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For all of my life, I have longed to be loved. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been loved by my parents, friends, and God, throughout my life. He surrounded me with so many godly people; yet still, I was not always satisfied. Growing up in a Christian home and attending Christian private schools for most of my life gave me the tools to find God and know him more. Yet I longed for satisfaction in my life—I longed for love. Striving to be a good person, I sought acceptance and love in all the wrong places. Looking towards friends for acceptance, being the guy to take home to mom and dad, having a good Christian reputation, excelling in sports, and being loved by my parents (not for who I am, but what I have done), etc. were some of the things I thought would make me feel loved and happy. That was not the case, so I kept on searching.
Sure, I was a Christian. I prayed to God when I needed him or needed something from him, but I never fully embraced him for who he was. I knew he was my Savior, who had died for me and would forgive me of my sins, but I never fully experienced his love and grace because I never fully embraced him. Instead, I went to the world. I had numerous girlfriends, but could not find true love. Then I went to the internet and my iPhone, only to find a lust that would not only lead me astray from God, but would destroy my life and leave me broken and unfulfilled. Eventually, in the midst of my battles, I recognized the idols in my life, such as: baseball, friends, and my girlfriend—I had to give them up to God in order to glorify him and live for him.
I have been blessed abundantly and do not deserve the life that I have lived. Still, the question remained in my mind. “God, you have you given me the talent to play a collegiate sport, surrounded me by such godly people at a Christian college, given me a wonderful family, and placed a godly woman in my life… So why am I still on the internet lusting and ultimately looking for a satisfying love?” When times were tough, when I didn’t feel loved or accepted by my friends, family, girlfriend, or God, I would turn to lust. Afterwards, I would turn back to God in humiliation and despair, asking him, “Where are you?” I would pray constantly. I desperately wanted to experience a full, satisfying love. My family, friends, and girlfriend pointed me to a love that would satisfy, but I looked toward them instead. I finally realized that the expectations I put on my girlfriend, family, friends, and baseball, could only be met by God. I longed for my girlfriend to love me fully, but all she could do was love me as best as humanly possible. I expected satisfaction in a godly relationship despite our sin. I expected success and support throughout my life because I prayed and read the Bible, but I only got a taste of temporary satisfaction.
This search left me weary, burdened, depressed, and unsatisfied. I didn’t feel like myself. I had hope, since I had been pointed towards the answer, which was him all along. Yet I was just too selfish, angry, and doubting, because I couldn’t necessarily see him in all of this. I was broken… and that is where I found him—I found true love. Dealing with life issues as a couple, relationally and individually, my girlfriend and I decided to take some time apart from one another to focus on God. During that time, I realized that I had been living a life of me; but until I was fully broken, I couldn’t see my weakness and my need of, not just what God could do but who he is—Love.
I have been pure and abstaining from lust for almost two months now because I finally experienced His love. Through this search, I have found that that pure love can only come from God. As humans, we have unrealistic expectations that we place upon ourselves and others. Recently a sermon helped me realize that as humans we cannot measure up to such expectations—it is only in God that we can measure up (Matt. 11:30). When I looked to him in my brokenness, I finally realized my self-worth. It’s frustrating that it took me this long to realize that the answer had been right in front of me my whole life. But it was not until I was fully broken and sapped of my strength, from battling my flesh, Satan, and the world, that I lay there defeated, asking God to lift me up, carry me, and mold my life to His will.
By God’s grace, I finally found the answer to my prayers. An intimate, loving relationship is a “constant, selfless walk” with God. Previously, I had been lingering in my sin and then sprinting to catch up, only to find myself thirsty and out of breath. I would drink from the dirtiness of the world only to spit it back out; I would drain everything from from my friends, family, and girlfriend only to want more when they had nothing left to give. When I finally did find intimacy, it was by drinking of God’s word and actually applying it to glorify him and live in his will. Two verses that spoke to my blindness and brokenness were Mattew 27:45-46 and John 8:11. In Matthew 27:45-46, it says, “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
As I bawled reading this, I realized that it was not the physical pain which was too great for him (which I cannot even begin to imagine), but the loss of God’s presence in his life that was so crushing. Jesus lived in perfect intimacy with God and walked with God and lived every day of his life, not in his will but in his Father’s will, only to bear the weight of our sins on the cross; it crushed him spiritually as he felt the presence of God leave him. You see, Jesus longed for intimacy too; but it was not because of his sin, since he was perfect, but because of my sin that he sacrificed his life physically and spiritually for me. I was dead, but he made me alive; and I truly experienced this when I realized my brokenness. John 8:11 talks about the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned when Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” After all of the disobedience, pain, and hurt I have caused myself, my girlfriend, my family, my friends, and most importantly my God, I wondered how I could make amends and fix all that I have messed up. And that is the beauty of this verse. After so many years of lusting longing for an intimate love and destroying my life and the respect of so many others, I realized I cannot fix what I have done. Only He can.
