Frustration Avoidance: Lessons from Process of Christian Discipleship
Many persons have given up on Christianity in the past, or continue to give up on Christianity because they do not understand “the how” of Christian Discipleship. A large proportion of such people sincerely misunderstood or misunderstand “the how of actualization of life promised by God”, resulting in loss of faith in what the Bible promises those who exercise faith in the name of Jesus Christ.
The source of the misunderstanding lies in what perhaps is the most famous quote from Christian Scriptures, the Bible, which is:
For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, John 3:16, NIV.
If eternal life is a gift, many persons, practicing Christians inclusive, presume accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior renders eternal life automatic — something magically conferred by God, something magical which provides Life hitherto missing in daily grind of living. This presumption, which can be sincere, can be proved to be a falsity from the Gospel According to John, the same Gospel account from which John 3:16 is culled.
Consider John 17:3, which states,
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
The statement above is very clear in its assertion that eternal life comes from knowledge of God and Jesus Christ not acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If this is the case, what then is point of exercising faith in Jesus Christ? The key to arriving at an answer to this bewildering but valid question lies in John 1:12, which asserts,
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
The Analogy of a Race or Sports Competitions
Everyone who participates in a race first must be qualified, essentially pre-qualified for participation. If a tennis player does not perform to a certain level of excellence or achievement, he or she cannot participate in Masters Events. If a soccer club does not finish at the top of its domestic league, it cannot participate in regional championship events, such as the Champions Cup Event for European countries. But if an athlete or sportsman is qualified to participate in a race or contest and for whatever reason refuses or is unable to show up, he or she cannot exert effort required to win the race or event. In presence of qualification for participation, “a no show” implies absence of capacity to win. We find then that pre-qualification and absence of capacity to win via “a no show” can coexist together.
Believing in the name of Jesus Christ generates an invitation from God to acquire knowledge of Himself. How much of God a believer gets to know? Entirely dependent on efforts of a believer.
Analogy from Immigration Processes
Another good analogy of coexistence of pre-qualification and absence of capacity to win can be derived from countries’ immigration processes. Suppose a person is granted a visa to visit France. The visa constitutes an invitation or right to visit and reside in France for some specific period of time. Regardless of conferment of stated right, there exist myriads of legitimate rationales which can induce the outcome that a visa expires without ever being utilized for the purpose for which it was conferred. In such situations, there is conferment of a visa — conferment of a right or pre-qualification, yet there is no knowledge of Paris or France. In the event the visa is utilized, a visitor to France may get to acquire knowledge of what Paris is like, yet have no knowledge of life in Cannes or Lyon or some other famous cities domiciled in France. We conclude then that the amount of knowledge a visitor to France acquires about what life in France is like is function of their effort and resources.
The good news is resources for acquiring knowledge of Jesus Christ are unlimited because the Holy Spirit ultimately is a believer’s teacher. But one cannot learn from a person of whom one is unaware. More importantly, the Holy Spirit will not teach believers outside of knowledge of the Christian Scriptures, the Bible.
Why is refusal to teach outside of knowledge of the Christian Scriptures a just action on the part of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
If a Christian is not interested in what God already has revealed about Himself, why exactly should God reveal new things in private? Absence of desire to know what God already has revealed implies lack of desire for knowledge of God.
Are there any other supporting statements from Christian Scriptures for backing up of the spiritual reality that “how much of God a Christian gets to know is function of efforts expended towards achievement of such objective?” I provide three more.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…,2Peter 3:18.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness, 2Peter 1:3.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him, Hebrews 11:6.
It cannot be any clearer than enunciated in the verses above. Note how in each of John 3:16 and 2Peter 1:3 God has given us life. 2Peter 1:3 makes clear, however, that we do not actualize the life given or conferred if we do not acquire knowledge of Father and Son. God we clearly see in Hebrews 11:6 rewards us with knowledge of Himself conditional on how much of effort we exert for that purpose. First, however, we must qualify or pre-qualify via confession of faith in the name of Jesus Christ. If we show up after our confession and exercise effort with sincerity, no one can take our crown because success — knowledge of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is guaranteed.
In so far as the Christian race is concerned, if you are pre-qualified, show up, and exercise sincere effort, while you may not come first, everyone wins something. There is a prize for everyone.
Analogy for Secular Life
In life we qualify for different things, the most important of which likely are careers, or marriage to someone for whom we have demonstrated sincere care or love. If subsequent to qualification we cease to acquire knowledge of our careers or our loved ones, we will not progress in either sphere in sense of enriching ourselves or our loved ones. A person can be promoted on a job, yet not have enriched himself in so far as a deep understanding of that particular career is concerned. This is the case because mere capacity to do a job can be sufficient for promotion. Capacity to perform tasks does not imply, however, a deep understanding of concepts that underlie tasks performed. In a similar vein, two people can be married for years yet not improve on their understanding of each other because neither makes any attempt to acquire knowledge of the other.
Knowledge deepens who we are; broadens our perspectives; makes us easier to live with. Quest for knowledge must be sincere, however, if it is to arrive at these objectives.
If a man uses knowledge of his wife for criticism, as opposed to arrival at understanding and encouragement, knowledge puffs up and destroys the marriage. Ditto if a woman acts in similar manner. One of the reasons why marriages break up much more easily today is, knowledge makes spouses draw back, as opposed to draw nearer to each other to provide understanding and encouragement within context of the rubric “as your imperfections become more glaring to me, so do mine to you. So we will understand and gently encourage each other to greater perfection.”
There is no such thing as a perfect spouse.
Understanding of importance of our own efforts at acquiring knowledge for enrichment of our lives enables capacity for frustration avoidance.
Harmony Between Spirituality and Life
The Christian God, Jehovah, Father of Jesus Christ asserts it is our knowledge of Him and Jesus Christ that produces eternal life in those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ.
In secular life, whether it be in sphere of careers or sphere of marriage, it is knowledge that enriches our lives. It is the case then that for those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ, we have congruency between how we grow spiritually, how we grow in our careers, and how we grow in that most central of relationships in society, marriage.
Congruency of growth mechanisms within the spiritual sphere, work sphere, and relationship sphere reduces possibility that we become susceptible to multiple personality disorders or cognitive dissonance.
Faith in Jesus Christ qualifies for desired congruency between growth mechanisms we practice in spiritual, work, and relationship spheres of life.
So the Bible asserts, so I have found it to be in my life.
I ask then:
Does your spirituality harmonize with your secular life, such that mechanisms for growth are aligned and you apply the same principles for growth in every sphere of life — spiritual, career, marriage, relationships in general?
We will not find spiritual meaning in or for our lives if we never exert any sincere efforts for attainment of the objective. There is no better time to start than now.