Before you say, “I don’t believe.” Chapter 9

Are you bothered that your life seems devoid of motivation?

For me, becoming a Christian in the Middle East at the age of 15, was the most liberating thing that has ever happened to me. I came to know God, finding forgiveness and discovering a heart that was passionate for others to discover God in the same way. My motivation was God Himself. I wanted to get to know Him more, to become more like Him, to spend time with Him and His people. He defined me. And for the many years since, He has been my motivation in life.

We are all different personalities, but the ‘God of my life’ fits the pieces together for each and all who trust Him. If we were made to know God, then however much we seem to experience life materially, socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually, we will not be complete until we are made alive spiritually. It is our sin which has deadened us to the relationship with our Maker which we were created to enjoy. Once sin is forgiven, by repentance and faith in Jesus, the barrier between us and God is removed. We are reconciled to Him. By His Holy Spirit God comes to abide in the Christian. This results in a new dynamism, unction, power and motivation to live life to the full, and creates the desire to honour God in all things. Personalities will probably remain the same, but the person changes as God fills them with His presence. That is very motivating!

Atheist and journalist, Matthew Parris, the ex-Conservative M.P., wrote in the The Times (8th January 2009) about faith in Africa. Here are some extracts:

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

None of us asked to be born. Neither did anyone choose their family, the talents they would have, or even the personalities that would be theirs.

Prince William did not choose his parents, nor did the little one born into squalor in an African shanty town. However, the vast majority of people I meet are glad they are alive. Most of us cling on to life – that’s why we try to keep fit, take vitamins, and go to doctors.

But we don’t want to just exist. We want to love life, and live life to the full. How do we get that verve? That is the big question we want answering when life seems so ‘daily’.

Is passion only for the rich, the round-the-world sailor, millionaire entrepreneur, celebrity or footballer? Actually the biographies of many of these people seem to mask or betray emptiness. In contrast, the happiest people I have ever met lived in dire poverty in a slum area of southern India. They had no running water, sanitation or electricity. Their possessions were few. Yet in their church with a canvas roof and no walls, joy, enthusiasm and a sense of belonging to each other was wonderful to see.

Whenever I meet an expert in something, I love to ask them questions. I remember the skills of deep sea fishing shared with me by a fisherman living in the north of Scotland, or hearing of the pressures on a foreign correspondent based in South America. I asked the questions; they filled me in with their answers. So to me, it is significant that when one reads the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – in the Bible, we see that time and again Jesus is asked about life, particularly eternal life. Clearly, people near to Him recognised that He knew what life was all about.

Lost? Jesus said, “I am the way… no one comes to the Father, except through me.”

Jesus said things like, “I am the way, the truth and the life …”; “I have come that they (people) may have life, and have it in all its fullness”, and, “I am the resurrection and the life …” He even went as far as to repeatedly say that those who believed / trusted in Him would have eternal life. Eternal life is not just life never-ending, but life never-boring. It is life with a capital ‘L’, where the true and living God, who brought all things into being, comes to live within a human being, giving life its spiritual verve and eternal destiny with God Himself.

Near to where I live, there is a famous set of five locks on the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. It is an amazing sight to see a canal boat gradually being lifted 60 feet to a higher level by the power of the water underneath. When a person puts their trust in Jesus Christ, they are ‘lifted’ to a higher plane by the power of the Holy Spirit. They come to know God, and He gives a new meaning to everything.

Passion for life is possible because of the passion – the death by crucifixion – of Jesus, and then His rising back to life three days later. When Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem, on the first Easter weekend nearly two thousand years ago, He was dying for you and me. Our sin, was laid on Him. He died that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God.

Jesus, who is the life, gave up His life so that we might know eternal life with God. Heaven is not a reward. It is a gift for everyone who will turn from all that is wrong and trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. There will be ordinary people living near you who themselves have found a passion for life through Jesus. Remember, He said, “I am the life”. His life can be yours. If you will ask Him to take over your life, and bring you to know God, He will.

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