When I read Jesus’ words, “Neither do I condemn you” I fell to the ground realizing how I don’t deserve this life God has graciously given me. I was overwhelmed with grace, love, and gratitude. I finally felt like myself. God redeemed my life and made me into a man of God. With that being said, I know I must constantly walk with God and keep watch of Satan. He has been banging on my door, verbally abusing me, and questioning my confidence, and has tempted me more now than ever; but that is the beauty of it. In these moments, God has shown himself to me even more and has pointed me back to him and enveloped me in his loving arms. Constantly praying, being in his Word, and applying it on a daily basis, has ended my search for a true, satisfying love. It is a daily struggle to live in his will and be patient and faithful, but it is through him that I am humbled in my brokenness, boast in my weakness, and love because he first loved me.
To conclude, I would like to thank Jeff Knapp and his ministry IRON & FIRE for being a huge influence in my life, my family for supporting me, encouraging me and loving me, Victoria whom I love and cherish and cannot thank enough for loving me, being there, and pointing me back to God, the French family for loving me as their son, as well as my accountability partners and those who have helped me in my struggles (Dave Hamilton, Rashad Gober, Malcolm Galwey, Kevin Hughes, my father, Jeff Knapp, Lee French, John Holland, Spencer Smith, Andrew Beck, Keith Rice, Scott Hoelsema, Chad Miller, and Victoria).
I am having an incredibly hard time with this one tiny word: contentment.
Having recently graduated and having just started my first job, I hold huge hopes, expectations, and dreams of what I want to build or become. It’s the college mindset, after all. We are to stand on the shoulders of giants and view the world as changeable. We are to believe we are invincible and have the ability to achieve anything we can dream. This mentality sets our expectations and hopes about such dreams (and how fast we will achieve them) incredibly high, until we end up confused, frustrated, angry, or discouraged, when we fail to see the progress we imagined. We feel miniscule and meaningless. But Why do we feel that way? Why do we think the world is ours to change? Is the 9-5 desk job a failure? These questions and others surround us in a whirlwind of high expectations and let-downs, when our work doesn’t immediately feel impactful.
From the age of toddlers, we are always saying, “More! More! More!” The toys we get for Christmas are only enough until the next day, when we want everything that our friends got for Christmas, as well. Picture the teenagers who seem to never have the perfect car or the incredibly hot girlfriend or the best grades, who aren’t the best athletes or the most popular, who don’t have the all-star status in youth group, and won’t get into the best colleges. Now imagine that I posed the question, “If I gave you all these things, would you not find something else that you wanted?” How would we respond?
We are creatures of need! We were gloriously made that way. It was not a fluke. The problem isn’t in the design, but in the places we seek to fulfill that design. We so often miss the beauty of our deep needs being met in an all-satisfying God. Contentment is hard!
I’ve especially learned this in ministry. I am so often thinking and asking myself, “Am I there yet?” There where? Why is There so important? If I do arrive There, will There not just become another place to strive toward the next time? There will always be here. Which begs the question, what then makes me content with being here? I love the way the apostle Paul answers this question.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
My There is found in Christ always. Whether it be my next few seconds or my next few years, my There is found in Christ. We have a beautiful paradox of having already arrived in the finished work of Christ, which frees us to run with gladness and endurance while we’re Here (Forget the T), because Christ has already arrived. “The more my contentment is in circumstances and achievements, the more my joy will be hijacked by discontentment” – Adam Ramsey.
See, Christ allows us Contentment for today, right Here. So rest in Christ and stop worrying so much about getting There.
Brotherhood… I thought I knew how important it was; but that was back when I had it.
