It’s always amazing to here stories of how and why people choose to follow Jesus. Here’s the stories of Steph, Ezra, Tracy, Amanda and Alex who got baptised at Kings.
We have produced a 12 page study guide for life groups this term as we go through our Grace Works teaching series on Galatians. You can pick a booklet up from the Kings Centre, or you can download a PDF here:
It seems to be written into nature that when something stops growing it begins to die. But can it also be true of our Christian faith? How do we ensure that years and decades from now we are still strong in faith, still growing, still learning?
Jesus calls us to follow him 1. There’s a journey, there’s direction and there’s movement. Faith is active: we walk by the spirit 2, straining forward, pressing on towards the goal 3. To be unengaged or distracted does not leave us in a neutral zone — we are either walking towards Jesus or we are drifting away, carried by the currents of this world, the enemy and our own earthly desires 4.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13
One of the marks of true faith is that we press on until the very end. Given its importance, how do we make sure that, as Christians, we never stop growing, never stop enduring? Is it all down to us, or is our church family and our heavenly Father involved as well?
We caught up with several members at Kings to see how continual growth in their lives has been worked out on a practical level.
I was a bit ‘in and out’ with my faith until about 2000. Before that I couldn’t really say I was a Christian; I just grew up amongst Christian people. But it was about that time that I just got into university, and had a lot going on. At that time you’re really getting your identity together — what you are really about. I realised that I was living the sort of life that could only end in destruction! So I sat down and thought “this is not the path for me, I need to get serious”.
“it shocked me to reality, let me put it that way.”
Q: So you’ve been a Christian since 2000. What would you say has caused you to grow in your faith between then and now?
I’ve had some ups and downs, and I think the biggest one was when I lost my mum in 2009. It was a big shock and very unexpected. I guess everyone would say this, but my mum was that very, very special person to me. Even when I wasn’t such a very good boy, we could always rub minds and I would always listen to her. Her death really affected me and I was like “God, you shouldn’t have let this happen”. At that point in time my faith was rock bottom.
Q: So did this ultimately spark growth in your faith?
Yeah, it shocked me to reality, let me put it that way. For about two years I didn’t know what I was. I had lost my identity at that point. I didn’t stop believing, I still knew God, but I was really upset. I wasn’t showing forth the fruit. But then I was having this conversation with my older brother who I respect so much. We were chatting about how much we missed her. I told him I didn’t know what I was about anymore, and just living every day as it came.
He said “let me put it this way. God’s made some promises about life on earth, but his main promise is about eternity. And mum hasn’t lost that. But if you’re not careful, you will lose that.” And that spurred me on.
I went home that day and prayed and asked God for forgiveness. I started living again. And there was one prayer: I asked God “never let me get to a point where I am filled. Let me always be hungry for you”. Ever since then, that’s what I’ve been all about. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that a deeper relationship with God is what I pray for every day. With God it’s never ending, you can’t get to the bottom of that relationship. You can just go deeper and deeper and deeper.
“Living on earth makes you think you can actually live without God. But you realise it’s just a mirage, a trick of the enemy”
Q: What do you think the key is to finishing well?
That’s a tricky one! There’s no way you can finish well without growing. Living on earth makes you think you can actually live without God. But you realise it’s just a mirage, a trick of the enemy. You have to feed on God every day.
M: On my first Newday (aged 12) I responded to the gospel with my friends and gave my life to Jesus. But when I got back from Newday, nothing really changed. We got into a cycle: you meet Jesus for one week and it’s amazing; but then you come back and nothing’s changed. And that went on for a few years until last Newday, 2016, where we did a Holy Spirit night, where you invite the Holy Spirit into your life. I was filled with so much joy and love. I instantly realised what this was all about and kept seeking God after this happened. So that changed my life.
B: A very similar story to Maddie’s. When I was 12 I gave my life to God at Newday, but like Maddie, it didn’t really change anything. At the next Newday I re-gave my life, and I think that’s when my faith started to take effect. It was a gradual process of it becoming more real. I began to share my faith with my friends and have discussions, debates, and grow in my faith.
Q: What have been the most important and significant things to helping you grow as a Christian?
M: I would definitely say joining the ID team and being a leader. Getting involved and seeing what’s going on. You talk to the kids about Jesus and I love the opportunity to share the gospel. I also loved (y)Hunger where I got to do a talk on jealousy; and doing other talks at ID have helped me want to read my Bible more.
“What has helped you grow? A: Getting involved and seeing what’s going on … I love the opportunity to share the gospel.”
B: I would say the ongoing support from the church has been a vital step in me being who I am today. We were always a bit of a pain at ID. We always caused trouble and wreaked havoc. But they never gave up, and our current leader Anne has always been there for us and a tremendous help spiritually.
“We were always a bit of a pain at ID. We always caused trouble and wreaked havoc. But they never gave up”
Having come from a Christian background, certainly the information of Christianity was with me since childhood: who Christ was, the details of God, worship, and those kinds of things. But I can remember the actual time of making a decision — I must have been in my twenties. Then I knew that I knew that I was a born again Christian.
