by Chaplain Farris Robertson
We have all heard the saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” It is a phrase we might use to encourage others to perseverance when they doubt their ability to succeed.
The sales manager “pumps up” his crew with enthusiasm about their sales abilities and their product. The commander rallies his troops with tales of courage and victory. Parents encourage their children to put on a brave face that first day of school. And God told Moses to expect victory when Moses and Aaron would enter the dangerous court of Pharaoh.
The salesman, the soldier, the child and Moses, sufficiently encouraged, can then enter their respective battlefields, having a measure of confidence. Still, things can go wrong, and that is particularly true when our efforts are not inspired. That is why discouraged salespeople quit their jobs, why soldiers may pale at times of great peril, and why children come home crying. But God’s words do not fail. Moses was not faking it.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Pharaoh will demand…a miracle to prove that God has sent you. When he makes this demand, say to Aaron, `Throw down your shepherd's staff,’ and it will become a snake." So Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh, and they performed the miracle just as the Lord had told them…Then Pharaoh called in his wise men and magicians, and they did the same thing with their secret arts. Their staffs became snakes, too! But then Aaron's snake swallowed up their snakes (Exodus 7:8-12).
It’s true! Moses was not faking it. The Apostle Paul reminds us that “faking it” is what Pharaoh’s magicians, Jannes and Jambres, were doing when they tried to match the obedient worthiness of Moses and Aaron, and points out that such efforts will predominate the last days:
“For people will love only themselves and their money. They will consider nothing sacred…and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that.
“…And these teachers fight the truth just as Jannes and Jambres fought against Moses. Their minds are depraved, and their faith is counterfeit. But they won't get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as happened with Jannes and Jambres.” (2 Timothy: 2-9)
Jannes and Jambres were “fools” because they were relying upon a lesser power, and were proud of their ability to conjure a spirit and make a miraculous display. But God will not be conjured. He is in control. God instructs us and we are to obey.
In the final analysis then, anything we do in our own power must be suspect, even though He will still manage to accomplish His perfect results through our own inadequate efforts.
We recently surveyed our Bible study group as to what God wanted most from us. The predominant answer centered around the concept of becoming more Christlike. Who could object to such a worthy cause? God instructs us numerous times to imitate Christ. We should walk in the newness of life just like Christ was resurrected into newness (Romans 6:4). Those who have been baptized in Christ have been made like Him (Galatians 3:27). God has granted that we be Christlike toward one another (Romans 15:5). We will some day be like Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49). We will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15). We should live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2). Finally, as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world (1 John 4:17).
All in all, being Christlike is certainly something we are commanded to do, and from a worldly perspective, Christly behavior is our measure. But can it be our motivation? Is it even something we can do?
Robert Courtney, a Kansas City pharmacist now sentenced to thirty years in prison for diluting cancer medications, confessed that his profiteering was partially motivated by a $1 million church pledge he had made, and he still owed about $330,000.
In his infamous work, Mein Kampf , Adolph Hitler claimed, “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
John Emil List, a Sunday School teacher, after murdering his mother, wife and three children in 1971, reasoned in his written confession to his pastor, “I know that many will only look at the additional years that they could have lived, but if finally they were no longer Christians, what would be gained?”
Rollen Stewart wore an afro-style rainbow-wig and was often seen holding John 3:16 placards at sporting events. He claimed to be spiritually converted in 1980, but his ex-wife divorced him in 1990 due to violent mood swings. He had a history of being publicly disruptive, even dangerous, in his delusionary acts for God. His high-profile mischief was tolerated because of his message and cult following, but he became more brazen and dangerous over time. Finally, in 1993 he was sentenced to three life sentences for commandeering a hotel room while a maid locked herself in the bathroom, solely for the purpose of luring the media so he could “get the word out for Jesus Christ.” Inside the Los Angeles Airport area hotel room, authorities found a high caliber pistol, various incendiary devices, three days of food and Bibles, religious tracts and poetry.
In the above cases, we see some of the world’s most maligned attempts to represent Christ upon the earth. But what about our mundane daily efforts that miss the mark? What are they and how do they affect us and the world in which we live?
Jesus warned the religious leaders, “You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28) Paul warned all of us, “Don't just pretend to be good! Be done with hypocrisy and jealousy and backstabbing.” (1 Peter 2:1) Even the old law tells us, “…if you find your neighbor's donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses, don't pretend you did not see it.” (Deuteronomy 22:3)
Yet we drive by our neighbor’s stray pets, ignoring things that might take time out of our busy schedules, and head to church to pose and smile and hold up our John 3:16 placards. Then we make prayers in the form of a Shopping List for our god to fill, and we generally pretend and sometimes try to act like Christ even though we don’t always get favorable results.
When we quote the Bible it is often to prove our own point. When we have an embarrassing problem we hide it from those who might think the worst of us. We watch our religious and community leaders occasionally exposed for their secret sins and are grateful that it isn’t us.
At church, we count the number of members, the amount of tithes, the number of conversions, and the number of baptisms. We act as if we are accountant-auditors tracking God’s efforts upon the earth.
Many of us only attend church on Sundays and Wednesdays. The rest of the week we are planning our next big adventure in the world.
We live inside our heads and listen to what we think are the voices of reason. We are tuned in to our feelings, but not to our heart. If we can rationalize something in our mind, we then feel justified in our behavior. The process has nothing to do with the heart of God within us.
