Christians or not. They make their decisions based on what they want or what they think society expects of them. It doesn’t seem to occur to most Christians to ask God first before making decisions about what to do, where to work, where to live, whom to marry. They do what they want to do or what they think they should do and pray afterwards for God to bless their decisions. Most Christians do not study the Scriptures or spend time listening to for the voice of God to guide them in their daily lives. American Christians are individuals first and Christian somewhere down the list. So how do we change this downward trend? How do we raise our kids to be “radical” Christians; in other words, how do we raise our children to take God’s Word seriously and live in obedience to Him? I know of only one way. We have to live our own lives before our children as examples of truly Christ-like behavior.
I was fortunate in having parents who raised me this way. God gave them jobs to do, and they did those jobs, regardless of inconvenience or expense or hardship to themselves. The jobs God gave then were many.: leading the youth, teaching classes, leading the choir, volunteering at the hospital. They included us kids in their ministries, as well. Their biggest ministry was to missionaries: they built a cottage on our property where missionaries on furlough could spend time with their families, resting and refreshing themselves in the Lord without interruption. It was a great blessing to a great many hard-working Christians who needed just such tangible encouragement. My dad would work at his “regular” job all day, and then come home and work all evening and into the night building and then maintaining this cottage. We kids were allowed to help as our capabilities allowed. Many a nail in the sub-flooring is crooked and bent because I had not yet learned how to wield a hammer properly! But it taught me a valuable and lasting lesson. Listening to God and obeying His voice is more important than anything else we might want to do with our time. We sacrificed a lot of time and energy to this ministry, but we were doing God’s work and so it was worth it.
Many years ago, when my husband and I were still young, I had a dream. I dreamed Rich and I were in a strange house, going over it to make sure it was ready to receive those for whom it was meant to serve. I had the distinct idea that it was some sort of halfway house and that Rich and I were houseparents. We inspected every room, and then Rich turned to me and said, ironically, “This is not our dream house. But I know this is what God has for us. I know we are in the center of His will.” I was agreeing with him as I woke. The next day, Rich began to tell me of a dream he had had. He and I were in a strange house, going over it to make sure it was ready to receive those for whom it was meant to serve. Well, you can guess the rest: we had both dreamed of the same house. We spent a fun hour describing it to each other as if we had actually visited it together. I don’t know if we were meant to take this as a literal prophecy or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were. But the point is, this house certainly represents our life together: not at all what we would have picked out for ourselves, but definitely in the center of God’s will. If Rich and I had our own way, we would be living in the woods in utter seclusion, raising our own food and shunning society as a whole. Instead, God plunked us in the middle of a big city, gave us a house, and sent us a steady stream of people to take care of throughout the years. If you had asked Rich what he wanted to do for a living 30 years ago, he’d have told you his dream was to be a hobo and travel the open road, returning to a little cabin in the woods when he wanted to settle down. Instead, God made him a police officer, a public servant who can’t afford to travel much or very far. I always planned to be a novelist. Instead, I’ve been writing curriculum for 15 years and little else. The wondrous thing is, although we’d have never picked this life for ourselves, we clearly see that it’s the best life for us. We can see God working through us, and it’s fun! It’s hard, and it’s often frustrating and I can’t say I don’t sometimes wish for the quiet of a cabin in the woods. But this life God has given us is fulfilling in ways our dream-life could never have been. There’s nothing better than the knowledge of living in the center of God’s will.
How do we learn God’s will for our lives? Can I open the Bible and find a verse that says, “MariLynn shall marry Rich and live in Nashville?” I’ve heard people complain that it’s hard to know what God wants for their lives. But God does not want this to be hard. He wants us to know what His will is. If you have a job for your own kids to do, do you make them guess what that job it? Or do you tell them as clearly as you can? If they don’t do what you want them to do, is it because your instructions were not clear, or is it because they weren’t listening carefully, or perhaps not at all? God speaks to us all the time, in many different ways, but American Christians are unaccustomed to listening. There’s always something going on to distract us: TV, radio, news, music, things that keep us busy and unable to sit quietly and listen. It’s up to us to take the time to spend with God, studying Scripture, praying, and listening.
How does God speak to us? He can speak through His written Word. But if we need instructions specific to ourselves, we need to hear the Holy Spirit speaking directly to us. He does this in ways that are tailored to our needs. I need verbal instruction, so He speaks to me with words. Rich communicates best with symbols, so God speaks to him in dreams. We must be prepared to accept what He says to us and obey Him, though. He will not force us to listen and He will not force us to obey. When our children see us living this way, and when they hear us talking to each other about listening and obeying, they will learn how to be “radical” Christians themselves. They may even become better at it than we are!