|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Jason Mitchell grew up in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky — which explains his lifelong struggle to pronounce his vowels. Jason is a teaching pastor at Lives Changed by Christ Church, where he has served since 2002. He holds a master of divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary. He lives outside Philadelphia with his wife, Jenny, and their two children, Sienna and Silas.
Read an Excerpt
No Easy Jesus
How the Toughest Choices Lead to The Greatest Life
By Jason Mitchell
Tyndale House PublishersCopyright © 2017 Jason Mitchell
All rights reserved.
JESUS ON A SHELF
I bought myself a coloring book recently.
I can't believe I just told you that, but it's true. It's one of those coloring books that has intricately designed patterns on really nice paper, and it was labeled as an "advanced" coloring book, which helps me feel a little bit better about myself as I tell the story. But to be honest, I'm still kind of embarrassed about it.
It was an impulse purchase, pure and simple, brought on by a sudden fit of inspiration and nostalgia that hit me when I saw my son and daughter sitting at a table together coloring. When I was growing up, I loved coloring, sketching, and filling in the blank spaces on a page. I even won a coloring contest at Apple Tree Day Care when I was five. (My winning picture was a clown face, precisely executed with an assortment of primary colors.) But as much as I loved coloring when I was a kid, I thought my coloring book-buying days were decades behind me. But then there I was, at some crafty store that smelled like a shoemaker's workshop, spending money on an advanced coloring book — with an advanced marker set to go along with it.
You see, I started thinking about how much fun my wife, our two kids, and I would have together as we sat down by a warm fire every evening — each with a coloring book, laughing the entire time while drinking hot chocolate — and about all the places we could hang our creations around the house.
Of course, none of that ever happened. Instead, I used that advanced coloring book once ... I think. And it has been sitting on one of our shelves — next to some really expensive markers — ever since.
I wish I could say this was the only time something like that has happened, but it's not. Over the years, I've accumulated countless items that have become monuments to passionate endeavors that never quite panned out. My shelves are crammed with books I started reading but never finished. I've become fascinated with certain topics for a moment — one time I really got into bees — only to set them aside and move on to the next thing. I have fishing gear collecting dust in the back corner of my garage. And I don't even want to admit how much money I've spent on other hobbies that never got off the ground.
Maybe you can relate.
Perhaps your garage or attic has become the permanent resting place for barely used golf clubs, a pile of unopened scrapbooking supplies, or a kayak that has rarely seen the water. And every time you walk by that guitar case, that blank canvas, or those gardening tools, you're reminded of what could've been. You're reminded that the passion you once had has faded or no longer exists.
The dust collecting on those things we were once so excited about reveals a fundamental truth about life: Passionate commitment without patient persistence leaves behind a graveyard of unfulfilled dreams.
What happens when the passion we felt early on in our relationship with God gives way to the humdrum of daily life? Where do we turn when the fire that once burned so brightly in our hearts becomes a barely visible ember? Hobbies that we never saw through to completion are one thing. At worst, we've wasted our time and money. But what happens when our faith and our hope get put up on a shelf next to the scrapbooking supplies? The potential consequences are much more severe — a wasted life.
This brings me to a dirty little secret that many of the bravest Christians I know have shared with me. Few dare to speak the words out loud, because it feels as if we're taking a slap at God — and it doesn't make us look all that great either. Yet it affects us painfully on the inside every single day.
Here it is: Believing in Jesus has left us disappointed.
Maybe for you it's more than disappointed — you feel disillusioned, maybe even cheated. You expected something more from this whole following-Jesus thing. But it hasn't delivered.
At one point in your life, you were thrilled and hopeful about living a life of trusting in Jesus. But over time your experience has failed to live up to your expectations. Somewhere along the line, your relationship with Jesus lost its richness and intimacy.
Maybe you're discouraged because you feel helpless to make some needed changes in your life. Maybe your troubles feel unbearably hard — where is Jesus in all that? Maybe you haven't achieved the great things for God you once dreamed of. Instead, you're left feeling aimless and confused. You've waited — and waited — for your faith to make more of a difference. But it hasn't. And so you've begun to think, This cant be all there is to the Christian life.
If that's what you're thinking, here's the good news: You're right.
Jesus held out the promise of "a rich and satisfying life." But for many of us, the truth is that rich and satisfying are the last words we would use to describe our current reality. I've felt this way in multiple seasons of my life. And as a pastor, I've heard countless people express the same disappointment to me in different ways.
