Why isn't life everything we expected it to be? And why doesn't our faith resolve our frustrations and problems?
Kevin Myers, the founding pastor of 12Stone Church, a congregation of more than 30,000 active attenders near Atlanta, believes the reason we don't experience a transformed life is that we fail to grow up spiritually. We focus on developing physically, intellectually, emotionally, and financially, yet our faith remains immature and anemic.
In this powerful new book, Myers offers a deep yet simple roadmap to a grown-up faith through understanding the whole context of the Bible, developing spiritual intimacy with God, and gratefully embracing holy obedience.
As you understand the Bible and the big picture of God's story with humanity, you begin to find answers to life's most compelling questions. As you begin to understand God more, your longing and ability to experience spiritual intimacy with him increases, as does your desire to obey what God asks of you and your ability to follow through. This is the way to the bigger life, a life even better than you expectedor even dreamed possible.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Kevin Myers is the senior pastor of 12Stone® Church, one of the largest churches in the United States. A gifted communicator, influential leader, and strategic thinker, Kevin planted the church in 1987 and has grown it to eight campuses. Kevin mentors pastors and church planters, speaks at churches and businesses around the country, and serves on the General Board of the Wesleyan Church as well as the Wesleyan Investment Foundation (WIF), a nonprofit corporation that assists churches with capital needs. Kevin and Marcia, his wife of thirty-six years, have four children and two grandchildren.
Charlie Wetzel became a full-time writer in his mid-thirties after working as a sexton, dishwasher, roustabout, waiter, chef, teacher, car salesman, and college dean. A graduate of the University of New Orleans with degrees in English, he has written ninety-five nonfiction books, as well as fiction and screenplays. He wrote "The Candy Shop, " a short film that won the Crystal Heart Award at the 2011 Heartland Film Festival. Charlie and Stephanie, his wife of twenty-five years, have three children and live in north Georgia. When he’s not writing, Charlie is reading, cooking, running, watching movies, and training in martial arts.
Read an Excerpt
Why Do People Get Stuck?
How do you feel when you get stuck? To be blunt, I hate it. I don't like being trapped or feeling powerless. It brings out the worst in me, yet that's where I ended up while on a church-organized trip, four years after we founded 12Stone Church.
I don't remember whose idea it was for a group from the church to go on a white-water rafting trip. I only know that it wasn't mine. I'm not a water person, and I can trace it back to an incident that occurred in my late elementary school years. I was swimming in a lake with some friends, and I swam under a dock because I thought it would be fun. But while I was under the murky water, a chain got caught around my neck and I thought I was going to die. From that moment I vowed to never put myself in a position where I might drown. Yes, someday I was going to die, but it wasn't going to be by water.
So, as you can imagine, I was not excited about a rafting trip on the Nantahala River in North Carolina. But I was trapped. For twenty-nine years I had successfully avoided these kinds of situations, but as the pastor of our small church I had no choice but to go.
As the day of the trip approached, my fear became paralyzing. I cannot describe the intensity of my angst. Every time I thought about it, my heart started racing. I consoled myself with one thought: the professional guides on the rafts know what they're doing, so I won't end up in white water and get sucked underneath.
When we arrived at the rafting center and got out of our cars, I was doing everything I could to make everyone from our church think I was looking forward to this adventure. Only Marcia knew I was anticipating living my worst nightmare.
We met the guides, several women who looked tough, tanned, and fit. You know, the outdoorsy adventurous types who look like they can do anything — climb a mountain without ropes, start a fire in the rain, wrestle a hungry alligator. That was reassuring. But as we piled onto several buses loaded with our rafts and headed to the launch point, I felt like a condemned man.
Then the situation got worse.
"Hey everybody," the head guide said, "we've got so many people that we're two guides short. So we need two volunteers to captain rafts."
If she said anything after that, I didn't hear it. I lowered my head and didn't make eye contact. Evidently nobody else did either.
"Come on, somebody needs to step up," she goaded. Finally, a Caspar Milquetoast guy who looked like he'd never been outdoors raised his hand. "Good. That's one. Who else?" The tension on the bus was excruciating, and nobody budged to relieve it.
As I waited for another victim to volunteer, Marcia elbowed me in the ribs and said, "Oh, be a man!"
I jerked my hand up instantly and glared at Marcia. "Are you happy?"
"Thank you," the guide said. "We have our two captains."
I stared at the floor with knots in my stomach, trying to figure out what had come over me. I didn't want to go on this trip, but I was on it. And I didn't want to captain a raft, but I would be doing that too. Deep down, I wanted to blame Marcia!
After putting the rafts into the water in a calm spot, the head guide instructed Mr. Milquetoast and me on how to paddle and control our rafts. For a moment I thought, This isn't too bad. Then we pushed out into the current.
In seconds, we were screaming down the river sideways, and all those maneuvers the guide had shown us became meaningless. I looked ahead and what did I see? Mr. Milquetoast's raft was plastered like a postage stamp against an embankment. Clearly, I couldn't do anything to steer my raft, so I assessed the situation.
