Growing up in my house I used to think that I would have to pray for many hours a day to be a good man of God. From years of watching my dad (Dr. Bill Winston, Living Word Christian Center) get up at some crazy hour of the night/morning, I thought that was normal. Now I loved God, but I had no desire to replicate that in my life. Any one who knows me knows that I like my sleep. So when God called me into full time ministry, I was nervous.. "God does this mean I have to get up at 4:00am every day???" ? I used to feel bad for months after entering into full time ministry because it was so hard for me to wake up so early for prayer and devotional time. I loved God and spending time with Him but I just felt like I was not wired to be up so early. But as I grew in God, He showed me that it's not about seeking Him the exact same way someone else does. Pursuing God in a way that speaks more to religious tradition than to authentic relationship is not God’s original plan. And that's where I get to the point of this blog post. Many Christians look at what they are not doing on a daily basis and feel bad about their walk with God. They find themselves asking is my Christianity good enough for God?..Or even good enough for others? Do I read enough of the Bible? Do I pray for long enough? Am I attending enough church services??
After years of growing up as a Christian young man in a pastoral household, to being in ministry now, God brought me to this conclusion: it's about relationship, not tradition or religion.
Let's stop and think for a moment: How much do you think Adam prayed or read the bible? Well the bible didn't exist, and we have no record of any prayers from Adam to God. But we do know that Adam was consistently and continually in the presence of God, as he was made in the image of God. That was the whole idea. The goal of our relationship with God is to be more like Him each and every day. That's what Christianity is all about...being more like Christ. Doing what He did in the earth and even greater things (John 14:12). Things like bible reading, prayer and service help to accomplish that goal!
The thing that we should do is encourage others (and ourselves) in the standard of the Word of God, and that's it. We should not judge others according to our thoughts, preconceived notions, or religious rhetoric. Is it ok if others judge and criticize our relationship with our spouse, kids, parents, etc? No. So why is it appropriate to judge someone else's Christianity based on how many Bible passages you think they read, or how much you think they are praying? We can never judge another man’s faith. That's only for God to judge. Know that you can be free from the judgment! The success of your relationship with God is not based in the opinions of others, but in the sincerity of your heart and in the intensity of your pursuit of God.
I used to think that if I didn't pray for at least one hour straight every day, I was clearly failing. But God showed me one day, if all this prayer is not leading us to be more Christ-like, it could be in vein. (Unfortunately I have known people that pray for hours a day but still seem to act in a way that is not Christ-like.) See our relationship with God and how we walk out our Christian faith should always encourage us to be more like christ and encourage others as well. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to “pray without ceasing”. But Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but rather an attitude of God-consciousness and surrender that we carry with us all the time — a continual dependence upon and relationship with the Father. If praying without ceasing simply means talking with God all day and acknowledging His presence, then many Christians might be guilty of missing the mark - even the ones who have dedicated prayer times. God wants relationship, not to be fit into a schedule. What if I told my wife Niki that we would only talk between the hours of 8:00a to 9:00a most day? She would not be having that at all! So why should we expect God to be satisfied with it either? Of course Niki and I have times dedicated to concentrated talking and interacting with each other, but that is in ADDITION to communicating and interacting all day long (and yes text messages count ?). REMEMBER THIS: It is not about how long you pray or how much bible you read, but rather how much is the praying and reading changing you, making you more like Jesus. You should also see a change in your life and in situations that you are involved in.
1 Corinthians 13 says that we can do a lot of good spiritual things, but if we don't have love we are nothing. Hebrews 11:6 mentions that without faith, it is impossible to please God. In the book of James (1:26) it states that if anyone thinks he is religious, but doesn't control his mouth, his religion is useless. Do you see where I am going with this? There should be a change in us as a result of our relationship with God. And constant communication with God (word or prayer) causes our speech to be different. It's like picking up a foreign accent. If you move to Africa and live there for 10 years, you automatically start to pick up the accent, just by being around others. That's where the change is. As we hang around God, we become more like Him and Jesus. We are to be molded into the image of Christ day by day, and that's the goal. So how are you being molded into that image? The more we develop our relationship with God, the more his love comes into our heart, and we can then love others like He loves us.
Now I'm not saying that it’s ok not to have time with God. What I am saying is don't feel bad and condemned about where you are. If you miss a day, or a week of "normally scheduled" prayer time or bible time, just pick back up however you can. This is not a performance, this is a relationship. You don't have to earn Gods approval, you were approved of already through the blood of Jesus. Just don't neglect the relationship. Any relationship that you neglect, will eventually begin to deteriorate over time. You don't want that. You want constant communication with God. But some are called by God to pray for long hours, and others are not. Some are told by God to read at length or do different things according to how God has positioned them. Others are not. But it's about being obedient to God and committing to growth.
WHAT TO DO NEXT...
1. Know that you don't have to perform for God to get Him to love you and approve of you. But your consistent effort to be with Him will lead you into a better relationship with Him. Follow the Word. Do what it says - and pay attention to what God says. He will lead and guide you into the best relationship with Him.
2. Set a goal for your relationship with Him - but a goal defined by out put. What do you want God to do through you? Do you want God to use you to change things at your job or school? Do you want God to help you write a book? Do you want to grow in love? Then set a strategy on how to pray about those things and get instructions through God and His word. My point is, setting goals in which you will need the help of God to achieve always pushes you into a deeper relationship with Him. I know first hand…I have been “pushed” many times. But I gained an intimacy with God that I didn’t have before as a result of it.
3. Work on your faith. The word of God is very clear that without faith it's impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). When you communicate with God you start understand the nature of God more and more. Then God will speak to you about stepping out and doing some things beyond what you can do. This takes trust. Trust is formed through relationship. My mother said it recently like this: If we focus in on developing the relationship with God, then faith won't be so difficult. - Veronica Winston
Gotquestions.org says it like this:
"For Christians, prayer should be like breathing. You do not have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and essentially forces you to breathe. That is why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when we are born into the family of God, we enter into a spiritual atmosphere where God's presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on our lives. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer."
So to answer the question Is my Christianity good enough? - the answer is YES! But not because we are so good, but because Jesus is so good. You have been saved by God’s grace and that is reason enough to celebrate ?. But we're are not just called to stop there, we are called to change this world. I will leave you with this one question: Can a baby lead people, teach people, help people, and rescue people? Of course not!.... Neither can baby Christians who never grow up into mature believers. You can't change the world if you don't grow. So grow, no judgement.