Let me share a made up story with you, to get you thinking about how you relate to God.
Imagine you are catching up with a friend and asking how things have been for them lately. They tell you they have had many challenges and didn’t think they would cope, such as struggling with depression and grief. They then tell you that they were introduced to Charlie and he took care of it all and now they feel fine.
You wonder, “Who’s Charlie?”
Then you bump into someone else who you know has been through a tough time. They tell you they were struggling with guilt and shame over what happened in their business and family and the mess they made. They share about the great depth of pain they carried and how they wondered about taking their life. However, they were introduced to Charlie and Charlie took care of the whole thing and now they feel wonderful and are getting on with life.
You ask them, “Who’s Charlie?”
They are surprised. “Don’t you know Charlie?” they ask. “Oh, you’ve got to meet Charlie. He’s wonderful.”
A little later you meet another friend and ask them, “Do you know anything about Charlie?”
They react with a scowl. “Charlie is a fraud!” they assure you. “It’s ridiculous how people think so highly of him.”
You say, “I’ve met people who have been really helped by him.”
“They just think they’ve been helped”, they rebut. “All Charlie did was give them a reason to find their answer inside themself.”
Another friend meets you and asks if you’d like to go to a meeting where Charlie is expected to show up. You are not sure what to think of Charlie, so you decide not to go. You don’t want to look silly in the eyes of those who don’t like him.
After more investigation you hear two opposing views of Charlie. To some he is a miracle worker and a vital part of their life, while to others he is ignored and despised as worthless.
You also find that those who are Charlie’s friends have a change of values and tend to withdraw from all the normal things people do. They are more careful about how they live.
That makes people think these people look down on others, but that’s not what you find from your Charlie-fan friends.
What you do notice is that those who have Charlie as their friend have Charlie’s help when they need it. Others have to struggle through issues on their own. Those who know Charlie definitely get through issues much better than those who don’t.
But there is deep feeling on both sides. Some people love Charlie and sing his praises all the time, while others can’t stand to hear him spoken about. Charlie seems to have the effect of making people take sides.
Some of your friends have a very casual connection with Charlie, appreciating him as a kind of insurance policy if things go wrong. At the same time they get on with life like everyone else and play down their connection with Charlie, so others accept them.
Those who get too excited about Charlie seem to lose interest in all the important things in life, like money and possessions and succeeding in this world. They want to help Charlie help others. It’s a shame to see them lose focus on life, and take the ‘Charlie’ thing too seriously.
Your problem is that you can see great value in knowing Charlie. You’ve never met him, but you can see what he has done for others. But you don’t want to be mocked by those who are anti-Charlie. So you have to decide where you stand on the question of Charlie.
If he is everything people say about him, then you really need to meet him. But if he really is that wonderful it could undermine all the things you currently live for.
You hear that Charlie doesn’t have a house or a job. He isn’t respected as a business leader, financier or academic. He wasn’t a great sports star or a pop icon on the screen. He isn’t a great singer or poet, or anything you can make money out of. He doesn’t promise to make you rich or famous or successful in your endeavours.
Instead he calls you to live for those intangible things, like peace and joy and loving others.
Charlie seems to make all the other things we live for look cheap and nasty, temporary and selfish. No wonder people get offended by hearing about Charlie.
You find yourself caught between your love for the world and your intrigue with Charlie. If you meet Charlie and decide to be his friend it will probably mean dropping your love for all the things you’ve slaved for over the years. You’ll have to admit that you were chasing the wrong things. You’ll lose some of your friends. It’s a tough price to pay.
Maybe if you were facing some kind of disaster, you’d have an excuse to meet Charlie. But things aren’t going bad at the moment. The goal posts keep moving away from you, but you keep getting the feeling that with a little more effort and a little more persistence you can actually get to the place of happiness you know is out there.
But that is an admission in itself. You are still chasing something. You are not sure what it is, but you keep feeling that if you can just reach the next milestone you’ll be close to something that really fulfils you. Sadly all the past milestones just pointed you to the next thing to chase.
Maybe Charlie can change that?
Friends, that’s how people try to process the idea of Jesus in their life.
Where do you stand as a friend of Jesus?
Let me assure you that knowing Jesus is a totally life-changing experience, and the change is for your good. And yes, the things of this world are empty and will never satisfy.
And if you’re one of those who wants Jesus and the things of this world, then you are living a compromised life and missing so much of what God has for you.
So think about it, and decide that you really need to meet Jesus and be His friend.