In listening to story after story of people who have grown disappointed in their faith experience, I've noticed a few common threads: discouragement, frustration, and boredom. Let's see if one of these reasons helps you understand your own situation better.
It's for Them
Have you ever seen other Christians step boldly into risk-taking adventures and wondered, How do they do that? You hear stories of courage in the face of insurmountable obstacles. You see how these Christians respond with compassion and love, even when they are threatened or their patience is tested. In everything they do, they seem to ooze Jesus. Before long, you become acutely aware of the enormous gap between their intimacy with God and your own.
They must have something I don't have, you tell yourself. They must know something I don't know. Before long, disappointment sets in, and you start to believe that a life of deep and abiding faith in God — a life of passionate conviction — is a privilege reserved for someone else.
It's for the spiritually elite.
It's for the pastor.
It's for the ones who grew up in church.
It's for those who haven't made a wreck of their lives.
It's for the ones who have never struggled through addiction or seen the darker side of life.
To be honest, as discouraging as it is, we kind of like believing that a deep, abiding, life-altering faith is for the spiritually elite — because if that's true, we're absolved of our responsibility to pursue anything bigger than our present little lives. As Eugene Peterson says, "We are practiced in pleading inadequacy in order to avoid living at the best that God calls us to." Our discouragement in not being as far along as we think we ought to be leads us to throw our hands in the air and "plead inadequacy." Instead of pressing in, we bow out; instead of moving forward, we shrink back. We settle for a small, safe life and a small, safe faith, because trusting, risking, and stepping out into bold acts of faith for God are for someone else. We accept the disappointing reality that our lives and our faith will never look like theirs.
If your discouragement doesn't come from everything you're not doing, then perhaps it stems from frustration over everything you are doing.
That's Just the Way It Is
Tell me if this pattern sounds familiar:
You say something, do something, or think something that you know isn't God's best for you.
You feel a certain level of conviction about it.
You go to God to confess, repent, and renew your resolve.
And then you find yourself doing it all over again the next day — or the next hour.
Try again. Fail again.
If you live in that pattern long enough, it's easy to finally convince yourself that your temptations, struggles, sins, hang-ups, and habits are just the way things are — that nothing will ever change.
Sure, you still believe in Jesus, but you haven't experienced the power you need to move beyond the destructive patterns that seem to have a hold on you. Eventually, you begin to tell yourself, "I can't do anything about it." And if you say that long enough, all those dangerous, life-sucking patterns become normal.
When we're confronted with the truth about the habits in our lives that aren't leading us to satisfaction and fulfillment, in our frustration we learn to say, "Yeah, I know, but ..."
"Yeah, I know it's really hurtful, but that's just how we talk to each other in our family."
"Yeah, I know I don't have a very good relationship with my kids, but putting in all the hours at work is just the way it is."
"Yeah, I know it's not completely honest, but that's just how we deal with people in our business."
"Yeah, I know I'm suffocating in debt, but that's just how I spend money."
We buy into the myth that the current condition of our lives is just the way it is — continuing to believe in Jesus but feeling frustrated with how things have turned out. It's sad how common this situation is.
Yet perhaps even more alarming and pervasive is the number of people who have simply become bored with it all.
Been There, Done That
Recently, at a neighborhood bistro, I had an eye-opening lunch with a friend I hadn't seen for a while. He's a former college football player, and though I'm not sure how he's managed to swing it, he still looks as if he could go out on the field and dominate, almost two decades after graduation. He's one of the most focused, driven people I've ever met, and he's been successful at just about everything he's ever tried, including his current gig as CEO of an online advertising company. He's married to a great woman, and they have three healthy, active kids. He gave his life to Christ in college, and he has been involved in some type of ministry ever since, usually as a leader.
Everything this guy touches turns to gold. And yet as soon as I saw him enter the restaurant, I sensed that all was not well. Although my friend wasn't exactly slouching, the way he carried himself gave the impression that he was living a much smaller life than his big, athletic frame would suggest.
"So, how have you been feeling lately?" I asked once the food had arrived at the table.
He was silent for a moment, moving his vegetables around with his fork while he thought about his reply. Finally, he shrugged and said, "Bored."
Given all that was going on in his life, and the success he has always enjoyed, I was surprised by his response.
"I always feel as if I'm in the midst of a swirl of energy," he said, "whether it's one of the initiatives I'm launching at work, the role I play as husband and father, or a ministry I'm heading up at church. What nobody knows is that most of the time I'm thinking, Get me out of here."
