Let me ask you about the subtitle of your book, "Trading Life's Good for God's Best." Can you explain the difference between those two?
There's a lot of good things in life, you know? We Christians tend to contrast evil and good, don't we? And that's a fair thing. But there is the good of life, things that are going well, that are not evil, they are not wicked, they are not sinful. But there is a higher life, there is a greater potential. So what I'm trying to say is that life has many good things, but if we walk with Jesus Christ and look at God's best, it's a level higher than just "good."
What literally is God's best?
It is having Jesus Christ running your life, staying close to him on a daily basis, and letting his power work through you. That's a quick version. But it covers all sorts of different angles of life. God's best is that God has beautiful things for our lives that even the good things of life often pale by comparison.
By good things for our lives, do you mean materially?
How did you come to realize that God wants such a joyful and abundant life beyond what we think of as happiness and goodness?
When I was in Argentina, I was born there, you know. And I went to an excellent church. The Bible was taught fantastically well, but there were a few things missing. We worked very hard at being good Christians. In fact, sometimes we felt we were killing ourselves. All-night prayer meetings every Friday night, and we loved it-but after six or ten months, we began to feel, wow, this is really a super effort.
I believed I was forgiven. I believed I was going to heaven when I died, no question. But when it came to living every day, every week, it seemed like it was a terrible chore. A lot of my friends in our church began to drop out.
Then I came to the U.S., and I was about 25, and I understood it at the seminary where I studied here in Portland, Oregon. I realized, it isn't what you're going to do for God as much as what He will do in you and through you. It isn't so much killing yourself to please God, but relying on His power.
I suddenly heard a message-Christ lives in you. I had read it a hundred times, but it hadn't sunk in. I went to my bedroom and I said Lord, this is it! It's not me, Christ lives in me. And it was the beginning of a great liberation.
So faith should be easier than what you were practicing?
Absolutely. In my case, I really never quite understood that in fact, Jesus Christ actually lived within me.
We're talking about God's best, but what would you say to somebody who's facing really hard times, who would say, I'd settle for "good enough" at this point.
There's a lot of people who feel that way, and I've gone through those days in the past, once in a while in my adulthood also. I would say this: God's best isn't always what we think is best. You think of Joni Eareckson [Tada]. She must be 55 by now. She was paralyzed in a teenaged accident, diving into a lake, she hit bottom, broke her neck, she's in a wheelchair. But instead of being bitter, though she went through a few moments of feeling that way, she settled it and said, "OK, God somehow has a plan for my life that is better than my dreams." She thought she'd never get married until she met her husband, who's a fantastic guy. She sings, she paints by putting a brush in her mouth, she ministers to people. She's being used of God to touch millions of people in China who are paralyzed like her. So God's best isn't always what the world considers good.