Whac-a-mole discipleship

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

I became a follower of Jesus as a college freshman at age 18. After a couple of years of learning what it meant to follow Jesus and developing some close friendships with my Christian friends, I started to understand the importance of accountability, of having someone that I trusted enough to confess my sins too, someone who would ask me the tough questions about my walk with the Lord. For the past 20+ years, I have always had at least someone that I talk with regularly about my struggles so that I stay sharp in my discipleship. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

But here’s the thing about accountability and the sincere desire to avoid sin:  the longer I have walked with the Lord, I have found that His Spirit and His Word have functioned like one of those mirrors that magnifies everything to four times its actual size. Blemishes and imperfections that I never knew were there have been revealed to be ugly warts in need of serious treatment. The Psalmist prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” So what do you do when God’s thorough search reveals more offensive ways than you could ever count?

My usual solution has been this: focus on the major sins that threaten to trip me up. Communication. Avoiding conflict. Laziness. Lack of discipline. A lack of planning ahead. And then, if there is time, have my partner ask about the many other areas of potential struggle: how am I doing as a husband? As a father? How is my prayer life? Is there anything I am avoiding out of fear? And so on… As important as this approach has been, the result over the years has been a list of sins and struggles and goals that would take someone hours to go through with me.

The reality is that I can spend the rest of my life playing Whac-a-Mole with my sins and struggles, conquering one only to have another one pop up. But there is a better way. The good news is that there is really only one main question that I must ask myself daily, and others must ask of me:

Are you pursuing God?

If I am not pursuing God, then I will continue to struggle with every imaginable sin. But when my goal in life is to know and honor God, when the influences I allow into my life point me to Him, when I start my day with God and bring my anxieties, my fears, and my needs to Him regularly, then a lot of those struggles truly diminish. And so, I find that the one thing I really need accountability for is: am I pursuing God? If I seek first the Lord and delight in Him, then all the other things that I worry about and struggle with will begin to lose their appeal in the light of His glory and goodness.

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