We go through life seeking some happiness. We look for love in others. We acquire those things that will pleasure us. A wealthy man was asked by a reporter, “How much money is enough?” The rich man replied, “Just one more dollar.” We are good at finding temporary satisfaction, but still cannot find our way in the big picture of life.
For many of us, it has been a long time since we were truly inspired and we move along the path of duty like a beast of burden, not a child of God. We prove to ourselves that we are important when we have a grand feeling of accomplishment or have a noticeable effect on the world, yet we never seem able to hold onto a meaningful change in our own lives. Sometimes we get a spark within us and we move with conviction, but the world often finds a way to quench that fire, and we return to our stable of hopelessness, a broken beast of burden. How can we then, with certainty, find our way?
When we live long enough without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God in our life, we become ever more hopeless. It is in that downward spiral that we will eventually, and desperately, seek satisfaction in the world. The danger here is that the world has a marvelous way of satisfying us for a little while, before the devil gets his due.
What may begin as romance can become obsession. Casual drinking can become a daily ritual.
A new hobby becomes a consuming passion. A public success becomes a call to greater achievement. We are tempted to find a worldly, more reliable substitute for God. And if we consider the notion long enough, we can find a way to blame Him for His lack of attention to our needs, not unlike the unfaithful spouse who blames the innocent partner. We might think one of these thoughts: It was His fault for not helping me. I prayed to Him when I was in need and He ignored it. I am justified in now seeking satisfaction in my own way.
Andy Griffith, in his film debut (A Face in the Crowd), played Lonesome Rhodes, a charismatic drifter who finds fame and fortune as an evangelist. Lonesome sums up our dilemma, “I put my whole self into everything I do…I'm Mr. Me, Myself, and I.” Ultimately, Lonesome Rhodes craves more and more fame and power, only to be found out and his reputation destroyed.
It is obvious that temporal satisfaction is no more than a band-aid for our pained hearts. Intellectually we acknowledge that, but we still need to feel better about ourselves and we don’t know how. We naturally think we are doing everything we can and we conclude that we just need to do doing something different or better. We might think along these lines: If only I could be more Christlike I would be happy. If I throw myself into God’s work, I will feel worthy. If I make more money and donate it to charity, I will feel better about all of my hard work. Can you see that our solutions are just that…OUR solutions? They are based upon OUR works.
Our real dilemma is not that we are unhappy. It isn’t that we need something more to satisfy ourselves. Our dilemma is that we are posing and playing god. Indeed, we spend much time in creating ourselves in our own image, whereas God created us in HIS image. We reason through things using OUR mind and have forgotten how to call upon the power of God within us. It is only this Christ-Power that will satisfy us, that will scratch the itch inside.
But like the rich man who needed one more dollar, we seem to never have enough. After the “new wears off” of our latest adventure, we once again become ungrateful for the blessings we have and look enviously around the world for something new and different and more.
One of my best friends in life taught me something I will never forget, “It is more important to want what you have than it is to get what you want.” Today that describes gratefulness for me. I am lying to myself if I say I love God but am not content with my lot in life.
Paul writes, “I once thought all these things were so very important, but… everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” (Philippians 4:7-10)
Jesus prayed to the Father about His disciples, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” (John 17:20-21)
So, happiness is the delivery from worldly concerns…it is developing an awareness of our oneness with God. If we are to find satisfaction, it must be in the denial of self-perceptions, in renunciation of neediness, in humility before God, in appreciation of what the Great Servant-King did on the cross, and in a willingness to set aside our own thoughts about our life in favor of God’s word. And we must concede that we can find none of these things in the world even though our senses are bombarded by worldly concerns.
The tools for this victory abound in the presence of the Spirit within us, in studying the Word of God, and in the fellowship within the body of Christ upon the earth. But our mind and feelings are the theatre of war, and we must first recognize that the entire campaign has already been won at Calvary. Then we can relax and surrender the imaginary battle in our mind to the Spirit of God within us.
But like old soldiers we sometimes revisit the past. We rethink our battles even long after the war is over. In this sentimental romanticism, we become like Don Quixote, waging war on our mind’s phantom windmills. But even this seemingly harmless exercise is dangerous because there is no victory in our fantasies, and we can only win today’s phantom battle when we quit thinking about ourselves, quit posing, quit faking it, give our mind over to the Spirit within, and live for each precious moment God grants us.
He made each of us on purpose with particular talents, and in being Christ-Powered, the Creator can then fulfill each creation. We cannot add or subtract from it. We can only choose to stand in the way and play God, or get out of the way and let God. Then, shall we be afraid that we are going to be lost in Christ? Nay, we should be afraid that we will otherwise be lost in the ways of the world, a brilliant forgery of what the Creator intended.
If any one of us thinks we may be Christlike, then we are using our willpower instead of His, and we might one day boast. But if I can be Christ-Powered, if I can stand aside in favor of the Holy Spirit working through me, then I am fulfilled…God’s perfect will working through my perfect submission. Can we truly let God have His way with us? Perhaps. We will only know if we strive for that lofty goal, and from God’s viewpoint, it is the only worthy thing we can do.
About the Author:
Chaplain Farris Robertson is a Recovery Chaplain, often working with hopeless people in hopeless circumstances. He is the founder of Recovery Chapel, the Secretary of the Board of Directors of Springfield Victory Mission, a Stephen Ministry Leader, a freelance writer and editor, and is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri where he lives with his wife and two sons.