Years I’ve worked at my job: 3. Years I’ve owned a car: 2.5. Years I’ve had a driver’s license: 6. Years since I learned to snowboard: 13. Years since I started playing the piano: 16. Years since I graduated high school: almost 6.
As a 24 year old, there aren’t many things that I can claim to be or have done for more than ten or fifteen years, other than being alive. But there is one significant thing that I have had for twenty years as of this day, the thing that I am most proud and grateful and happy to be, the thing that has shaped me and made me who I am and will one day be more than anything else that I could ever experience: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Twenty years ago today, I stood in my family’s kitchen, swinging my foot over the pattern on the linoleum floor, listening to my brother reason away my irrational fears that I would die immediately and go to heaven if I accepted Jesus as my Savior (not something that a 4-year old relishes the thought of, when it involves leaving Mommy and blankie and Cabbage Patch Kids).
“Diana,” my brother said, turning around from the sink to look at me, “Mommy and Daddy are saved, and they’re not dead. Josh and I are saved, and we’re not dead.”
That was assurance enough for me, and next, with excitement like that of Christmas morning, my family gathered in my parents’ bedroom and we knelt by the bed. With my dad helping me with the words to say, I asked the Lord Jesus to forgive me for my sin and to be my Savior.
Twenty years later, I can safely say I did not die immediately and go to heaven (although, really, wouldn’t life be easier if it worked that way?). 😉 After twenty years of walking with Jesus and spending time in His Word and prayer almost daily, it seems that I should know a lot more than I do and be a lot more spiritually mature than I am; however, with each year that passes I can trace definite growth and mark victories and answers to prayer – in spite of the many shortcomings and failures that I am aware of as well. Thankfully, the Lord is an extremely patient, yet persistent Teacher, and so, I would like to share some of the things that He has taught me over the years.
All the truths shared below have at some point in my walk with Christ come to have meaning to me beyond mere words or a smart sounding maxim; they are truths that have made their way to my heart. Truth can enter your head quite readily, but it will have no effect on your life until it enters your heart as well. Many of them may not sound very deep or profound, but I’m learning that sometimes the simplest truths are the ones that take the longest to really learn.
Here, in no particular order, are twenty things I have learned after spending twenty years of knowing Jesus:
1. Faith is the utter foundation for a genuine walk with Christ. Not only is our salvation not obtained by anything other than faith, but also the extent of our experience of the earthly benefits of salvation is contingent on truly believing God and His Word. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
2. Prayer changes things.
3. The way to get wisdom is to ask God for it – but you have to ask in faith.
4. God loves you, not because of who you are or what you’ve done, but because of who HE is.
5. You don’t get to serve God because you’re perfect – you get to serve Him because He is merciful and powerful enough to use messed up humans like us for His glory.
6. Nothing drains away joy and strength like unbelief.
7. Prayer and Bible study are vitally important – the only sustainable and reliable way to grow in your relationship with God. If writing this fact alone twenty times over could communicate the absolute importance and necessity of making this a daily habit in your life without rendering my efforts impotent by redundancy, I would do it. Nothing, absolutely nothing else you can do every day will change your life for the better like this will. It is impossible to reach the full potential of your relationship with Christ without making a faithful practice of these two privileges.
8. God will always give you a “yes” to persistent prayers for spiritual growth.
9. Being a Christian is not about how you perform, but about how you relate- with God first, and then with others.
10. True sorrow over sin is never an emotion to be avoided.
11. Giving thanks in everything requires trust.
12. God cares much more about the state of your heart than your wardrobe when you walk into church.
13. There is so much available in Christ that we don’t take hold of. We could have so much MORE if we’d only ask for it and believe Christ to give it.
14. God will ALWAYS provide for your needs. Although we are not promised perfect relationships, health, or physical safety, we are promised that God will meet our needs if we seek His kingdom first.
15. When you see God act in response to a prayer, it becomes easier to trust Him for similar things.
16. Praying for someone else is one of the best ways to love them.
17. The genuineness of your faith is extremely valuable to God. He wants you to believe and trust Him.
18. Sometimes obeying the leadings of the Holy Spirit feels weird and makes your stomach churn, but if you do, you won’t regret it.
19. Even when we can’t see it, God is working, fulfilling His plans for our good and His glory.
20. Grace and truth, like so many other contrasting spiritual elements, MUST be held in balance; damage will result from swaying too far either way, but balance can be found in Jesus.
It has been quite a journey thus far, and as I look back I see anew that my Jesus has been utterly tender and gracious to me. At various times I have resisted Him, yelled at Him, fought Him, disrespected Him, disobeyed Him, questioned Him, and always He has been faithful, forgiving, and oh so very patient. I do not deserve all the good that He has poured out on me, and I hope that the next twenty years are filled with more closeness to Him that results in more glory given to Him because of my life than ever before.