Q: Having spent fifty to sixty years following Jesus, what has helped you the most to continually grow as a Christian?
The whole concept of reading the Word of God and communication with him through prayer. It seems to be rather a pat answer, but that’s the truth. It’s reading the word and talking to God. Those two things are the keys to my life really.
My faith has always been strong because I’ve had the ability of disciplining myself to get up early – 6am every morning – for years and years. Again, I simply enjoy spending time with God, and very often I will keep a note of what God is saying to me. So that’s been the key to having a very stable relationship.
Q: What have been your greatest struggles?
I think the greatest struggle is being independent. Thinking that you can do things by yourself when in reality you can’t. And God has to bring you to a point where he shows you that you can’t, where he says “you’re utterly dependent on me”. It’s a hard lesson to learn because you keep repeating it!
“When Christ is everything to you, he is the answer to everything. But it’s allowing him to be that.”
Q: If you could talk to yourself back in your twenties, what’s the biggest life lesson you would teach yourself?
I think I would have to go back to the whole thing of my dependence on him. At the end of the day the essence of the Christian life is looking to Jesus because he is your everything. When Christ is everything to you, he is the answer to everything. But it’s allowing him to be that. He is the author, the perfector of your faith. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
If you have questions or comments related to this article, Life Groups are a great place to discuss the Bible and share life together.
When Ernest Shackleton was trying to recruit men to sign up for his expedition across the Antarctic, legend has it that he posted an advert in the Times newspaper:
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
Thousands of people applied.
Jesus also put out invitations for people to join him and his kingdom movement; an insurgency operation aimed at overthrowing the established order. He challenged his hearers to join him and form part of a new community known for its radical generosity, enemy love and devotion to one another.
To be part of his band of believers he called people to turn their backs on their old lives, to give up everything and to accept persecution as a likely reality. Thousands applied, hundreds followed him but at times only the original twelve could handle it.
Living as a follower of Jesus has never been the easy option in life. It is the narrow way, the denial of self and the fragrance of death to some. It requires guts to follow Jesus and an appetite for adventure like that of those men who applied to be part of Shackleton’s mission.
“Living as a follower of Jesus has never been the easy option in life. It is the narrow way, the denial of self and the fragrance of death to some.”
What’s in a name?
Passivity isn’t possible for the Christian, at least it shouldn’t be, since living as a Christian requires activity and exertion. Don’t believe me? Consider the terms used in the Bible to describe the church.
In the book of Acts there are seven different words or terms used to describe the earliest Christians. Those words are: Followers of the Way, Believers, Disciples, Those who call on the name of the Lord, Saints, Christians and Brothers and Sisters. It’s worth observing that all seven refer to or imply activity. Christians are those who follow, believe, obey, pray, live righteously (saints), mimic Jesus’ lifestyle (Christians) and behave brotherly or sisterly toward one another.
On top of that Christians are also called: ambassadors, witnesses, soldiers and athletes. Actively pursuing and living for Jesus is meant to be a constant and ongoing part of a Christian’s experience.
Don’t give up
When driving a car it’s sometimes the case that another road user doesn’t see you and pulls out in front or cuts into your lane forcing you to slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid them. When this happens you might get angry or panicky but rarely does anyone just stop their car and get out exclaiming ‘I give up! Driving clearly isn’t for me, it’s too risky; I’ll walk from now on!’. Even if that’s how you feel you wouldn’t do it because doing that wouldn’t help you get to where you’re going. ‘I have a destination to reach,’ you think ‘and nothing, no amount of crazy drivers, is going to stop me getting there.’
It’s the same in the Christian life. Things will trip us up, we will fall down and stumble and stutter in prayer and struggle to believe. The good things in this life will fight for our attention and devotion. We will be tempted to live for our careers, or for our partner’s affection or our kid’s approval. We will be tempted to believe that money or approval is the source of life’s joy. We will look to the things around us to derive our identity instead of looking to Jesus. But don’t give up.
We have a destination to reach, eternal, full-fat and overflowing joy. We’re being made more and more into the character of Jesus, we’re proving and enjoying the power of God. We’re being prepared for a never-ending, whole-hearted satisfying life with God in the new Creation.
No man gets left behind
The people you’re living your life around matter to God. The people you stand next to Sunday by Sunday matter to God and the friends in your life matter to God. Given that the Christian life is hard, that it requires an ongoing commitment, and given that there’s plenty of things that could potentially derail us, we should expect that the people around us may need us. And, if they’re anything like you, they’re unlikely to tell you that they need you.
What marked Christianity out from the religions of its day and what set its course for becoming the dominant faith in the western world was its community. Whereas people were used to simply attending a temple, making an offering and going home again the Christians lived their lives together. They shared their possessions, met daily in one another’s homes, prayed together, wept together and ate meals together; they challenged one another to trust Jesus under horrible circumstances, they committed themselves to one another and they served one another.