My name is Jacob Martin and I am a member of Jeff Knapp’s Sophomore squad; but since I transferred to Buford High School, after my freshman year at Lambert High School, I have not been able to attend the first semester of my group, due to football practice.
I transferred to Buford because the atmosphere at Lambert was awful and I felt like no one at that school worked hard because they always had everything given to them. I also thought that, by going to a mostly Christian-led school like Buford, I would be able to avoid all my other struggles, like porn, lust, masturbation, deceit, etc., but I was sadly mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I have been at Buford now for 3 months and I have made many great friends and gotten to know several great men, between the faculty and coaches, at Buford. The only problem is, the friends I have made are just friends… I have not been able to find a guy to be my brother yet. My struggles that I mentioned earlier didn’t get better either; they basically got worse because I had no brothers to share them with and to help keep me accountable. This caused my struggles to build up inside of me and made me less focused on my grades (which began to slowly drop). And because I was so messed up on the inside, I started to slowly retract from my family.
One day my dad sat me down in my room and asked me what was going on. It took a long time and lots of long pauses, but I finally got to the root of the problem. I told my dad how I couldn’t find any brothers at Buford and how all my junk had just been building up inside of me. I will never forget what he said after I finished talking. He said, “… so, is it that you are feeling alone?” At that last word “alone,” a body wrenching sob came forth from the depths of my gut and I cried uncontrollably for the next half hour. At that moment, at that word “alone,” all of what had built up inside of me came out in tears. What had been tormenting me had finally been tapped and it hurt.
The next week, I called Jeff and told him what was going on and it was so relieving to talk about it again. He told me some things that will stick with me for the rest of my life. First, “In the end, you have to make hard choices for yourself because sometimes you are stuck in the desert and there is nothing we can do.” Also, “Doing the right thing especially when it is hard is what separates the men from the boys.” Not being able to be with my brothers in his group, so far, has been one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. And Even though I do not understand completely why God has these struggles in my life, I think he is trying to teach me some important things in the absence of my group: For instance, I think he is trying to teach me the importance of forgiveness.
He led me to this verse,
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Being kind and compassionate, forgiving others just as in Christ, God forgave you.
This verse really helped me overcome some challenges at Buford. Secondly, I think God was trying to teach me how beautiful true brotherhood is. After struggling with feeling betrayed by some of my new friends at school, I called up a brother and told him what happened and asked him to pray for me. And as soon as I was done, I felt a burden lifted from my shoulders. God also led me to this verse,
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
This is talking about the importance of obedience of brotherhood. All in all, God has really been working in my life the last couple months; and it has been hard, but the gifts I have gained from it make it worth it.
My story starts like a lot of other people’s story. I went to a Christian elementary and middle school and was raised in a Christian household. I was drilled on all the facts and what I was supposed to believe. I accepted Jesus into my heart at a young age and always knew what I believed, but didn’t really walk the walk. I went through public high school pretty much unscathed by the big bad world, mostly due to the fact that I was so afraid of getting in trouble with my parents and hurting my relationship with them. Once I went off to college, my world was flipped upside down. It was the loneliest year of my life. I literally didn’t have any friends, regardless of my attempts to meet new people. I thought something was wrong with me. I was lonelier that I had ever felt and for the first time my mind was consumed with thoughts of how to fit in.
It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year that I reconnected with an old friend from high school. He invited me to his apartment where I met his roommates. It wasn’t 10 minutes into my visit that I was smoking weed, getting high for my first time.
I ended up moving in with those guys, taking over my friend’s rent when he moved out of the apartment, and lived there for the next two years. It was all downhill from there. I found out real quick that I was not a drinker. It really just made me feel gross. This was really hard because both of my roommates drank to get drunk almost every night of the week and were constantly trying to pressure me into drinking. I felt like I needed to find my way to fit in; and I did this by smoking. I started out smoking weed here and there whenever someone offered it to me; but then it turned into me spending my own money on it. Fast-forward almost 2 years of living this sin. My parents literally didn’t have a clue I smoked; and I was confident that I would never get caught. For some reason (the Lord), at the end of my junior year, I felt like I wanted to tell my parents I smoked. I struggled with this thought for a few months until one late night while talking to my mom, I just told her. I was tired of living the lie. This was the start of a battle between me, the Lord, and the Devil.
