when our faith doesn’t help us

As always, this is me processing, not preaching.

night vision goggles

Faith in God has all kinds of purposes. It’s there to serve us in multiple ways through our inevitable rough patches of despair or anxiety. It’s a source of hope and confidence that our troubles are temporary. The awareness that God is working with a much bigger picture than what we can see helps us to release control and trust that no matter how hopeless, broken, and impossible these sufferings seem to be from our end, God can bring blessings through them.

A faithful life is also meant to be our road map to happiness. Our inner prodigal son can pursue as much worldly pleasure as he wants, but will eventually realize that pleasure is not the same as happiness. Just ask any kind of addict. Genuine happiness, which we’re all after, comes when we do things the way they were designed to be done from the beginning. And that’s a consultation only God is qualified for. You can read more about this in a different article I wrote called the fallback motive.

That’s about where it ends for anyone who considers their faith to be a strictly personal, covert aspect of their lives. These are the people who consider themselves to be Christians with much of the same logic I use to consider myself a Grammy-award-winning singer who only chooses to display my amazing talent in my car or in the shower.

Being the first one to bring Jesus into a conversation will make each of us a little uncomfortable sometimes, regardless of how strong our faith is. That’s natural because the world works in direct opposition to a surrendered life for Christ. But to the covert Christian, publicly owning their belief is considered an unnecessary step of faith that is avoided at all costs. Faith is there only to serve as a kind of insurance policy, or maybe a self-pat on the back.

The New Testament is a disastrous minefield to the covert Christian. Verses like Matthew 5:14-16 where Jesus calls his followers to be the city on a hill and the light in a room must be carefully navigated around and ignored. Otherwise, they might actually start to believe their faith is for more than just their own benefit. These verses (and additional landmines listed below) actually reveal one of the biggest purposes of faith, which is to help others.

Jesus’ imagery is crystal clear in Matthew 5. The city on a hill announces confidence and strength to its neighbors. It has the 360-degree vantage point that makes it easily defensible, and therefore a foolish target to challengers in the first place. It holds a position that does not aim to hide its presence from those traveling by. Instead, it proudly proclaims itself from a long way off as a place of rest and refuge. To that weary traveler, it’s an encouragement to know there’s help just up the road. The secluded one-bedroom cabin in the woods (covert Christians) directly opposes this picture.

The light in the room is one of my favorite analogies that Jesus used to illustrate our purpose. When one person brings a flashlight into a dark room, everyone in that room can now see the world around them better. The more lights in the room, the less groping around, tripping over furniture, and knocking stuff over there should be, even for those not holding a flashlight. The main thing for the one holding the torch to remember is to not arrogantly shine the light directly into someone else’s eyes. For the person who’s eyes are still adjusted to darkness, a flashlight shone into the face is one of the most annoying and even painful things that the inconsiderate jerk holding the light can do. Hopefully you understand what I mean by that.

Besides the fact that the technology was still a couple thousand years away, there’s a reason why Jesus didn’t say he wanted us to be like night vision goggles. Covert Christians would probably love to think of their faith as night vision goggles (in fact, they already do whether they know it or not), because night vision goggles are only helpful to the person wearing them. They’re used so that others around them are intentionally left without their strategic advantage. For someone called to love others, that doesn’t sound so loving.

So what exactly does this idea of faith not being hoarded look like? How do we share it without shining the light into people’s eyes? Contrary to what we tend to think about witnessing (and what likely prevents many of us from doing it all together), it doesn’t have to annoy or offend, which is what often happens when we try to be the witness and the prosecutor. Witnessing means to simply share what we’ve seen and give a warm invitation to our audience to come see for themselves. There’s a previous article about this as well called credibility. It can be done without a bicycle and a white button-down shirt, and without the answers to every question. The prosecutor’s job of persuasion is out of our hands, and thankfully so. Witnessing and acknowledging Christ can be built into our lives as naturally as our morning routine if we view our lives simply as a chapter in God’s autobiography. It’s a story that’s meant to be shared in a way that makes one thing clear: the main character is not us.

A faithful life is first and foremost to honor a holy God… who He is and what He’s done for each of us through Jesus. It’s meant to illuminate that encouraging reality to others so they can take refuge there alongside us (with their own flashlight).

More landmines for the covert Christian:

  • Matthew 10:32,33 … Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
  • Romans 1:16 … For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…
  • Mark 16:15 … He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

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