“We need to start looking out for one another and adopt the military’s ‘no man gets left behind’ attitude”
We need one another, the people around you need you. We need to start looking out for one another and adopt the military’s ‘no man gets left behind’ attitude. The church needs more men and women who are willing to love the people around them enough to make their walk with Jesus part of ‘their business.’ Are they in a group? Do they need encouragement to come to church? Could they do with someone praying for them? We won’t know unless we ask, we won’t ask unless we care and we won’t care unless we realise how much they matter to God.
As we enter this next season consider two verses and two questions:
“In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5
Who’s in danger of being left behind?
As one body we have a responsibility towards each other, to help one another, to love and even to challenge one another. In your circle, who’s in danger of being left behind? Who is isolated or drifting? Who needs a phone call, an invite, some prayer and support?
“We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Hebrews 3:12-14
How will we finish well?
True faith is alive. It’s active. It works, endures and perseveres. We want to finish the race stronger than when we started and complete the work God has given us. With that in mind, how are we actively pursuing Christ right now? What changes do we need to make to ensure we’re still growing, still learning, still listening to God for the years and decades to come?
Some people splutter in surprise when they first read Galatians. Some people are offended. Some can’t believe the strength of the language, or the emotion, or the imagery. Some find it provokes all kinds of uncomfortable questions.
Others cling to it for dear life. They find Paul’s talk of a righteousness by faith, apart from works of the law, to be their only hope. They cherish the thought of a community in which there is no Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, but everyone is one in Christ Jesus. They celebrate their freedom, stand in grace, and produce the fruits of the Spirit.
But nobody who wrestles with the argument of Galatians can remain unchanged.
Over eleven weeks we’ll be going through Paul’s most explosive letter in detail. We will ask what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how it might apply to us today. We will try to understand law and grace, flesh and Spirit, slavery and freedom. And most importantly, we will ask ourselves, if what we read in Galatians is true, why it is such good news.
Starting 1st October at Hampden Park, 8th October at Centro, with all talks made available online at www.kings.church/teaching
We look forward to seeing you at Kings!
75 of our 11-19 year-olds went to Newday, a major Christian youth festival that takes place every summer over six days at the Norfolk showground. 7000 youth attended and it’s always a real highlight of the year.
Friendships are made, there’s lots of life and a lot of laughter. There’s great times of worship and tons of fantastic Bible teaching. It helps grow the faith of our young people, and for some it’s life changing. We often hear stories of salvation and stories of healing. Here’s just a few snippets of what God is doing in the lives of our young people:
“It got to the point where my life was dependent on drugs. I began to hate myself and blame myself… I started taking this out on my weight as it’s the only thing I can control. I kept turning to drugs as it was the only thing that made me happy. I asked God to fill me with the Holy Spirit… My anxiety immediately went and I feel comfortable in my own skin. I will never turn my back again, He is real. I’m ready to start my new journey with God. Knowing I have a Father who loves me for who I am no matter how many sins I have caused is incredible.”
“I had a knee problem for two years. A microfracture meniscus tear causing pain all the time when walking, jogging, running and trying to undertake basic actions or activities… then everyone prayed… I realised I was pain free and could touch my toes. The feeling of being able to walk was overwhelming. I am really thankful for what God has done for me and how much he has got me through.”
“Unfortunately, I am very easy to get hurt. In 2016 I had an accident on the go karts. My knee was swollen for three days and then later in 2017 I was pushed into the lockers and once again hit my back and once again I went to the doctor. He said that because of the hit my liver was damaged. I felt terrible, I was in unbearable pain and I cried a lot…
On the fourth night of Newday the main objective was healing and I couldn’t believe it! I placed my right hand on my upper back and my left hand on my lower back. I got a sudden stroke of pain. I felt pain on all my back and my knees and I fell onto the ground. I was crying. The pain had gone. I felt new. I was new! God the Heavenly Father listened to my prayer and he, the great I AM took all my sins and my pains away. Now I feel no more pain. Thank you”
“We were having a night focused on the Holy Spirit. The preacher Francis Chan was speaking about how God may show himself. I started praying for my friends. I had a conversation with God!”
“There was a call for anyone who wanted to go up and give their life to Jesus. At first this didn’t appeal to me. But then I knew something had changed and I wanted to be a Christian. We went out and prayed. I had taken that last step. I was now a Christian.”
“I prayed for healing for my depression and for my scars to disappear. As I finished my prayer I looked at my wrists and ALL of the scars and blemishes had disappeared. It feels completely brand new!”
“Newday this year has really helped. Through preaches I could relate and understand God more. I have now learnt to carry on going for God, even when you feel he’s not talking to you.”
Find all the talks from Newday online at soundcloud.com/newdayevent
Ice creams, sunny days, slip ‘n slide, football tournaments, beautiful lakes, kids running free… Fantastic worship, challenging teaching and getting the big picture for our towns and cities, Europe and beyond. Here’s a snapshot of the Ashburnham weekend away.
Missed the weekend or missed a session? You can watch or listen to all the main talks on the New Ground website at newgroundchurches.org/media