Updated: Apr 3
Hebrews 4:12-13 have always been a few of my favorite
verses. These verses read: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Many times in the church, we take measures to ensure our “swords of the word” are sharp. This often means spending countless Bible classes discussing the importance of studying the scriptures. Then an hour on Wednesday and Sunday digging into the scriptures. And while this is great, I heard someone once say:
“I was once armed with scripture. My sword was sharp, but just because you have a sharp sword, does not mean you are skilled at wielding it. You have to learn the finesse of a swordsman. I would go out and want to be sound in the faith, doctrinally correct, and teach people what they should and shouldn’t do, but in some ways, I only knew the “what.” It took a number of years to understand the “why.” – Kerry Williams
Kerry’s word’s caused me to begin thinking about the importance of understanding our “why” as Christian women.
German Philosopher Fredrick Neitzche once said:
“He who has a “why“ can endure any “how.”
Growing up in the faith, I only went to worship because my parents said so. I was pretty good at memorizing scripture and learning the “who's, the whats, the where's, the when's.” But, it wasn’t until I discovered the “why,” that my motivations were changed and my faith grew and was able to endure certain trials.
Taking measures to understand the "why" of my faith transformed my zeal. And through this process, here is what I am learning:
It is great to know the “who, the whats, the where's, the when's,” of scripture. It is awesome to know there are 66 books in the Bible, 27 New Testament, 39 in the Old…It is fantastic to be able to pin point on a map where Jerusalem is or how many judges there were. But it is so incredibly vital to know the “why” of scripture. The “why” of Christianity. If we are not careful, leaving out the "why" will cause us to study scriptures solely for knowledge, and fail at application.
Here are some tips I have learned when it comes to discovering the "why.”
1. Be Careful Making the why” Just About You.
Many times as Christian women, we want to hear, "you are worthy, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are an incredible, able being." Then, we wonder why, if we are so great, are there days when we still feel a void? Or unexplained discouragement?
I think it may be because we are doing ourselves a disservice by preaching this type of gospel to each other. The truth is, yes, scripture pours out these truths. We are seen, wonderfully made, beautiful creatures, able to do amazing things. But, we are also sinners, in need of a savior.
And we cannot cure low-self esteem with high self esteem. Hebrews 12: 1-2 tells us, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith."
These verses tell us that our “why” focus matters. Our "why" we love ourselves matter.
Sharon Hodde Miller once wrote, "When we’re dealing with insecurity, brokenness, and fear, the world says, “Focus on YOU! You are great. You are special. You are perfect just the way you are.” This message even has a God spin to it: “God has an amazing plan for you!” And you know what? A lot of that is true. Those messages are not bad or wrong in and of themselves. It’s important to take care of yourself and give yourself time to heal. I affirm that entirely, and more importantly, so does God. But. That can’t be your focus. You cannot be your focus. Otherwise you’re running distracted. That’s why the promises of high self-esteem—of focusing on yourself, working on yourself, and boosting yourself up—can only take you so far. If your faith exists to make you feel better about yourself, you’re going to veer off course. You’ll find yourself returning to those messages again and again, never fully moving on, because you’re not advancing toward the finish line. You’ve lost focus. That’s what happened to me. I was stuck, and the only thing that got me back in the race was realizing that my self-esteem wasn’t the problem. The problem was my focus. I couldn’t enjoy the freedom of living for Christ, because I wasn’t living for Christ. I was living for me. My eyes were fixed on me." Our "why" of Christianity cannot be "me" centered.”
Teaching and learning about the gospel for your own reputation and glory, will cause a void because it will cause you to be eaten up with comparison and insecurity. In my life, when I was a new Christian and I taught my first Bible class, I received a lot of encouragement. But as I kept teaching and growing throughout the years, that encouragement stopped.
And if I wasn’t careful, when I wasn’t receiving encouraging words, I would grow discouraged and my discouragement would cause me to be paralyzed into inaction. When my “why” became to bring glory to my father, my zeal changed. I now write, teach, and continue learning for His glory, not mine. And it has unleashed me from the prison of inaction and discouragement.