Though his talent and hard work have delivered the goods in terms of the kind of success that most of us seek, my friend said he has begun to face the fact that all his achievements and rewards haven't made his life any more satisfying. He isn't happy. Compared to where he thought he would be at this point in his journey of faith, his inner life seems pale and shrunken. And he has little excitement about the future. "I'm busy," he said, "but I'm bored so much of the time."
Fortunately, he has already begun to put his finger on what lies at the root of his disappointment. I know this because he said, "Here's what I can't figure out, Jason. How can I integrate Jesus into my everyday life?"
Jesus had become background music to his heavily scheduled life. My friend had gone on for weeks, then months, then years living his life — believing in Jesus the entire time — but never considering how his faith might affect every aspect of his life. He had put Jesus in the corner of the garage, pulling him out on Sundays and dusting him off for an occasional prayer during times of need. But once his faith became disconnected from his everyday life, it was just a matter of time before he became bored with just believing.
In my experience, boredom is the most common source of disappointment with our faith. It develops when we've lost sight of Jesus' promise that he can transform and revolutionize all aspects of our lives — the way we work, the way we parent, the way we love, the way we think, the way we spend our money, and the way we spend our time. Everything.
Too many of us have been lulled to sleep by the daily grind, never considering what it might look like to allow Christ into all aspects of our lives — and we have grown bored with it all as a result.
When we're confronted with the disappointment that comes from bowing out, being beaten down, or growing bored with our faith, we're faced with a pressing question: What will we do next? Will we put the life that Jesus offers us up on a shelf, forever haunted by the thought of what might have been? Or is it possible to experience here and now the rich and satisfying life he promised?
Let's just confront this head-on. Let's own up to the secret we've carried around at times. Can we just acknowledge that we go through seasons when we're disappointed and disillusioned about the life of faith? And can we put a stake in the ground declaring that we will not let that stop us from experiencing and becoming all that God desires for us?
If this is where you are (or where someone you care about is), let me repeat: We don't have to settle for disappointment. A rich and satisfying life is not only possible; it's waiting for you to grab hold of it. Although the path toward that kind of life is not the easiest — it will require us to strike out in an unfamiliar direction over difficult terrain — it's the only path that will ever lead to life in the fullest sense.
I'll be honest — this issue is personal for me. I'm tired of seeing Christians settle for less. I'm tired of seeing Christians miss out on the life they've been promised because they have settled for just believing in Jesus and have never considered how Jesus might actually transform their everyday lives.
It's also personal for me because I've had one too many conversations with friends who see nothing compelling about following Jesus. All the Christians they know are beaten down, have bowed out, or have grown bored. Most people I know aren't looking at the lives of Christians and saying, "I gotta get me some of that!" In fact, for many, it's just the opposite.
Covering Up the Stink
My friend Travis stopped going to church years ago. One day when we were talking, I decided to get to the bottom of it.
"Why did you give up on church?" I asked.
"Let me tell you something that I don't think I've ever mentioned before," Travis said. "I can't smell anything. For instance, if you put an apple pie under my nose right now, I'd get nothing."
I've been in enough locker rooms over the years to know that Travis may have been given a gift without knowing it. But I knew that wasn't what he was saying, so I waited for him to connect the dots between his olfactory disability and his decision to abandon church.
"I remember going to a relative's house for Thanksgiving when I was a kid," he said. "When our family walked in, one of the first things my mom or dad would say was, 'It sure smells great in here!' Me, I didn't get even a whiff of the turkey and stuffing, much less the pumpkin pie. But everyone else seemed to agree about how great it all smelled. So I quickly learned that, if you want to make someone feel good, just say that whatever they're cooking smells great."
I nodded at Travis to keep the story going until it began to make sense.
"One time when I was in middle school," he continued, "I went to a friend's house when his mom was baking cookies. I couldn't smell the aroma, of course, but I remembered how happy it made people to get a compliment on the smell of their cooking. So I tried an experiment. I went up to my friend's mom and said, 'That smells great!' It was a total lie, but she got a big smile on her face and thanked me."
"So ..." I began.
"So that's why I gave up on church," Travis said. "Every Sunday, I'd watch all the people walking around, saying to each other, 'It smells great in here!' But I knew some of the things that were going on in their lives outside of church. I knew some of their struggles. I knew how they treated their family members during the week. And I knew they couldn't smell a thing."
