More on Honest Faith Journeys.

Hopefully by now you’ve had some time to digest the contents of Sunday’s sermon about honest faith journeys. Here are a few followup thoughts based on these questions:

  • What does an honest faith journey look like?

  • What are some next steps to standing for an honest faith journey?

  • What are the benefits of an honest faith journey?

What does it look like?

Comfortable seeing the truth.
An honest faith journey means that you have learned to see things about yourself that you are not comfortable with, but, at the same time, you are also learning that this is part of the growth process. You realize that God will continue to work in you and with you to improve you. That’s great news! But please recognize that this is a big step. Some people go their whole lives without being comfortable in seeing their dark side or the soft underbelly of their spiritual self. It’s not easy to see that you are not the perfect human specimen…which leads me to my next point.

“I’m broken.”
An honest faith journey means that you stop seeing yourself as “I’m all that,” or “nothing wrong with me—I’m all good.” It is inherent in the human psyche to believe that we are alright. But the world and its troubles come from broken humanity and that includes me. Part of the faith journey is an acknowledgment that I am a part of the problem.

Questions and doubts.
We start asking more questions of ourselves and also of our beliefs. Part of the journey involves having real doubts, real questions, real concerns that you wrestle with in the realm of Christianity (by the way, this topic in itself could be a whole series). As you open the Word of God’s truth, you will begin to see discrepancies between what you have always believed (tradition and culture) and what God is telling you is truth.

Increased trust.
There is so much more we could list for metrics in authenticating your honest faith journey, but the last one I will put out there is an increased sense of trust. As you take a step in the faith journey and see that God and his people do remain faithful and forgiving, it gives you a greater sense of ease and a greater sense of trust. God’s loving kindness draws us closer to him. Your trust will grow.

What are some next steps?

Be aware.
Start examining what you’re like when stress levels build, when you are hungry, when you are at the end of your rope. This is when some of our negative character traits start to reveal themselves. Do you get more anxious, do you get more irritable, do you dive into a bucket of chocolate ice cream when you lose a friend, your job, your reputation? Stressors can help us to see the real honest you. Be aware of your personality and changes in mood, changes in attitude.

Admit it/own it.
Admit to God in prayer the things that you discover once you pay more attention. It’s normal when you see something negative about yourself to try and downplay what you see, excuse what you see, or even blame it on environment, extenuating circumstances, and other people. We love to explain away issues as circumstantial. That doesn’t excuse what you see in yourself. Own it. Own it and then the next step is to bring it to God and confess it.

Confess it.
Ask for forgiveness. The next step, after owning your issues, involves asking for forgiveness from God first and from others where it is appropriate. Confession is a form of transparency with God and with others.

Accepting poor behavior in others.
Be accepting of other sinners (100% of the human race is sinful) because they are also on a journey. Don’t be shocked when someone shares how they failed or blew up at their boss or even cheated on a spouse. The human heart is riddled with all these sinful seeds that sprout into the hurt and violence that we see in the morning paper or your newsfeed. Also expect others to hurt you—it’s going to happen. Expect it and expect that each person is also on a journey moving from where they are at now to a more positive future, a more positive attitude. And if they don’t yet know Jesus, that journey is going to have a few more potholes. Maybe you are there to help them.

Expect better.
This is not a contradiction to the previous point. We will actually touch on this for this coming Sunday’s message: transformation. No one measures up to God’s standard of perfection—we will always be falling short. But it’s too easy to be complacent and hopeless and just assume that things cannot improve. Where God is at work (through a relationship with Jesus and constant contact with the Word of God) there will be results. There will be improvement. God is working on you to improve you.

List your questions and doubts.
What are your questions, doubts, fears? List them. This is an arena that can easily be avoided because we don’t want to feel like we are not spiritual enough. It feels almost as if expressing those true questions, doubts, and fears is less honest and forthright than hiding them. God has no problem with our questions, doubts, and fears. He is there to help us chip away at them. So write them down and start tackling them. If needed, ask for a pastor’s advice on where to look next for ways to address the doubts, fears, and questions.

What are the benefits?

  • One of the biggest benefits of an honest faith journey is a well-centered ego that is neither over-confident nor deflated.

  • If we are in the midst of an honest faith journey, we don’t have to worry about God humbling us. Remember the last verse from Sunday: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

  • You will find that others can relate to you better when you admit your failures and freakish challenges. We all struggle and those who are prone to admitting it find better connections with others who are also admitting the struggle.

  • You will find that you have more compassion for other sinners.

  • Freedom! There is real freedom in being honest about what you are wrestling with.

This is a lengthy note and trust me, there is still so much more we could share, but take heart! As you find yourself on your own honest faith journey, you will run into other honest faith journeyers, and the support and growth that will take place when you meet is exciting and phenomenal.

Blessings to each of you this week!
Pastor Al