Success in many things depends upon getting a good start. A tree properly planted will be plumb, and under well-considered conditions, so that it may not be deformed or struggling for a lifetime. A mother expecting a child will be sure to take proper nourishment and avoid substances and activities which may disadvantage that child for life. An aspiring professional will need to invest in a thorough education, and the necessary certificates and memberships right from the start in order to meet the demands of that profession.
So it is with becoming a Christian. Getting off to a good start is crucial. In fact, the way we begin may determine what kind of servant we are throughout our Christian life, and ultimately, our eternal destiny. Here are a few suggestions from God’s word about getting off to the right start as a Christian.
Avoid false expectations right from the start. Many people wrongly believe that the Christian life will be a stress-free and easy experience. It appears to them that the steady, evenhanded Christians around them “have it made.” They want a calm, worryfree life of peace and harmony. But the Christian life is not a life of ease, and Jesus warned, “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Mt. 10:34). While it is true that Christians strive diligently to “be at peace with all men,” such is not always possible. Being “at ease in Zion” is not always a desirable thing. Quite to the contrary, Paul warned that “through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) in encouraging others to enter into the Christian life, we must not give the false impression that it is easy, or trouble free.
Be willing to Let go. Letting go of a former way of life, evil companions, a wicked and profane vocabulary, addictions or worldly habits, is difficult but necessary. When he wrote to the Christians in Galatia, the apostle Paul lamented the fact that some of them were slipping back into their former constrictions of Judaism. He asked, “Ye were running well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7) They were weakening in their commitment to let go. Like the seed which was planted among the thorns and thistles, they were allowing themselves to be distracted by the cares and attractions of their former lives, and of the world. But getting off on the right track spiritually means leaving the wrongheaded track we were on. “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:62)
Embrace innocence. In order to get started right in being a Christian, a person must see the childlike innocence involved, and must love it. It’s not going to be a life of worldly wisdom, sophistry, or witty popularity. We won’t be the poster child of the world, or the darling of the media. In fact, we may be viewed with contempt and smugness. Consider how people looked at Jesus. Many flocked to hear him when the message suited their tastes, but when it became real, they “forsook him and fled.” (Mk. 14:50) Do you want to be like a child, or is that notion offensive to you? If you want to be esteemed for your great power or wisdom, wealth or fame, you’re probably looking to the wrong profession. Being a Christian means none of these things, it means being pure in heart, (Mt. 8), vulnerable, (Rom. 12:3), honest, sincere and straight-forward, (Mt. 5:37).
Be active in the church immediately. “Do not wait to be told nor by sorrow driven to the work God has planned for you.” Jump in and start doing what you can to help in the great cause. Start from the very beginning as a person who is known to be faithful and punctual in the assembly, in Bible class, and in every work of the church. Make the church building your home. And make God’s people your family. Learn early to be comfortable when you are actively fellowshipping and encouraging fellow Christians. Look for jobs that need doing, even the thankless ones. If you cultivate such habits early, they will stay with you throughout your Christian life.
Getting started on the path of being a Christian is at least as important as walking on that path later on. A good start is crucial to a life of prayer, study, and discovery of your fullest potential in Christ. If you are considering giving your life to Christ, I hope these suggestions will help you get off to a good start. Getting started right may not always ensure success, but a poor start almost always guarantees failure!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.