Out of Ur: Why I Sometimes Hate Going to Church
by Greg West
Sometimes I hate going to church. Now, don’t get me wrong, to seemingly contradict what I just said, I really love my church, my church family, our pastors, and just about everything else about it—if I have to miss a Sunday due to being sick or having to work, it really bums me out because I know I’m going to miss something good and my week will not be off to as good of a start as it would have been had I been able to attend. But here’s the deal, sometimes I don’t like it because, just when you think you’re doing fine, lo and behold, the pastor delivers a message that hits you where you live and God slaps you in the face. Not a mean angry slap, just one hard enough to say, “Wake up stupid, I’m talking to you!”
This is how and when you know you’re going to the right church: When you go to worship, to bless God and be blessed by God; to be inspired to go out and make a difference; to come home feeling that God is so good and so good to you—but instead of feeling this way (which you enjoy because it’s a really great feeling), you start to feel…a little bit… uhmm no, a lot actually… uncomfortable. I start out by wondering, “Why does this seat feel so uncomfortable? I swear I sat in this same seat last week and it was just fine.” Then I realize is not a ‘seat’ problem, it’s a ‘heart’ problem. A heart problem because God is speaking to it and it’s making me rather uncomfortable and feeling more than a little picked on.
“The pastor’s been spying on me… yeah, that’s what it is… he doesn’t think I’m good enough or that I’m doing enough, so he wrote this sermon to be specifically aimed at me… because he really doesn’t like me like he pretends to… yeah that’s what it is. Fine! I’ll show him… I’ll refuse to make eye contact… I’ll occupy myself by reading the announcements on the back of the bulletin… I’ll look around to see who did or didn’t show up this week… I’ll think about who the St. Louis Rams are going to get beat by this afternoon.”
The above are all pretty good tactics and I highly recommend them, but unfortunately they are not foolproof, especially when you get the afore mentioned spiritual ‘slap in the face’ and you actually start listening to what God has been telling you for the last several months (or possibly years)… “Get out of your comfort zone. Do what you know I’ve already called you to do. Don’t wait for it to happen, go and make it happen… drop everything and go. Don’t wait until it ‘feels right’ or for when it is ‘comfortable’ for you to do so. Do it now… put your faith where your mouth is and trust me to go before you to make it happen. Stop trusting in your own abilities to make it happen because you’ll fall flat on your face every time. Trust me to make it happen, because I will make it happen when you start being obedient!”
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Let me back up a bit and explain what this squirm inducing sermon was about. It was about Abraham—a story I’d heard and read a thousand times. Abraham, who was then going by the slick handle, ‘Abram’, was hanging out in Ur of the Chaldeans. He was doing all right. Maybe not great, but alright. Alright enough that he was comfortable at least. Hanging out, being righteous, loving God, having the occasional Chaldean over for dinner… yep… life is good and Ur is a good place to be. “I think I’ll just hang out here in Ur until I decide to sell off the herds and retire to Florida… yep, that’s my plan, and a good one at that.”
Here’s where the similarities between me and good ol’ father Abraham part ways. There he was in his comfort zone of Ur, when out of the blue God tells him to pack it all up and go to a place he doesn’t know where. Abraham didn’t hesitate… he packed up the whole kit-and-kaboodle and trusted God to take him where He wanted him to go… and God credited it to Abraham as righteousness because Abraham believed God.
As an apologist, one from Missouri at that, I have a ‘show me’ mentality. I want God to ‘show me’ exactly what he’s going to do before I go off half-cocked placing my trust in him without good reason. But the thing is that I already have tons of reasons to do so, and one of them is right there in Genesis, in an ancient story about a guy who’s name God changed from ‘Exalted Father’(Abram) to ‘Father of Many’ (Abraham). I believe that the Bible has been demonstrated to be true, and everything between its covers tells me that God delivers on his promises one hundred percent of the time.The problem is, as an apologist, believing in God is easy, but as a human being whose natural state is sinful rebellion towards God, I sometimes find actually believing God to be a little more difficult.
“Great, now we’re praying and the pastor is asking for raised hands. I don’t need to raise my hand, I’ll just give it to God sitting here praying privately. The pastor, since he specifically wrote this sermon to me individually, already knows I’m not perfect… he doesn’t need to see me actually admit it. Ok, ok… here… I’m raising my hand. Are you happy now—getting me to admit that I’m not perfect, that I can’t do this on my own and that I’d really appreciate your prayers as I step out of my comfort zone, knowing that I’ll have to trust God instead of waiting for the proof of absolute certainty? Are you happy now?!?” Well, he should be happy, because when he sees obedience and humility before God, that’s an occasion for rejoicing.
Are you a comfortable Christian? If so, you might ask yourself if you’re really where God wants you to be—and I’m not talking about packing up and moving (although that might be part of it for some of you), I’m talking about obedience—obeying God to step out of that comfort zone and do something dangerous and trusting Him to take care of you as you do it.
Sure, as Christians, we find our joy, comfort, and peace that is beyond understanding in our Savior Jesus Christ, but at the same time, he also asks that we trust him completely, and sometimes placing your life completely into someone else’s hands is not always comfortable, even when it’s the Creator of the universe and the Author of our salvation—but do you actually ‘believe’ God or are you just believing ‘in’ God?
The Rams are playing the 49ers today and the outcome does not look promising for the Rams, but when we obey God, the outcome for us is not only promising, it’s guaranteed.