Drawing from her years of work as a counselor and her own life experience, Leslie Vernick offers guidance and hope to women who are in need of finding safety and healing from an abusive marriage. (Part 1 of 2)
Mrs. Trisha Davis: But rule followers, we’re driven by comparison. And when we are driven by comparison, we lead a life of legalism rather than a life of faith. And what happens is that legalism becomes our moral guide rather than faith in Jesus.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Does that sound familiar? Would you call yourself a rule follower or a rule breaker? We’ll explore the concept and how it can impact your faith with Trisha Davis today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: This is actually a fun message, John, that Trish is going to share with us, but it has a serious point that I know you’ll appreciate, too. And for the sake of time, I’m going to quickly recap how she opened this presentation and then we’ll let Trisha share some very vivid stories. Um, Trisha explained that in the New Testament book of Acts, the Apostle Paul had a vision of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. A vision that converted him from a persecutor of Christ-followers to an evangelist to the Gentile world. He’d been an extremely devout Jew and now he would be taking the gospel to the very group that the Jews despised. So, Jesus Himself changed Paul from being one of the top rule followers in the Jewish world, to the top rule breaker for the benefit of the Gentiles and that’s why the Jews persecuted Paul so ruthlessly everywhere he went. As we see in the book of Galatians, after 14 years of evangelism, God told Paul to go back to Jerusalem and meet the other leaders of the faith. The meeting went well, and the leadership endorsed the message Paul had been preaching. The one sour note came from a group called the Judaizers. They believed in Jesus, but also believed in following all of the Old Testament laws, including circumcision. And they had a hard time endorsing Paul’s message of freedom from those laws through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Which leads us to Trisha’s main point: you’re either a rule follower or a rule breaker.
John: And with that backdrop, here now is Trisha Davis, speaking at a women’s conference at Traders Point Christian Church in Indianapolis on Focus on the Family. And we’re going to pick up as she turns toward her personal story.
Trisha: In my family, I am the rule follower. My husband is the rule breaker. And so, a couple years ago, I got inspired that I wanted to become a – a runner. I don’t know. I know. I know you’re all looking at me going, “Mm.” When I say I’m a runner, I’m that lady on the side of the road that you’re driving past. And you’re borderline, like, “Mm, should I call 911? Should I not?”
Trisha: I’m a very ugly runner, but I got inspired. And so, I decided to run to the half-marathon. My husband saw how much fun I had at my first half-marathon. So, he’s like, “Baby, I’m going to do this with you.” And so, we went shopping together. We got new shoes. We got the fanny pack, you know, that has the water bottles that we just did not know what to do with. But they look cool. And, as a rule follower, I printed out the sheet of how to train. And when you train for a half-marathon, you do these short runs during the week. And then on Saturday, you do what are called your long runs. So, I get all my gear on. I’m all ready to go. I got my iPod going. And I wake up my husband. I’m like, “Baby, it’s time to go.” He’s like, “Uh, you know, it’s been a long week. Why don’t you just go on without me. I’ll catch up with you.” So, 17 weeks later, he never…
Trisha: …Never caught up with me until it was race day. And so, my husband and I – we get to the starting line. We take off. And when you train, you train for a pace that your muscles in your body gets used to. And my husband – he’s outpacing me. And ladies, I’m not competitive. But as a rule follower, I’m like, “Mm mm.”
Trisha: I have followed the rules. And this child is outpacing me. Oh, no, he didn’t. Like, I am coming unglued. You know how we have the argument with somebody, and we’ve won a couple of times. We still just haven’t invited them to the argument yet?
Trisha: Like, this is what’s going on. And so, we’re running, and he gets to mile four and this child loses his mind. He’s like, “Yeah, baby. I am awesome (blowing kisses). I’m amazing.” I’m like, “Dude, we’re at mile 4.” He’s like, “I know. This is the longest I’ve ever ran.”
Trisha: And so, we continue to run. And with every mile, I’m just getting more and more and more bitter until God because God is so good. He loves me so much. Mile 10 – mile 10 happened and you may want to pan for this, camera guys, because my husband was running like Chariots of Fire. And then all of a sudden, his whole body went Hulk Hogan on him. Like, his muscles just tightened. And he starts to grab his rear end. He’s like, “Oh, my gosh.” He’s not going, “Oh, my gosh.” He’s grabbing his rear. I’m like, “Don’t do that. You’re embarrassing me.” He’s like, “Oh, my gosh.” And then he falls to the floor, which is never good in a race. So, people are around him. And he’s just rolling, holding his backside. And then he’s like, “Baby, I need you to – you need to work my leg.” And so, I grab his long leg. And I’m working it back and forth.
Trisha: And you think as a woman of God, I would be praying the blood of Jesus over him. Instead, I was just like, (groaning).
Trisha: So, he gets up. And he is still in so much pain. He cannot bend his leg, so all he can do is duck-walk…
Trisha: …For the last three miles.
Trisha: So, he had never done this before. And my very competitive husband gets to the end of the half-marathon. And those of you – well, none of you have ran the half-marathon.
Trisha: There are grandstands with people in them. And my husband is like, “Oh. I am not duck-walking past these people.” But he doesn’t tell me this. And so, he just takes off. And I am just standing there like, “What – what is – what is my life right now, right?”
Trisha: And so, he finishes. And I – I’m, like, speechless. But God – but God – He loves me so much. They shoot video of you when you pass over the line. And my husband, who was running like Chariots of Fire thought he was out of the camera’s lens. But then we got the email, and my boys and I watched it over and over and over again…
Trisha: …Because he’s running. He gets his medal. And then he duck-walks off.
