Bob Newhart has a hilarious comedy skit as a psychiatrist. His therapy is a simple, two-word solution for problems — “Stop it!” If you’ve never seen it, click on this link–Stop it! for a good laugh, but keep reading!
If only solving life’s problems were that simple—to just stop doing something.
Well, in some ways it is. But many difficulties in life continue to trouble us. But why?
Why don’t we just stop doing not-such-good things in order to start doing better things?
The Apostle Paul addresses this in his letter to the Roman church (Romans 7:15–19).
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15, NIV)
What got me thinking on this line was my reading in the book of Hebrews. It’s a comprehensive look at how Jesus Christ fulfilled and superseded all that is written in the Old Testament Scriptures.
After remembering the many heroes of faith in Israel’s history, a strong exhortation is given in the next chapter.
Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. (Hebrews 12:1, GW)
Under the Old Testament Law, obedience was required not just expected. But the Law required perfect obedience, which no person can perform (Galatians 3:10–11, NIV).
This is the point of the book of Hebrews—
we are to trust in Jesus not our own efforts to be good.
Just stop it!
Over the years, I’ve known many Christian believers who try to live as good Christians. When they’re frustrated in their efforts and come to me for advice (as their pastor), I tell them to— Stop it!
Many would say, “But aren’t we to lead lives pleasing to the Lord?” Of course, but we go about it the wrong way.
What Does God Want Us to Do?
A question about God asked over and over in one form or another boils down to-What does God want us to do? It may get…
We don’t need to try to be good Christians. It’s not an issue of our efforts to be better, to improve our behavior or thought life.
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2, GW)
When we’re focused on improving our self or trying hard to be good—we’re focused on ourselves, not Jesus.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, Jesus says we are to deny our self if we want to follow Him (Matthew 7:24), not focus on our self. He wants us to focus on Him, to put our faith—our trust—in Him, not ourselves.
It’s all about relationship
Being a Christian is not about trying to do better, it’s about being in relationship with God.
The popular saying of the Jesus Movement of the early ’70s was, “It’s not about religion, it’s a relationship.”
My children are my children, regardless of their behavior — they just are.
Each of my children was born into our family, and although there was some labor on my wife's part, they did nothing to become our children and do nothing to maintain their place in the family as our children.
For a quarter of a century, my wife Susan and I worked with abandoned and abused children and young women.
Without exception, the most important thing for each of them was being connected to their family.
In many cases, they needed a substitute family through adoption.
It is amazing how strong a bond this is — the bond between child and parent.
In the case of the abused girls or young women, Susan and I, along with the extended family at Rainbow Village, became a surrogate family. This was and is important.
We were known as “Mama and Papa” because of the relationship we had and still have with them. This was an important element in their recovery from abandonment and abuse.
The family of God
It works the same way with believers within the Body of Christ—the church community. It is the extended family of God.
The church is a community and the extended family of God.
It is to be a community where acceptance and forgiveness are found.
A place of healing and restoration.
A place of nurture and growth.
A place of belonging.
If you’re trying hard to be a Christian — stop it! Just be one. Be a child of God who trusts in Him with childlike faith.
And remember, no family is perfect; neither is any church community. We just need to fulfill our part in this extended family of God.
What about moving forward in this relationship with the Lord Jesus?
Is it possible to just stop it when it comes to our struggle with sin and personal issues? Just as in human life, growth and development is a process over time and requires nutrition, exercise, rest, and other essentials.
Go back and look at these three verses together—Hebrews 12:1–3—observe them carefully. There are a couple of important keys to running the race and growing in faith.
I’ll try to cover this in another post. Stay tuned!