2. A Self-Centered “why” will conflict with a “God Centered “Why.”
A God centered “why” will always lead us to the cross. A self-centered “why” will lead to the desire of always wanting to be right, comfortable, or convenient. Many times, a God-centered “why” calls us to discomfort, things that do not feel good, or things that may require suffering. If we are not careful, we can make our “why” about us. We will make the church and the Christian life a means to live a more comfortable and sheltered life. We will be more concerned about our buildings than the members in the pews.
Jesus does not call us to a sheltered, comfortable life. He often calls us out of our comfort zones and into the lives of broken families. Ministry is messy, but it is God’s mess And He is able to create something beautiful out of broken lives.
Am I encouraging you to risk the safety of your kids? No. Are all of us called to be martyrs? No. But our “why” should keep our assumptions and our priorities in check. If wholesome and safe is our center and our compass, then we will always choose convenience over obedience.
Whenever your “why” is self-centered and about you or your reputation, disobedience is not far behind. When your “why” is God-centered, “Not my will, but yours” will become your motivation and pathway to freedom.
The good news is that, while Jesus doesn’t promise us wholesome and safe, he does promise freedom, abundance, and peace. If we have the courage to follow him and trust him for that, then that becomes our "why." We can put down safe and pick up satisfied. Put down comfort and pick up contentment. Obedience demands endurance and grit, but its fruit is life and a burning fire that cannot be stopped.
3. Our “why” Should Not be a Competition.
Paul wrote in Philippians 1:17 about those preaching Christ out of selfish ambition. These people were supposed to be on Paul’s team, they should have had his back, but instead, they behaved like competitors.
They saw Paul’s imprisonment as a victory in a competition they never should have been playing. If I was in Paul’s position, I would have been totally discouraged. But Paul is not. Instead he said, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Paul was just happy that Christ was being proclaimed. It did not matter who got the credit. His “why” was not about living for himself or his own reputation. It was not about competing with others to be the most “Christian” or to have the biggest “influence.” He was focused on the glory of God and nothing else mattered. This focus rescued him from feelings of hate and discouragement. Paul was content in all things because his “why” was not a competition. It was all about Jesus. Paul was a living, breathing example of Jesus’s words that his “burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). This is why we have to fight to keep the focus of our “why” on God and not allow it to pressure us into competing with others. No matter how or where God calls us, our focus will attempt to drift inward and we have got to fight that temptation. When we have nothing to prove and nothing at stake but Christ alone, we experience the “why” our souls crave. Our desire to compete with our sisters will lessen and we will realize that there is enough of God’s glory and blessings for our sisters to partake in.
4. Your “why” Should Not be Just About Building “Your Best Life.”
“There is a whole world out there of brokenness, poverty, hunger, and pain, begging to hear the good news of Christ, but we will never reach them if we are too focused on building our best lives now.”- Sharon Hodde Miller.
Sisters, the world desperately needs people who love and spread the gospel well. Who are taking measures to learn how to use their “sharp sword” and understand why they should be using it. This broken world is crying out for people who will love with the same abandon as Christ. But that kind of love will not spring forth from a people focused on themselves and living their “best lives.” When our focus is on our own needs, our own preferences, and our own comforts, we will not love people a way that resembles anything like the love of Jesus.
Understanding your “why” is the most vital thing to do for your faith. When you choose to become a Christian, decide to repent and be immersed into the watery grave of baptism, and become a new creature in Christ, you are embarking on life’s greatest adventure. Sis, let Him steer. Keep your "why" God centered. Don’t just focus on the rules and the “what’s.” Yes, know your scriptures. Yes align your behavior with the scriptures. But make sure you are not neglecting your “why.” This post was inspired by a book I recently read called, "Free of Me:Life is Better When it is Not About You." I do not endorse every single teaching by this woman, but I will say this book taught me some very important truths. It is available here: