Friction occurs when the desires of my heart and my external reality are at odds with one another. In order to resolve the friction, we are prone to believe the best way to do this is to change our external reality.
Think back to the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4. He’s fasted for forty days and the devil comes to him to test him. What approach does the devil take? “Jesus, you haven’t eaten anything for forty days. I can see that you are hungry. Commands these stones to turn into bread and the problem will be resolved.”
The devil spots the friction. There is conflict between Jesus’ “inner life” and outer reality. So the devil says, “Jesus, you need to alter your outer reality.” Jesus says, “No, I need to nourish my inner vitality.”
The devil’s suggestion to resolve the conflict is for Jesus to change his outer reality: command the stones to become bread. But Jesus vehemently opposes this tactic. Jesus says, “I don’t need to alter my outer reality. I need to feed my inner life on the Word of God.”
Learning to interpret the hard times correctly means embracing a hard-to-swallow truth: the best way through hard times isn’t to change your outer reality, but to feed your soul through the hard times. That’s the Jesus way.
As a Christian, I have more in common with brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries than I do with non-believing citizens of the U.S. If you’ve never traveled internationally and spent time with believers in other countries, this may be difficult to grasp. If you have been blessed to experience this, then you know how incredibly quick a bond is formed in spite of language or cultural barriers. Why is that?
Well, the Bible tells us Christians are foreigners, exiles, refugees, and strangers in this world (1 Pet. 1:17; 2:11). It tells us our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). It tells us even now Christians have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where we’ve already joined with thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly to worship the Lord (Heb. 12:18-24). Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). That’s a lot of important common ground! You will bond quickly with those with whom you have a common core identity.
This world is not our primary home or identity. We swear absolute allegiance to no one and no thing other than the King of the universe. So, Christian, never be ashamed of being first and foremost a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ.
“I believe in God.”
These are four simple words that seemingly say much. When we hear someone make a statement like this, we might even conclude that person is a Christian. But if there’s one thing the Bible teaches about human beings it’s this: our true nature is often more complicated than the words we speak (SEE Proverbs 20:5!).
So here’s the deal, you can say you believe in God but still trust something else for your significance and meaning in life. And whatever that thing is you look to for your significance and meaning in life is functioning as your real god.
How do you know what that thing is? I would suggest that 99% of the time we don’t know what or who our true god is. It’s only when our god is threatened or taken from us we’re able to identify it.
There’s an easy way to do this. There are usually excessive emotions that are attached to the things we make the functional trust of our hearts. If you find yourself inordinately shaken by anger, anxiety, or despondency, excessive emotions are pointers that lead you to the true functional trust of your heart. In other words, our nerves get touched when our false gods are threatened or taken away.
Our good and loving God uses situations like these redemptively. When we find our nerves have been touched because a false god has been lost, that’s God’s way of saying, “Hey, my child, remember Me? I’m your refuge, your comfort, your security, your significance, your true meaning. Come to Me and I will give you rest."