I was completely brain washed. I believed that weed was all natural and therefore okay. I looked everywhere to find an answer that told me it was okay. I even went to the bible for an answer. This is where the Devil was really trying to get me. I read verses like,
Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:29-31
I thought, “Yes! I have justification that this is okay for me to do.” Unfortunately, there was a verse I found that I could not shake. It was,
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
This got me thinking; but not enough to make me want to quit.
My mom had told me to watch these videos on IRON and FIRE’s blog. I told her I would, with no intention of actually watching them. The next day I’m scrolling down my newsfeed on Facebook and there is Andrew Collins’ video. I watch his video, then the next, and before I know it, I had watched all six videos. After watching all the videos, I realized all the lies I was telling myself were not true. I was so brainwashed that I believed that everyone was doing it so that made it okay for me to do it. I felt like I was the only one out there that was trying to quit doing something that I really didn’t want to quit doing in the first place. It wasn’t until I decided to meet with Jeff that he totally opened my eyes to the sin that I was living within. He then invited me to be a part of IRON and FIRE.
Here I got to meet tons of guys. Some older and some younger, but we all had one thing in common. We were trying to make each other better by having fellowship together, spending time in the word, and praying together. IRON and FIRE has helped me to meet new friends that are Christians. When I first stopped smoking, one of my biggest fears was that I was going to be lonely again and boy was I wrong. In fact it was the complete opposite. I met new friends that were there to build me up and encourage me. I had really never experienced this type of friendship. This type of friend is called a brother.
The more time I put between that time of my life and now, the clearer it becomes of how I slipped into that life style. My biggest encouragement to someone reading this is: You need to have a reason to quit doing what you’re doing. Like I stated earlier, I didn’t really want to quit because I didn’t see the harm in it. I didn’t see how this was harming my relationship with the Lord and killing my potential to be all that I can be. It numbed my brain and helped me feel like I was “fitting in.” The first few weeks after quitting was the hardest because I had to quit using pure will power, instead of relying on the knowledge that it was sin. Once I believed that it was truly a sin and hindering my relationship with the Lord, I was able to lose the desire to smoke.
All in all, IRON and FIRE has been the biggest life-changer for me. It has helped me see who I really want to be and has refocused my life to the Lord. Now I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means, but I now have accountability and fellowship to help me work through my daily struggles and draw closer to the Lord.
“The past couple months or so, I have noticed my relationship with God growing more and more distant. Between constantly staying busy with activities such as school, work, Jiu jitsu, and competitive shooting, I found my self spending very little time with God. Whether that was church, reading my bible, or praying, it all got placed on the back burner. I found myself gravitating towards worldly desires to solve my problems in life.
Over the past week, I got back in touch with an ex-girlfriend; I often convince myself that I’m still in love with her, no matter how unhealthy that might be. The combination of being constantly busy and being disappointed and all these other factors put me into a very sad place. I questioned myself. Why am I in school? Why do I even try anymore? Why do I feel so broken? I realized I had been depending upon worldly things to make me happy.
I was sitting in bed one evening when I had that realization. I looked over at my Bible, which literally had dust on it. I picked it up and the first verse that I noticed was Isaiah 40:29, ‘He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.’ This verse really inspired me as I realized I was, in fact, weary and weak. That was exactly how I felt; I was weak without God; and I knew nothing but my faith in God was going to rescue me from that. I pray that I will not falter again. I know The Lord will give me strength no matter how weary, sad or beaten I might feel.
To my fellow brothers, I want to remind you that your strength comes from God. My all time favorite verse is Philippians 4:13. It is a great reminder that God always has your back. So when you’re feeling down or sad, pick up that Bible; call a brother; get back in church. Do whatever it takes to get your life back on track with God.”
In Luke 11:9, Jesus says,
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 reads,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”
My original interpretation of these verses led me to believe that knowing Jesus was as simple as knocking on His door. When He opens I would be fully assured of the Holy Spirit in my life and in that moment I would forever be changed. In other words, meeting God is a one-time thing. Yet, very recently, my interpretation of these verses has changed.
