The hidden message of mote-ivational speakers
I used to have a problem with inspirational speakers. Those people with big smiles, big teeth, and their big stories about their big God; how they used to struggle with (fill in the blank), but now they are over it, thank you Jesus. As I said, they used to bug me, but now I am at peace with them. Let me tell you how.
Actually, scratch that. They still irritate me. Because, after hearing them, I often end up feeling worse rather than better. They may have intended to squeeze my heart, but it feels like they have ended up poking around at the bits in my eye. I don’t hear, You can do this! Instead I hear, Why haven’t you done this, already?
Call them mote-ivational speakers.
Here’s my problem: it’s not so much to do with the individual things they may say as the collective, silent statement we make in our churches when every message is “I used to be… but now I am…” It says: we can’t talk about things until we have got them sorted out. We can only admit to past problems, not present challenges. Rather than drawing people out, it can easily send them further underground.
I think that’s why so many people find life and hope in recovery communities. No one there pretends they have it all together. They’re all fellow strugglers, but as they hear others share their stories they can find encouragement, insight, and even guidance. Some churches could learn a lot.
In their wonderful book The Cure, John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall capture the essence of what is so appealing about a place of grace, where it is OK not to have it all together:
What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?
Of course there’s a place for speaking from a position of victory. We need to hear from people who have endured, who have persevered, who have come through. We can be inspired to reach for more for ourselves, and instructed how to do so.
But only ever hearing from people standing on the top of the mountain, telling you how great the view is, when you’re trudging through the valley gets old after a while.
I’d love to hear this from the pulpit one Sunday morning: “Hello, so glad you are all here. I hope you’ve had a good week, because mine sucked big-time. There’s been family problems, a big headache with the church finances, and God has felt miles away for the past couple of days.
“But, you know, it’s not about me. He is unchanging and true. So let’s see what His Word might have for us all today…”
One Response to “The hidden message of mote-ivational speakers”
The phenomena of a “christian” world view that calls for all things to work together right now for my good, is a relatively recent development. It’s pretty difficult to preach that Jesus is going make everything OK when Islamists are raping your wives and daughters, burning your churches, and killing your Priests and leaders. The reality is, that for the first many hundreds of years Christians experienced suffering in ways unimaginable to us in our cushy theologically insulated worlds.
To the Church for hundreds and hundreds of years, suffering was viewed as part of what we endured for the sake of the Gospel. It was something that enabled our spiritual growth, strengthened our inner man, and kept our focus on Christ and His Kingdom rather than our personal comfort. Our struggles were viewed as tools used by God to compel us to seek Him.
Christians for centuries viewed themselves as wounded, broken, corrupted by sin in need always of God’s healing. Reaching for more for themselves, rarely was because they believed themselves worthy of more. The contrary was the case. Their writings reflect time and again a recognition of their lack and that what they needed was more of Christ. The trouble was, that like us in this modern day, the less they struggled with issues of life, the more they gained victory over their troubles, the less they grew spiritually. The more they sought their ease, the less they sought Christ and the fullness of salvation.
However, when trials abound, and if there is a genuine desire for spiritual healing and salvation, men and woman of God will recognize their need and reach for fullness in Christ’s provision.
I’m told that in this world we will have troubles. That is part of the package. No getting around it. It is how we utilize those troubles to draw us ever more completely into Christ and His likeness that is essential. After all, He has overcome the world. Real victory is not in our mastery of the situation or circumstance so much as it our calling out to Christ. It is our willingness to repent, to ask for healing, to be made whole and grow in His Grace.
Perhaps our motivation ought to welcome the troubles as tools that will ultimately draw us ever closer to Christ. It would be good to be motivated to bear one another’s burdens. Motivationally speaking, we may be well advised to recognize our individual and corporate need of our moment by moment need of salvation. We would be well advised, motivationally speaking, to invite God to permit any and all trials to come our way – if those trials will keep us centered on Christ.
May God forbid that we would gain victory over our trials and tribulations, acquire the financial standing we seek, receive soundness of body, and have plenty of goods – only to hear, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
Our motivation when confronted with staggering, overwhelming burdens, must be the simple declaration of St. Paul when reflecting on what Jesus said to him when he wanted victory over the problems he was facing. The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”