He went on to tell me about a case of child abuse that had come to light in his former church. Many people had known it was going on, but no one had acknowledged it, much less done anything to stop it. They were too busy walking around talking about how good everything smelled.
Travis saw how detached from reality people were at that church. He saw that their belief in Jesus had little bearing on the way they actually lived their lives. And it turned him off to Jesus altogether.
Excerpted from No Easy Jesus by Jason Mitchell. Copyright © 2017 Jason Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
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
Foreword Kyle Idleman xi
1 Jesus on a Shelf 1
2 Grit 21
3 Absorbing the Debt 43
4 Skin in the Game 63
5 We All Bleed 83
6 Getting Naked on That Old Burgundy Carpet 103
7 Lowering and Lifting 123
8 Enough 143
9 A Love That Lets Go 161
10 Second Nature 179
About the Author 209
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book shatters the norm of what you'd expect of most Christian books. It is funny, raw, compelling BUT most importantly transparent. While it is an easy read, it challenges your thinking and arms you with a logical way to live a rich and full life. The ways to get there may surprise you. Often books of this nature tend to give you steps or have a feel-good message that isn't really relevant to every day life and ends when you close the back cover. This book is different. It is hard not to be changed after reading it. I highly recommend this book!
THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ. Well worth your time and money! Jason the author is very gifted and making faith a relevant part of life in this book. You cant read it and not be impacted in some way. I dont finish books and I finished this one!
No Easy Jesus was a book that I had a hard time putting down. Once I began, I was so engulfed in the words that I just didn't want to stop reading. It also brought forth many emotions and thoughts to sift through. After completing the book in less than 48 hours time, I took some time to reflect on what I read then began reading again. I'm thankful for the way emotions and feelings are so relatable in this book. I might be on a completely different path or place in my life than the next person reading, but I truly feel it would speak to us both. I highly suggest having a journal or some thing handy to take notes/write down your thoughts as you read the book. You will not regret purchasing and reading No Easy Jesus.
This book was very readable and is challenging me to turn my faith into actions. The author shares deeply personal stories that really helped me to understand the concepts he was presenting - no dry theology here, yet there is depth, so people who are new to faith or have been walking with Jesus for a while will be challenged to grow deeper in their faith.
When I read this book, I felt like Jason was talking to me. Every chapter touched me in some way and was relatable to my life. This book will impact every reader and change their relationship with Jesus! You will read it more than once!
So excited for my pastor whose book is going to be shared around the world to impact the lives of countless people in immeasurable ways. I have only been going to LCBC for the past 18 months, but every time I've heard Jason speak he has explained concepts in a way that is easy for me to grasp and I've always felt a strong connection to him like I am the only one he is talking to because that is the impact his speaking has on my heart..and has help me grown in my journey tremendously in this time. Share your story no matter what it takes because you don't know how many lives you will end up impacting, including your own. Today on launch day, as people start reading and giving these books out as gifts it will be the beginning of a new beginning for so many people..this book is a glorious unfolding of God's love telling of countless stories of people only to discover something better in the end. Whether you've felt good about your journey or that you've completely lost faith and hope at some point in your life due to unthinkable or tragic circumstances,or you have felt stuck in the middle...that you always understood the "believing in" part but never quite was able to get to the "follow" part the way Jesus intended, this book is for you. It has impacted my life in countless ways in the past two months alone, having the amazing opportunity to read the book ahead and be a part of Jason's launch team. I'll continue to read and use it as a guide as often as I need. One of the quotes that really struck my heart the first time I read it was "Love can only exist in freedom." As well as "Resentment and anxiety melt away as we love people for who they are, not for who we want them to be." Jesus loves everyone without any strings attached because we were created for a specific purpose. So we should encourage and motivate each other as well as inspire and love one another to be who we are and fulfill or purpose from God with guidance from our church family. No matter the circumstances that you've gone through in your life, Jesus will always be there by your side and will give you that freedom in your life if you pursue his love. He will never stop pursuing you. But it may not be until years later after an event in your life that you come to this realization of following Jesus,the real Jesus, and that you want to follow him the way He intended. And only at that point in giving your life to God fully, will your life start over again where you will start to truly be blessed by God and experience the fullness of his unconditional love. Don't take the easy way, take the challenging one because the eternal rewards in the end are so much greater. The other amazing thing is that God gives us new mercies, joy,and chances every day to start over again following Him the right way.