Words by Jason Lock
My journey of faith throughout university was marked with many spiritual highs and lows. I grew up in Southern Ontario but left home to attend a large Bible college in the States. Each semester started with revival services: five services over three days in a packed-out stadium featuring a well-known preacher.
Twice a year, after sitting on the edge of my seat for 72 hours, my commitment to the faith felt like it reached a new level. Yet, twice a year — usually about two months after the big revival week — I would crash. I isolated myself from caring friends. Attending church became a chore. Prayer was a foreign language and Bible reading was just another assignment required by the syllabus. My body and spirit were begging for an answer that my mind didn’t know it needed to ask: “Where do I find the energy to live for God without crashing?”
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he argues that it’s faith in the gospel and not works of the law that will justify us before God (Galatians 2:15-16). The gospel message is good news: Jesus of Nazareth died so that we can be saved from our sins and enjoy life with God. Paul said that he checked all the required “works of the law” boxes but he knew it wasn’t enough. And even if it was, he said that he considered himself “dead” to those things. “For through the law I died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live by Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20).
Yet, not only is justification by faith alone, but the vitality to live a life for God is also by faith alone. Look at that verse again: we might live, but it’s not us doing the “living,” Christ is doing the living through us. Vitality is available through our union with Christ. It’s like wind that fills the sails of the ship. You can’t see the wind, but you see its effect on the trajectory of the vessel. Jesus told His disciples that they will enjoy this vitality when they abide in Him, finding energy in the same way that He did — being with the Father and doing His work. When His disciples slept, Jesus found rest in the solitude of meditation and prayer. When others were starved for food, Jesus was satisfied by serving the marginalized.
That vitality was just as available to me in university as it is now. So, why did I crash so often back then? It took years of reflection in God’s Word and a caring wife for me to realize what was missing: I wasn’t able to enjoy the vitality of life with Christ because I was relying on my moral effort to gain the approval of others. Though I am already approved in Christ, when the approval of others escaped me, I was devastated. Even when I got it, I was never satisfied. By focusing on the approval of those in front of me, I became so near-sighted that I was blind to the good news that the Son of God loves me, gave Himself for me, and lives in me.
Christ’s death is of first importance to Christian living. Through His death, we can die to our sinful selves so that He can live through us. I’m still learning to live with this vitality. We all crave it. But it doesn’t depend on irregular highs from concerts or conferences, retreats or commitments. It can be enjoyed with resiliency each day as we walk by faith, following the steps of the Son of God who loves us and lives in us.