“Yeah, man, I’ll be there,” Tim said. His stomach tightened. “Yeah, I promise. I said I’d be there and I will be.”
Tim had just promised to meet Derek at one of their old hangouts. Tim hadn’t been going out to the bars for a while now, but Derek had been begging him to get together. The two friends had always enjoyed a couple of laughs and a few drinks.
And sometimes, a lot of drinks.
While Derek was still the same guy he had always been, Tim was changing. He had started going to church a few months prior because a co-worker invited him. At first, he wasn’t sure he would continue, but a few single women in the congregation caught his attention. The idea of dating a woman who attended church appealed to him, so he decided to go back and give it another chance.
After a few visits, Tim became intrigued by the sermons. It wasn’t the first time he had heard about Jesus Christ, but he was learning some things he never knew. Above all, he learned that being a Christian meant much more than he once believed.
He wrestled with himself over what to do about Derek. The two friends had always enjoyed a good time, but Tim had become concerned about their habit of over-drinking when they got together. The message he had been getting at church opened his eyes to other changes he wanted to make in his life - the things he did, and the people he was around. Most likely, making those changes meant he’d be spending less time with Derek.
Even though Tim agreed to meet Derek at the bar later that evening, he promised himself he wouldn’t drink at all. He wanted to prove he could have a good time without getting drunk.
Of course, Derek might give him a hard time for not drinking. Derek hadn’t changed much since their college days. He was still the abrasive, in-your-face personality whose idea of a good time meant drinking until the bar ran dry. But Tim decided to cross that bridge when he came to it.
Tim spotted Derek seated on a stool near the end of the crowded bar. As he walked over, he could see that his friend had already started the evening with a bourbon on the rocks.
Tim glided up and took a seat next to his buddy. “Hey, man, what’s going on?”
Derek turned up his glass and finished what was left of his drink. “Hey, dude, just getting started. Let me get the first round.” Then he called the bartender. “Hey, I’d like another, and get one for my friend here.”
Tim’s response came out in a nervous stutter. “Ah, I’m-I’m good, thanks though.”
Derek was stunned. “What? Gimme a break, dude. Don’t tell me you’re going to be a buzzkill."
Tim cut him off. “Hey, we're gonna have a good time. I just decided I’m going to take it easy tonight and lay off the booze.”
Derek had a habit of calling Tim by his last name when he got frustrated with him. “Look, Jackson, you're not doing this to me. When we talked earlier, we agreed we were going to cut loose tonight. It’s been a crappy week, and you’re not wussing out on me.”
Derek motioned to the bartender to bring the drinks, then turned back to Tim. “Look, Jackson. I’m going to order this drink, and you’re gonna drink it. You’re not screwing this up tonight. Trust me, you’ll thank me in the morning - after you finish puking!”
Derek laughed, but Tim didn’t. Though he had promised himself he wouldn’t give in to the pressure, Tim was already having doubts that he would make it through the night without overdoing it.
The bartender sat the two drinks down on the bar. Derek reached for his, but Tim just stared at the one in front of him. He knew if he reached for the glass, he would be going back on the commitment he had made to himself earlier.
He thought this would be easier.
does being a christian mean following a bunch of rules?
I had always believed in God and attended church occasionally, but never seriously committed to Christianity. Honestly, I didn’t even know what “committing to Christ” looked like. To me, being a Christian meant giving up everything I enjoyed doing to follow a strict set of rules.
Then one day, I realized that everything I relied on for happiness - relationships, friendships, material things - weren’t enough.
I still wasn’t happy.
I still didn’t have the inner peace I wanted. The material things weren’t enough to ease the stress and anxiety that life dished out. Blowing off steam at the bar was like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. Romantic relationships were less precious and more poisonous.
I knew life had to be better than the one I was living.
Though I wanted to believe God could help me, I struggled to overcome my weaknesses to live the kind of life He wanted me to live. I prayed and asked Him to help me understand more about what He required of me, and how to follow through. I learned that if you ask God to speak to you, and wait patiently enough, He will. These scriptures sum up the answer I received:
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
That’s when I began to understand there was nothing I could do to be righteous or holy. But by recognizing and embracing the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we are made perfect in the eyes of God. Once I understood what Jesus did for me, my desire to become the person God created me to be began to outweigh my desire to live the life I had been living.
you have a part to play
Even though we are saved by the grace of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have a responsibility. Change is evidence that our desire to follow Christ and live within God’s will is sincere. Though it isn’t always an easy thing to do, God loves us enough to provide help when we need it.
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
(1 Corinthians 10:13)
The next time you’re tempted to fall into old habits or compromising situations, ask God to show you what to do and to give you the strength to stand strong.
He will. And when He does...
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
That’s when you’ll start to experience change. Real change. Stop seeing God’s way as a burden - following a set of rules - and choose to see it for the life-changing truth that it is.