Searching for a Spirituality of Substance


by Daniel Nathan

We have become experts at sniffing out fakes, identifying the imposters, and avoiding dubious financial schemes. We’ve learned to be duly skeptical of “get it quick” messages that get pumped into our lives via TV, our email, or our phones and tablets.

While we’ve finely tuned our senses to detect when we’re being “marketed to”, we still have a hunger for something real. Something that will last; something that is more than an inch deep, so that if you happened to dig you’d actually find rich earth beneath the surface.

I believe people are looking for men and women whose faith and spirituality have a depth and substance that is real.

I couldn’t help but recall a very poignant experience I had just last week while visiting Walt Disney World in Florida.  As some of you know, Disney World is now made up of multiple amusement parks, water parks, and other experience destinations. On this particular day we were at Animal Kingdom (a zoo on steroids – both educational and experiential, laden with rides and shows…all very exciting!) So, for example, Animal Kingdom has an Africa zone with native animals and a ride that recreates a true-to-life safari. It also has an Asia zone with its own themed rides, native animals, cultural dancing, and Tibetan artifacts. At one site within the Asia zone, Disney had built a replica of a Japanese Pagoda (it was possibly Chinese; I’m not familiar with the differences). It was a fine replica, built to look appropriately aged and architecturally accurate. One cannot fault Disney for their attention to details. But as I observed the structure, families kept stopping in front of the pagoda to snap a photo. I couldn’t help but think, “you know that’s not real, right – why do you keep taking photos?”

I couldn’t get over the fact that what I was looking at was a fake. I couldn’t justify taking a photo myself. It wasn’t even a re-assembled original that had been moved from a genuine location (like in the Louvre or BritishMuseum). No, it was simply a Disney copy; and had I been able to look inside I’m certain it would have proven further what a hollow shell it really was.

The true question is, “am I the real deal”? Am I person of Spiritual Substance? Does my life have depth and reality with Christ, or is it more like the Disney imitation of the real thing? If someone dug around, would they find soft soil in your heart, or would they just find shallow topsoil?

Below are 3 questions to reflect on that might prove helpful to lead us toward a faith of substance

  1. How is your life with Jesus? Can you say that seeking Jesus, and His presence, is a significant priority in your life? Phil Strout, National Director of Vineyard USA, spoke recently and said – “leaders need to be people who have learned to drink from their own well. Too often, people can become dependent on the wells of others (i.e. pastors, authors, spiritual directors, etc.) while never tending their own well.”  I think what’s behind this statement is the need to have a living reality in our lives of actively seeking Christ first (Matt 6:33). If you’d like to dig deeper on this question click here.
  2. Do you have someone now (not when you were in college, or last year) with whom you are brutally honest? Someone who will ask you heart penetrating questions and with whom you feel you can be sincere and open? We all need some relationship, with at least one other person, who can pull back the curtain, so to speak, and gain access to our lives in a privileged and trusted way. For many, if you’re married, that might be your spouse. But more than likely it’s someone of the same gender who can hold you accountable and challenge your thinking, your behavior, your decision making, and even penetrate to your sinful and prideful self. See, we have blind spots in our lives and we need others to accurately reflect back what is true, and real, and healthy. Do you have such a relationship?
  3. Has your life in the last week, the last month, been a testimony to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both words and actions? If you struggle to dial-up a Kingdom moment in the last week or month – the line between you and God needs tending. When we’re living surrendered to the King and centered on Jesus, the living God speaks through his Spirit and there are moments all through our day and our week when God will speak, incline our heart, move our will toward Him…I believe it’s in these moments that Disciples grow and flourish in their faith (Gal 5, Rom 12).

I pray that we would yearn to be men and women who are substantial in our faith, so those around us would be drawn to worship God because of the witness of our lives!

 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

 2 Cor 2:15 (NIV)

 Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life…

2 Cor 2:15 (Message)