"No problem," I shouted to Marcia and the others in our raft, "we'll just bounce off them and go downriver."
The problem was we didn't bounce. When the edge of our raft hit theirs, the current was so strong that it pushed the leading edge of our raft up and over their raft. It seemed like we were moving in slow motion as our raft turned up on end and started to capsize. As it flipped over, I gave no thought to Marcia or anyone else as I scrambled up and over the top, landing in Mr. Milquetoast's raft. I grabbed my own raft with one hand to keep it from floating away.
There I was, stuck between two rafts, holding on for dear life, trying to avoid my worst fear. That's when I noticed that Marcia and the others were gone. At some point when the raft turned over, they must have tumbled out and been swept downriver.
As I held on in a daze, I realized someone was screaming "Captain. Captain!" It took me a while to figure out that she was talking to me. I looked over and there was the head guide in the middle of the worst part of the current, her raft absolutely stationary. How, I have no idea.
"Captain, get in your boat and go get your people!" she shouted, and I thought, I didn't want to be captain, I'm not captain, and I don't have any people. I'm going to climb back onto land and walk the four miles back to my car.
"How am I supposed to do that when I couldn't control the raft with an entire crew?" I shouted.
"You have to Indiana Jones it," she said, indicating that I had to lie on my stomach in the front of the raft and paddle downstream. You've got to be kidding me.
As the guide gave us instructions, I reluctantly worked with Mr. Milquetoast and his family to flip over my raft and get back in it. Somehow I made it down the river and found Marcia and the others, none of whom was very happy about the experience. But the end of the story is that we all survived. And needless to say, that's the last time I've ever gone white-water rafting.
Why People Don't Grow Up in Faith
At the time, it was horrible, but Marcia and I have since enjoyed telling the story over the years. It's not often that you experience a series of cascading events that just makes things go from dreaded to awful to worse. But I think a lot of people feel the way I did when I was stranded in the middle of the Nantahala River, desperately holding on to the two rafts. I was stuck, and I didn't know what to do or how to get myself free.
It took an experienced guide to help me free myself from my predicament. She knew where I went wrong and was able to help me navigate my way forward. That's what I want to do for you. And that process starts with knowing how people get stuck.
I think a lot of people sense that faith is the answer to life's questions and the solution to its challenges, yet they still feel stuck. They believe faith can be transforming, yet they haven't been transformed and wonder why. As someone who has been a guide for more than thirty-five years for a lot of people on their faith journeys, I want to help you.
There are many reasons we don't grow up in our faith and get stuck in life. Here are some of them.
1. We Don't Know the Big Picture of What God Is Doing in the World
If I asked you what God is doing in this world and how you and I fit into that picture, what would you say? If you're like most people, you don't have a ready answer to that question. You may believe in God. You may believe he created the world. But why? Why did he give us the Bible? What was he doing during Old Testament times? What is he doing now? Why is the world the way it is? Is this all random, or does he have a greater purpose?
Obviously, these are huge questions, but I believe there are clear and compelling answers. In fact, most of this book addresses these issues. The subsequent chapters answer some of life's biggest questions by revealing the big picture of what God is doing in the world. It will make sense, and you will understand where you are in the picture and how best to live.
2. We Want the Faith Without the Cost
Can anyone develop a genuine grown-up faith without the cost of actually following Jesus? Does a grown-up faith ever put us in the driver's seat instead of Jesus? Can real maturity be costless and casual? The answer is no. We get what we pay for in life.
I want to help you understand this with an analogy. In the early days of Apple, a friend introduced me to some of the company's products, but I was not a fan. You could have called me an Apple atheist. I didn't believe in their promises. But in 2008, I bought my first iPhone and became a believer. Today, I'm among the millions who have bought into the Apple world of electronics. All the family members in my household have their own iPhone, iPad, and computer from Apple. My wife, Marcia, also has an Apple Watch. Right now I'm writing this sentence on a MacBook Air.
Apple says their desire is to "enrich people's lives." Though I may not agree with all of Apple's moral or political values, I believe in their products. Because they are beautiful, simple, and functional, I willingly pay their prices — though I have to admit, they are not cheap.
But what if you wanted an Apple product but didn't want to pay the high price? What would you do? Well, there is a cheaper alternative. You could buy a knockoff, a product that promises the same results but at a fraction of the cost. Several years ago, Time magazine reported on the proliferation of knockoffs mimicking Apple products in the Chinese market. Writer Justin Bergman explained,
One of the earliest models, the HiPhone, which sold for as little as $100, had its share of problems, such as faulty construction and malfunctioning apps. "It's called the HiPhone, I think, because you'd have to be high to actually buy it," Wired associate editor Daniel Dumas wrote in an online review in December 2008.
Companies that sell knockoffs try to make you believe you're getting more while paying less. The idea sounds awesome. Unfortunately, it's not real. The user experience for anyone who buys knockoffs is riddled with breakdowns, malfunctions, and frustrations. In the end, knockoffs usually cost more and deliver less.
