Most parents have heard the chorus rise from the back seat of their car when traveling with children, “Are we there yet?” Often children are eager to get to their destination as merely sitting and riding in a car for any length of time can feel like an eternity for them. Parents try to respond the best they can, saying things such as “not too much longer, we’re getting closer, or just a few more minutes,” even though none of their responses may be right. And if it is a long journey, mom and dad might have to become smart with their answers.
Sometimes as a preacher, people will say to me, “I wish I had your faith.” After years of hearing me preach a sermon each Sunday, they assume I have it all together when it comes to following Jesus, as though I have somehow arrived. Well, in all honesty, I’m still wandering and trying to figure it out myself. Each day I stumble over my sin, doubt, and fears regarding living in the world. I still have many more questions than answers. And while I may preach behind a large, sturdy, wooden pulpit each week, my faith is often shaky and uncertain. Am I there yet? Sometimes, I’m not even sure where there is.
To be honest, I am always somewhat skeptical of pulpits where the preacher seems to have all the answers, life is perfectly clear, doubts are a distant memory, and life makes complete sense. If faith is presented as all neat and tight and polished, I often wonder what I am not hearing. Truth be told, most of us realize that the faith journey is not a walk in the park but more like trudging through a swamp. Sometimes we get stuck and even sucked under.
Perhaps the best-known Christian and preacher in the first century was the Apostle Paul. He traveled everywhere proclaiming the Gospel, wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else, was influential in early church decisions, and is credited with bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. If you think about it, that’s pretty impressive. Yet, Paul knew, even with this resume, he had not arrived. Paul still wrestled with sin, claiming that even when he knew what the right thing to do was, he still chose sin. (Romans 7:15) And when he wrote to the church at Philippi, Paul confessed, “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. “Paul knew that he had not arrived but that he had to keep moving forward despite his failures, doubts, and fears.
Indeed, we are all wandering when it comes to our faith. None of us are where we need to be. We still wrestle with sin, give in to fear, and allow doubt to take hold of us. This does not mean that we are not good Christians; it just means that we are honest about our journey. We don’t have to have all the answers to feel that we are somehow a successful Christian. Instead, we acknowledge our shortcomings and then encourage one another along the way. Are we there yet? Not hardly. Will we get there? Yes. But it takes time, a lifetime. Nevertheless, we keep pressing on to the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.