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Growing up, I didn’t realize it, but my church had a performance-based bent.  There was an image to maintain. You were a good Christian if you were in church every time the doors were opened. We sang our hymns, memorized our verses, and stayed away from worldly things. 

That is until I hit middle school. My world exploded in two different ways. Internally, my body clock kicked in finding myself fighting a world of raging hormones, temptations, and a sexual drive that seemed to have a mind of its own. The other way my life exploded was through the influence of new friends at school. Profanity, smoking, skipping class, talking sex, wearing chains and bracelets, and more radical-looking clothing.  My head was spinning. Parts of me experimented with these newfound ways of finding myself, while parts of me felt I was in massive rebellion. I probably was.

What confused me was how my faith fit into all of these changes.  At times, it didn’t. Despite making a conscious step of faith at age 12 towards Jesus, by the time I was 15, I was negotiating with my parents on how little I could go to church. We settled on Sunday mornings only. I’m sure I disappointed my parents and others. 

Later, at age 16, my friend Kevin was killed, along with 5 others in a car-train wreck. Once again, God got my attention and I decided that living for Him was better than me doing something stupid and dying at that age, too.

Fast forward to college and my twenties.  Although the Christian college group I was involved with opened my eyes to cultivating spiritual disciplines that helped my walk with Jesus, I was keen on performing well. If I didn’t try harder, my fellow college campus ministry friends wouldn’t like me. God wouldn’t like me, either. Or so I thought. Shame and guilt seemed to drive my spiritual life.  Perform, perform, perform!

A decade or so later, I’m working as an architect, managing many projects, hectic at church, and busy raising a young family. Stress got the best of me at times. I’d secretly implode. 

“I cannot keep this up!”  

My mind played games on me. Satan was having a hay day getting me so busy doing that I would lose all sight of having intimacy with God. It’s not that all my doing was wrong. I saw people grow in their faith because of all my busyness. The problem was I was burning out.

Then it happened.  I recall where I was the moment God once again got my attention.  Sitting at a friend’s house in Wisconsin I was listening to a sermon on the radio.  

“You are not made to be a Christian. You are not supposed to go out and be a Christian. God made no provision for you to be a Christian.”

My note-taking took a pause. 

“God made every provision for the Holy Spirit to live the life of Christ through you.  You do not have to try harder. Simply yield more.”

Tears flowed. My heart was pierced. I felt a huge weight come off my shoulders. 

I’m not going to tell you I got up from that sermon with the idea of yielding to the Spirit all figured out.  There is no formula because it’s not a math equation. Living by the Spirit is a relationship. It is not a performance.

Galatians 2:20 has become my life verse. 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

So much so, that I got the core of that verse inked on my chest.  

Living a yielded life means that performance is no longer what earns you anything with God. You are not saved by performance. You are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. 

If I had to identify some markers of living a yielded life, they would include:

  • Anchoring my identity in who God says I am, not in what I do.  

Someday, I will be old and unable to feed, dress or change myself. I will be totally dependent on others. There might even be days that I simply sit in a recliner and stare out the window. Does God love me less because I didn’t accomplish things for Him that day?  The answer should be obvious.

  • When faced with a crisis or unexpected turn of events, yielding means I pause, and in view of Psalm 139: 5, I picture Jesus with his hand on my shoulder. 

You hem me in, behind and before,

    and lay your hand upon me.

The nearness of God in my moment of need comforts me.  I am not alone. I don’t need to come up with a thousand different angles to solve the problem. I don’t need to raise anxiety levels in the room because I think the answer is up to me. It is not up to me. It is totally the Spirit’s move. I am in that crisis by divine design.  God is not caught off guard. Trusting Him is core to my walking by the Spirit.

  • I ask for help.

During one of our Mentoring Warrior Boot Camps, the discussion came around to vulnerability. 

One guy commented:

“Most men think vulnerability is showing my weakness. It shuts a man down. Rather, vulnerability is the most courageous thing a man can do.”

If your faith is a performance-based lifestyle, you will fight vulnerability. After all, you have to prove you have your act together. Newsflash!  No one has their act together!  

Yielding calls forth vulnerability. 

“God, I am desperate for you. I long for you. Do in me and through me only what you can.”

Do I have yielding all figured out?  No. But, I do know this, when I yield, whether it’s in a conversation, a task at the office, being a husband, or simply a friend, the Holy Spirit will accomplish far more than I could ever accomplish by my trying harder. 

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 

according to the power at work within us…”  Ephesians 3:20 ESV

One of the noticeable differences in me in recent years is a lower stress level. Sure, I have my moments where anxiety flares up, my faith is weak and I wonder if I will make it through whatever is stressing me out. But for the most part, I am what Michael Thompson of Zoweh Ministries calls “settled”. Being settled in Christ is part of yielding to Him.

You do not have to try harder, simply yield more.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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