That's what many people settle for in their faith. They buy into a knockoff brand of Christianity. They want the real experience, the real value, the real life that comes with real maturity, yet they want to pay a discount price for it. But there are no such shortcuts in the realm of faith. You can't cheat and have a bigger life. James, the younger brother of Jesus, gives us an insightful perspective on maturity in faith and the price that must be paid. He wrote,
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2–4 THE MESSAGE, emphasis added.)
And Jesus himself said his followers should expect to pay a cost for following him. Matthew 16:24–26 says,
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?" (THE MESSAGE)
How many people get spiritually stuck because they aren't following Christ and instead go searching for another church? Or look for another religion? Or throw in the towel and simply drift back into the way they lived before? They say, "I tried Christianity, but it didn't work."
The reality is that they settled for a poor substitute, a knockoff version of faith, because they weren't willing to pay for the real deal — the price of followership. But isn't your soul worth any price you might have to pay to keep it? Isn't having a bigger life worth a bigger cost?
Jesus' invitation to us isn't harsh. It's not meant to harm or burden us. In fact, he made his invitation clear when he said,
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28–30 THE MESSAGE)
Jesus offers a better life, but we have to live it his way to receive it. Going our own way won't work.
3. We Try Out Faith Instead of Training In Faith
I've sat with thousands of people in one-on-one conversations where they talked to me about what's going wrong in their lives. One of the most consistent phrases I've heard over the years is "But I really tried!"
I really tried to love my spouse, but my marriage is still breaking down.
I really tried to get fit, but I can't lose weight and my health is failing.
I really tried to live on a budget, but our finances are still a wreck.
I really tried to walk with God, but my faith still doesn't work.
In most cases they really did try. They've put forth effort. But trying is not enough. Trying can never match the power of training.
I can speak for myself. When it comes to my physical fitness, I've had many seasons when I've tried to lose fat, get fit, and have a better life physically. But most often I have fallen far short of my goals. When I become desperate to get results, I call up a trainer, pay him more than I want, and conform to the demands he makes that I hate. Good trainers make me keep an honest journal of my food intake, my workouts, and the calories I burn. They make me weigh myself daily and send them pictures of my weight on the scale each morning. And I have to be honest, every time I fully follow the training of the fitness coach, I get real results.
In physical fitness, if I say "I'm trying," it often really means I'm making excuses and requiring less of myself than training would. Trying can be a form of self-deceit. And this is true in other areas of life. In the early years of my marriage, I said I was trying to make my relationship with Marcia work. What that meant was I treated her with love when it was convenient and suited me but was a jerk to her when my anger got stirred up. When I blew up, I said it was her fault that I lost my temper. I tried to control my temper, but she made me mad. The reality was, I was making excuses for my verbal and emotional abuse and for not doing what was right for my wife and my marriage. Our marriage changed only when I started to train to be a better husband.
So back to faith. Why would we believe we can follow Jesus by trying instead of training when that strategy doesn't work anywhere else in life? Growing up spiritually comes from training in faith and becoming dependent on God.
Paul explained this idea of training to Timothy when he said that physical training has temporary value, but spiritual training is life changing:
Exercise daily in God — no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we've thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We're banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers. (1 Timothy 4:8–10 THE MESSAGE)
Expecting to develop a grown-up faith without working for it is like hoping to run a marathon without training. We must train. And the good news is that anyone can train spiritually.
4. We Neglect to Engage Our Whole Selves in the Process
Developing a grown-up faith requires the involvement of the whole person. It doesn't come from half measures. We can't be half-in and expect whole results. It's similar to becoming physically fit. To be at your best physically, you need to exercise, eat right, and get proper rest. You can't neglect one of those areas and expect to be healthy and fit.
In the case of spiritual maturity, there are three areas we must always engage: our mind, heart, and will. If those three words ring a bell, it may be because you remember Jesus' answer when asked about God's greatest commandment. He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (with the will corresponding to the soul). Jesus was talking about engaging the whole person.
The mind, heart, and will work together interdependently, and we can't separate one from the other two and still expect to develop spiritual maturity. Let's look at each of them to understand their roles in growing up our faith.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Grown-Up Faith"
Copyright © 2018 Leadership Gravity, LLC, and Wetzel & Wetzel, LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Invitation to a Bigger Life 1
Chapter 1 Why Do People Get Stuck? 7
Chapter 2 Is Life an Accident or Am I Here on Purpose? 27
Chapter 3 Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? 49
Chapter 4 Can I Really Trust God? 70
Chapter 5 Why Can't I Make My Own Rules? 89
Chapter 6 Why Can't God Just Accept Me As I Am? 110
Chapter 7 Isn't Only One Way to God Narrow-Minded? 131
Chapter 8 What Does It Mean to Be Forgiven? 153
Chapter 9 Why Don't Christians Look Different from Everybody Else? 172
Chapter 10 Who Needs the Church? 194
Chapter 11 Are Heaven and Hell Real? 216
Epilogue: What Now? 239
About the Authors 248