Tom Schoeneck, Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary
In a survey I recently heard quoted, 80% of the people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians were either disappointed or discouraged in their spiritual lives. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the 80% figure, but I can agree with the description. For many years of my spiritual life, that described me!!
I became a believer in 1965. In the first few years of my “new life” there were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of mountaintop experiences alternating with valleys of disappointment. It didn’t take too long before the valleys seemed to outnumber the mountaintops! Like most of us, I tried to find consistency in my walk with Christ by doing the things I was told would mature my walk: with Jesus: I attended church on a regular basis, I joined a variety of small groups, I did personal Bible study, I read books by authors who I respected for their walk with Christ, I did my best to have a regular “Quiet Time”, I attended as many retreats and seminars as my schedule would allow, and I shared my faith with everyone I could.
In those early years, I had expectations that these efforts would bring a lasting stability and consistency to my spiritual life. These expectations were supported by the reality that there were positive changes in my life. Of course there were still some sinful habits that remained but I was confident they would soon be overcome if I just hung in there and kept doing what I was doing.
However, as time marched on, I seemed to reach a limit of what was being overcome. Certain habits and patterns of sin stayed with me no matter what I did. I was on the spiritual roller coaster of commitment – failure – confession; re-commitment – failure – confession; re-commitment. This disappointing inability to achieve true change in some areas of my life got so bad that I reached the point of not wanting to do anything that would take me to the mountaintop of hope again. It was just too painful when the “old” “I” returned ever so quickly. I settled into a “this must be all there is” mentality. I accepted as fact that there never would be a consistent victory over certain sins. I would just have to live with the failure and guilt of losing the spiritual battle in certain areas until I went to heaven to be with Jesus.
Then, in the Fall of 1999, I was invited to be part of a men's Bible study that changed my life! As we studied together, I came to understand truths about the spiritual life that were transforming in a new and dynamic way. These truths have permanently changed my spiritual life from one of defeat and discouragement to one of expectation and excitement.
Often, when I make this statement, I am asked, “Tom, would your wife agree with that? Would Carol agree that you are really a different person these past years from the person she knew before?” I can honestly say she would, because she has said so, both to me and to others who know us. Her joy about what has been taking place in my life encourages me to continue growing in understanding and applying these truths.
Sharing these truths I am continuing to learn about and apply to my daily life is what this web site is all about. And I want to make something very clear. I am not talking about another discipleship “program”, or a set of "Spiritual Principles.” This is not another “4 Quick Steps to Spiritual Victory." If you can relate to anything I have said so far about coming to a point of having a “this must be all there is” mentality you have found out like I did that such "quick-fix" attempts to find satisfaction in the spiritual life are totally inadequate.
It is about coming to a clear understanding and personal application of Paul’s affirmation, “I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)
It is learning to live out the truth “I Can’t – He Can.”