For many people in my life, their first encounter with Jesus was sensational. For a long time, it seemed as if they all had one “aha moment” where they were overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and fully aware of God’s love, grace, mercy, etc.; however, my experience with meeting Christ was very different. My experience was not centered around one specific moment, rather many little experiences over the course of a few weeks. These experiences allowed me to see, for the first time in my life, that God was not only real, but also showing himself to me on a personal level. My life was altered forever from that point on, yet I certainly did not feel fully assured of whom I was in Christ.
My hunger to figure it out was intense; but after many months of being away from brotherhood and community, my hunger and focus on discovering what it meant to be in Christ waned along with my time in the Word and prayer. I began to question if what I had experienced was real or if it was just behavior modification that I had somehow tricked myself into. I began to question if I had really met Christ. When I compared my experience to many others’ in my life, I was worried because mine did not have the central sensational moment.
Growing up in Church I had prayed THE prayer many times yet I didn’t really experience anything different until I was a senior in high school. This is when I became consumed with the idea of sensationalism. I thought that I needed to experience something sensational to experience Jesus for real and to really be assured that I was in Him. So every time I prayed I began telling God to do something remarkable or to let me see a miracle. Something, anything to give me assurance! I needed to know that he was walking with me because I so deeply feared that He wasn’t and that I was missing something. I needed the “aha moment!” I would spend time in the Word aimlessly, yet my prayer and focus was on asking God to just reveal himself to me.
My prayers were never answered. Throughout this period I didn’t experience anything that blew my mind or was an undeniable miracle. Because of this, I became certain that I really was missing something. So I went back to square one. I began asking the big questions about God, even questioning his existence, as if to start over because I had missed something along the way the first time.
Going back and looking at my experiences was extremely beneficial to me, yet not in the way I thought it would be. Originally I thought going back and investigating my walk with God would lead me to the area I needed to fix, or perhaps lead me to the Jesus I never really knew; but what I found was that searching for what I was missing was actually the cause of why I was missing out. My motivation for knowing God was solely focused on MY security, MY needs, and MY joy. But what I have realized is that joy in Christ comes from breakthroughs in our walk with Him. Paul says that we are restricted by our affections. When Jesus says knock, he isn’t saying, “Come in and you will be safe,” he is saying, “Come in and experience me!”
Although meeting Jesus may be a one-time experience, knowing him is not. Jesus wants me to keep knocking, keep seeking, keeping asking questions and desire to know him better, and experience the Holy Spirit in new ways. I am no longer in question as to where I stand with Jesus; and I am certain that the Holy Spirit is in me. I still have doubts and I will always question myself; but what I have come to understand is that I cannot be preoccupied with what I am not; I must be preoccupied with who He is.
The reason I decided to blog about this is because I know I am not the only person who questions where they stand with God. This probably happens at different times for different people; but for me, it’s when I have been away from Church or community or if I have been allowing a certain sin to take over. It leads me to pray things like, “Lord be with me today,” or “Jesus, walk with me.” What a ludicrous thing to ask! He is always with me; He says he will never forsake me; He says he will finish the work he has started; there is nothing that can separate us from God!
We pray for God to do things that he has already done! For Christians like me, closed heavens are between the ears. They exist in the thought-life that empowers darkness to do exactly what the believer has believed. Somehow we convince ourselves that we can distance ourselves from Him. We believe this because the Holy Spirit is within all of us but does not rest upon all of us. The only person who fully remained in the Spirit all the time was Jesus! But we have the capacity to host that same Spirit. Look at Peter; he healed people with just his shadow! I don’t think Peter was in question as to whether or not he was walking with Jesus. Peter was preoccupied with making himself a host for Jesus’ spirit.
Through all of this I hope to communicate the fact that the Holy Spirit is within all of us who believe. We can’t be ignorant of the things that God has done in our lives. Praying for these things gets us nowhere and leaves our prayer lives boring and routine. Instead, we must pray for things that require us to step beyond our boundaries. Ask God to show us miracles, not because we need to see them, because we want to see God move in our lives. Ask him to place people in our lives into which we can pour out love.
Most importantly, we must ask to be better hosts of the Holy Spirit so that we can be better ambassadors of Jesus in our world. Bill Johnson says, “The breakthrough of prayer is supposed to be our ongoing source and flow of joy from God.” Instead of asking Jesus to walk with me, now I ask him to do something in me that will allow me to impart His presence.