“Go Shane, GO! Come on Seb, just drop in!” – Solana Beach, California. Spring 1989.
I had mucho fun on this surf trip to El Salvador a few years ago.
As my friend encouraged me I paddled hard for a three-foot swell, probably closed my eyes while doing so, and stood up on my first wave.
It was unreal. As I awkwardly got to me feet I knew I had the bug.
I was hooked. I surfed until well after the sun went down that day. As I changed out of my wetsuit I knew that I had the bug. I had been bitten. I decided right then and there that I was a surfer.
Just a few days ago, as I surfed fun three to four foot surf here in Central Florida – and twenty-six years after that first wave – I still have that same bug. As I was drying off (no need for a wetsuit with the 77 degree water!) I kept thinking of how spending time in the ocean riding waves has influenced my life.
On an earthly level surfing definitely impacts where I think about vacationing (thanks to wife Laura for putting up with this for over 20 years), and how I spend any free time I have. As any other hobby does, surfing can dictate finances (boards and wetsuits cost money, unfortunately).
But riding waves has also influenced me profoundly on a spiritual level. Surfing has deepened my relationships as I have bonded with many close friends on surf trips to Central America, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. I also have made new, and life-long friends, in the water. Surfing helps connect me with others, which is something God cares about very deeply. The Bible calls this fellowship.
I love talking about God with my boys during and after a fun surf!
There are two obvious observations I can make after all these years of chasing swells.
- Becoming a surfer is easy, but becoming a good surfer can be very challenging.
- Surfing brings joy and fulfillment, but this joy and fulfillment is temporary.
Again, deciding to be a surfer is easy and it really can bring joy and fulfillment.
Kind of like following Jesus Christ and growing in a relationship with Him.
It’s easy to decide to become a surfer (if you live near the beach!). It’s also easy to become a Christian.
Surfing brings temporary joy and fulfillment. Christianity and walking with God also brings joy and fulfillment, but unlike surfing it’s permanent.
It really amazes me how simple God has made it for us to know Him, to have a relationship with Him. We don’t work for it. We decide to follow Jesus, to give our lives to Him, and boom! Just like that we are accepted as a child of the creator of the universe.
But how do we decide? How is that so easy?
Of course He was…
One night a few years ago I spoke with my friend Mike about what it means to have a personal relationship with God. Mike was having a hard time, and I simply asked him if I could share with him how knowing God helps me when life is hard.
I was clear that knowing God does not make life easier. Knowing God may not create the easy life but it no doubt gives one a purposeful and fulfilling life. At the end of our conversation, Mike right there during dinner, prayed with me and became a follower of Jesus.
Here’s what I shared with Mike, and what I want to share with you:
God loves you and wants to walk through life with you.
I told Mike the Bible is very clear that God created men and women to know and grow in him. Through a relationship with him we can experience his love that lasts forever.
I read a few Bible passages with him where Jesus speaks to this, John 10:10 and John 3:16:
Son Curren dropping in.
“I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
My friend was tracking with me at this point. So we moved to the second point.
Every man, woman, and child is imperfect. Because of our imperfection, our sin, we cannot know and experience God’s love.
The Bible is also very clear that we are born into sin. We talked about what that word actually means: sin. Sin simply is “to miss the mark.” The mark is God’s perfection, which we are all guilty of missing (just ask my wife and kids, there are plenty of times when I am missing the mark!).
The book of Romans speaks to this: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (3:23) A few chapters later scripture says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:23)
Mike was tracking with me and said he understood so far. So I continued.
Jesus Christ is the provision for our imperfection, for our sin. Through him we can know and experience God’s love and purpose for our lives.
It’s not really fun talking about sin. But this is where the good news comes in! The Bible speaks over and over again that God has provided us a way to overcome our sin, to be forgiven, and to experience his love.
“But God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
“Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 (also note 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 and the resurrection of Jesus)
God knows we can’t overcome sin on our own. This is why he sent his son Jesus. Mike said he couldn’t remember hearing about God in this way before. I told him there was one more important point to understand.
More than anything in life I want my family and friends to understand how they can know and grow in a relationship with God.
To know God personally and experience his purpose in our lives, we must receive Jesus into our lives as our Savior and Lord.
I shared a few verses with Mike that are important when understanding what it means to begin a relationship with God:
“As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) We don’t come to know God by being good people, or striving and working as hard as we can. We come to know God through belief and faith in Him.
I also wanted Mike to understand the term “grace.” In Ephesians 2:8-9 the Bible speaks of this mind-blowing truth about God, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.”
Coming into a personal relationship with God is all about grace. Grace is a free gift. Grace is something we receive for free. Grace is unearned. Grace is unmerited favor. In other words there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor, it is by accepting his grace that brings us to him.
Jesus says in the book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him.” (3:20)
I asked Mike what Jesus was referring to when he speaks of a “door.” He looked at me and said, “Um, I think he is probably talking about the door to my heart or my life.”
I then asked Mike, “Okay, well, would you want to open the door and give him your life today?”
He said, “Yes, I believe this. I want to do this. But…now? In this restaurant?”
I said, “Sure buddy, no better place than right here and right now.”
He said, “Okay, what do I do?”
I then showed him a prayer of commitment that he prayed with me, a prayer giving his life to Jesus, a prayer asking for forgiveness, a prayer beginning a relationship with God.
This is the prayer I led him in over dinner that night. This is a prayer you can pray right now. Or perhaps this is a prayer you can lead a friend in at a later time.
“God, I need you. Thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my heart and my life and I receive you right now as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me a purposeful and eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.”
By praying this prayer, and beginning a relationship with God we are assured of a personal relationship with the living God. This is how we become children of God, friends of God, followers of God. It’s really that easy.
Getting some prayer time before paddling out for my heat.
Becoming a Christian is easy (like deciding to become a surfer), but living out the Christian life can be challenging for sure. Start by accepting Christ into your life and ask him to help you live a life that honors him. Here is a great site to point you towards this growth:
Okay, I’m gonna go get some waves. See you in the water. 🙂
P.S. Please respond on this page or email me with any question or thoughts! Shane.firstname.lastname@example.org