All I Need is God. Really?

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Q. My youth pastor talks about how Christ should be the most important thing in our lives—even to the point that if everything else (including friends and family) was gone, we'd be OK because only God really matters. But didn't God create us to also need people in our lives? Can you explain?

A. God designed us to enjoy and contribute to relationships with other people. In the very beginning, God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18) even though man was in the Garden with God himself. And ever since, we've had a deep need to be known, understood, and accepted by at least one other person. We need others. We are created for community, especially as Christians: "You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27, NIV). That means we need each other if the body of Christ is to function as God intended.

And based on what we know from Jesus' example on Earth, I am quite sure God understands that while he is chief in our lives, we are to love other people, too. In Matthew 22, Jesus says loving others is second only to loving God.

At the same time, there is the example of Job. He lost everything including his family. All he knew fell apart. He was devastated, he was sad—but yet, he still knew God was in control.

To go even further, Jesus said these very tough words: "If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26, NLT).

This may, in fact, be the passage your youth pastor is referring to. What exactly does it mean?

I don't think it means that we are to literally "hate" our loved ones. But I do think, that when push comes to shove, God must come first. He must be above all these things.

Practically, what does this mean? Well, most of us have our faith tested somewhere along the way—and we at that point demonstrate if we really trust Christ or if we're just following our friends and fitting in. You have to be ready to stand alone, if necessary, for the sake of Christ. Let's consider your own friends. There will be times when they betray you or at least let you down. Jesus himself was deserted by his disciples when he asked them to pray with him the night before he was arrested and crucified. But he continued even when he had to proceed alone. People you trust will disappoint you, and when that happens, you have to be faithful to Christ, whether or not anyone else supports you. As the disciple Peter said, when those around him demanded that he stop telling others about Jesus, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29, NIV).

So enjoy the people God has placed in your life, and thank God for them, but if a time comes when people you love are removed from your life, know that God does care. He knows your pain and will never leave you (Romans 8:37-39). And if a time comes where your faith is tested and your friends aren't going where Jesus is, don't let other people come between you and the One who loves you more than they ever could.

Marshall, a former pastor, is editor of Leadership, a magazine for pastors.

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