Whenever conversations about faith move toward talking about security, there's always one person in the group that will roll their eyes and say something like "Well come on.... We know that our security is found in Jesus."
It's easy to see why people jump to this answer, especially when there are passages of scripture like 1 Peter 1:3-5, which reads:
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see (NLT).
If we're in a place where we already feel secure in our faith, this passage may give us hope and reassurance, but maybe you're in a place where your faith is rocky or unsteady right now, maybe you feel far from God or maybe you read this passage and just scratch your head not knowing what it means, then a passage like 1 Peter 1:3-5 might make you feel less hopeful if you're not already experiencing security in your faith. When we're not experiencing security in our faith, sometimes we look for something else that can give us a firm foundation. Typically this foundation means being 'right.' It could be a need for the assurance that the way you're already doing things is the right way, or maybe it manifests itself as a need to prove that anyone who sees things differently than we do is wrong, and we hold the only right understanding.
So instead of starting with the security part of this question, I'd rather start by looking at why we feel the need to be 'right' so that we can find security.
I have a daughter, Olivia, who is almost a year and a half. Whenever she does something good or learns a new skill and I respond by cheering "Yay Olivia!" and clapping, she gets the most incredible look of delight and excitement on her face. Just a few days ago I was feeding her yogurt for breakfast, and between each spoonful she would clap her hands and grin at me. It was like she was saying "Yay Daddy! You're so good at giving me yogurt!"
Each day Olivia's brain is expanding its ability by making new connections and learning about the world around her, but what fascinates me is that even at a year and a half, she already craves positive reinforcement from me. If Olivia is playing with a toy and I'm in the room, she often does something and then right away looks to me, waiting to see how I will respond. When I show excitement, she gets even happier and more enthusiastic about what she is doing. She even looks for this feedback whenever she has a minor fall or something startles her, Olivia will look at us to see if she should be upset by what just happened.
This is where I start to wonder if Olivia is actually learning how to make decisions for herself, or if she is only learning to seek the approval of her parents in everything she does. I hope that she is learning to make good decisions, but at a year and a half old I'm certain that most of her actions are based on seeking our approval.
For this stage of her life, Olivia's developing brain craves approval, she constantly is looking for the building blocks that will become her own identity as a person. But it's my responsibility as her parent to teach her how to shift away from only craving approval, and instead make the good decisions that will create her sense of personal identity.
The truth is, I've already made mistakes as a parent, and I'm going to make even more before she grows up. If Olivia only cared about my approval and never grew past this stage, then her foundation of craving my approval will be torn away when someday she learns that her Dad has flaws and makes mistakes. As her father, I have the important task of helping Olivia discover what will be the anchors of her personality and identity.
Each of us have things we choose to base our identity upon, maybe it's our family, our friends, our occupation, our church, our relationship with God, our hobbies, or something else entirely. But underneath all of these things, we have an identity that was given to us by God. God created us in his image, which means that we have been created to be reflections of who God is in the world he created. In addition to that, God exists in a deep internal relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three persons of the trinity have such an incredible love and relationship for each other, that spills over into us when God created humanity in his image. That means that we all have a deep desire for the same relational intimacy that God already has within himself.
God gave us this desire because he knows that the only true way to fulfill this desire is for us to be in a relationship with him. He desires this closeness with us, and he gave us the same desire by creating us in his image. Our desire for relational connection doesn't stop with God, we also crave real and meaningful relationships with other people, it's this desire that causes us to seek love in a romantic relationship, and to seek the deeper sense of community and togetherness that comes from friendships.
Here's my theory in all of this; our innate desire for approval and relational connections that start as a child were planted in us when we were created in God's image. But if we don't nurture this desire for relationships this early desire for approval can morph into a need to be right in all things.
Hear me out on this, when Olivia does something and looks to me for approval she isn't really looking for me to give a yes or a no answer, she is looking for me to be involved in what she is doing. She wants me to be part of her life. She is demonstrating a desire for relational connection even though she doesn't have the self awareness to articulate or verbally communicate it.
If all I ever do as a parent is teach her what is good and what is bad, then Olivia would learn that my relational closeness with her only happens when she does what I approve as being right. When Olivia goes to school and does assignments and tests and I only show love to her when she does the 'right thing' and gets high marks, then she could learn that my love and approval is tied to her performance. If Olivia continued to grow up with this thought pattern, she would believe that relational approval from her father only comes when she does what is right. If she never reaches a point in her life where she realizes that a deep relationship with God and meaningful relationships with other people is where she will find fulfillment, then she will continue to crave approval for doing the right things.
In my role as a Pastor, I've met men and women who have loving families, successful careers, and all the markers of a fulfilling life, yet at their core were paralyzed by this idea that God would only love them if they did or said what was right in God's eyes. For these people, holding on to being right in their knowledge of God, or being right in their understanding of scripture was the only way to know that they would be loved by God. Their need to be right meant that they could intellectually 'know' of God's love, but they could not experience God's love and the intimate closeness that God freely gives through being in a relationship with him.
So maybe you're like me and you've recognized that we have a natural tendency to want to be right in all situations. I wish I could say there's an easy way to shift our perspective away from needing to be right and toward experiencing the relational connection with God that is truly at the core of who we are. I wish there was a simple step to take, but it's going to be a journey that takes a while.
Taking a step forward means being conscious of when we act or say things that are directed toward being right in each situation and instead nurturing our relational connection with the people in our lives. It means looking at scripture with eyes that aren't looking for right and wrong, but with eyes that are looking for God's desire to be in a relationship with us. It's a journey of taking our own ability for reasoning and logic and making it take a back seat so that our hearts will be guided by the Spirit to see where God is already all around us. Most of all, it means finding our sense of self worth not by swaying people to see our way is right, but instead finding our sense of identity and self worth through a deep and sustaining relationship with Jesus.
The sense of security that we crave will never be fulfilled by being right or through the approval of others. The security we desire can only be found through our identity being transformed and reshaped through a meaningful relationship with God.
Remember the promise that Jesus gave to his disciples at the end of Matthew's Gospel. He told them: "And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). This promise that God is always with us, is where we can find our security.
Brian's whole understanding of faith and Christianity changed when he started to encounter what it means to live life with God instead of for God. One thing that Brian is passionate about is walking with people as they explore their faith in Christ and learning how to honestly seek God in the midst of our doubts and fears. Brian is the Pastor of Grand Valley Community Church in Brandon Manitoba. He is married to Nikki and they have one daughter named Olivia. When Brian isn't working on a sermon at a Starbucks or at home with his family, you can usually find him fly fishing or building model air planes.
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