Trisha: But as a rule follower, I was so focused on how Justin had broken the rules that I missed out on the joy that I had actually completed the race. And must like the sold Christians us rule followers we live in the bondage of comparison. We scroll through Instagram and through Facebook. And – and we like the pictures that we approve of, of the people that we think they deserve of whatever fantastic things going on in their life, while we secretly screen others. And we look at that one woman. And we’re just like – we get our – our rolling-eye emoji ready that we want to put on her picture. I love that emoji. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m a peacemaker. But that rolling-eye emoji just makes me happy.
Trisha: It’s weird. And that’s not in my notes. I just want you to know.
Trisha: But as a rule follower, it looks a little bit like this. We compare ourselves to the woman who complains all the time about her kids, the woman who complains that she doesn’t sleep through the night because of her infant, the woman who complains about her elementary school son and how they have so much homework they don’t even know what to do with, the woman that complains about her teenage daughter and how she never puts gas in the car. And you would do anything to be a parent. You would do anything to hear those words, “Mom.” And so, you compare your life with her life. And you think that you deserve what she has gotten. Maybe for you, it’s a co-worker, and you have grinded it. And you’ve worked hard. And you have been obedient in following the rules of climbing the ladder. But she didn’t do any of that. But she just knew the right person and so you get looked over for the promotion and she gets it. And the rule follower in you is so dead-set on the comparison that it leads to this life of legalism. The friend who receives the invitation that you know did not put the hard work of love into a relationship, the husband who finishes the race that he didn’t train for…
Trisha: I promise you, I’m over it.
Trisha: But rule followers, we’re driven by comparison. And when we are driven by comparison, we lead a life of legalism rather than a life of faith. And what happens is that legalism becomes our moral guide rather than faith in Jesus. Now, all the rule breakers in the house, you guys are like – you’re like, “Man, I knew it paid off to be a rule breaker.” Ask for permission later, baby. Right? Forgiveness reigns. But here’s the deal. If legalism is birthed by comparison – for many of you who are rule breakers, rule breakers are driven by jealousy. So, you don’t care how that woman got that promotion. You don’t care if she got married, if she has seven kids. You don’t care what she puts on social media just as long as you get yours, too. That as a rule breaker, jealousy starts to erode your heart. And you’re willing to do anything it takes. It’s where FOMO – not FO what? What is FO what? I don’t even know if I’m saying it right.
Trisha: But FOMO, the fear of missing out, just plagues your life. It’s what you think of all the time that you feel like in the history of mankind, have we never been so connected yet so lonely? And the fear of missing out has jealousy just balled you up. And you start to live a life of hypocrisy, meaning you would call yourself a Christian, but when it really comes down to it, you’re willing to break the rules to get what you think you deserve. It looks like this. You’re willing to gossip about that person that you feel threatened by because when you gossip about them and you put them down, it makes you feel better. Ouch. You surround yourself with fans rather than friends because fans will always say, even in your dysfunction, that you’re amazing. Fans would never push back to the dark parts of your heart where they see you living one way at church and seeing you living another outside of the church. Jealousy starts to take root. And what happens is that rule breakers led by jealousy will live a life of hypocrisy over faith, jealousy that is driven by a lie that you are not enough, that you are not enough. And you’re gonna do whatever it takes to make sure everybody in the room knows that you are enough, even if it means breaking the rules.
And so, how do you know? Like, how do you know that you struggle with comparison? How do you know that you struggle with legalism? How do you know that jealousy just makes you a person who just lives as a hypocrite? You ask yourself these questions: Who is the one person that consumes your heart and mind? Who is the one person that consumes your heart and mind? Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a co-worker. Maybe it’s a spouse. And you’re always comparing, always feeling like you need something that they have that you didn’t get.
Who are you constantly comparing or trying to win out over? Whose dream are you obsessing over? That you’re like, “Man, I could be a good Christian. I could be a good Christ follower if God would just allow this dream to come to fruition. But if I go to one more Bible study where one more person tells me they’re pregnant and I have been infertile now for five years, I’m done, God.” Who do you find yourself – their dream you’re obsessing over? Whose life do you find yourself striving for?
John: You’re listening to Trisha Davis on Focus on the Family and that’s a great question. Whose life are you striving for? You can get a CD of this program to listen again or share with a friend when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or donate and request it at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s return now to Trisha Davis. In just a moment or two, she’ll be referring back to the section of Scripture that we summarized as we opened today’s broadcast from Galatians chapter 2.
Trisha: But here’s the deal. When you place your faith in Jesus over your life, over your dreams, over your desires, that faith gives you the confidence to cheer on others, knowing their win isn’t your loss. Let me say that again. Faith gives you the confidence to cheer others on knowing their win isn’t your loss.
Trisha: Read what Paul says in verse 7. He’s just been told that they have nothing to add to his message, that he’s been sharing now for over a decade. It says, “Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as He had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews for the same God who worked through Peter, as the apostle to the Jews also work through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.” Do you see what’s going on? Peter knew to Whom he was called. And he knew Who had called him. Paul knew that God had given him a message to the Gentiles.
Listen. God has no favorites. God loves you. He has a unique plan for you. He has set you apart to do only what you can do. Do you believe it? So surround yourself with people who will cheer you on. Who will cheer you on knowing that when you win it’s not their loss. Because here’s the deal. It doesn’t matter how strong of your relationships. It doesn’t matter how strong of a marriage you have. It doesn’t matter how awesome your faith community is. This whole faith journey is hard. It’s so hard. And when life is hard and uncertain, you’re going to live in this tension of wanting to compare. You’re going to live in this tension to feel jealousy. And when life doesn’t unfold the way you think it should, you start to go back where jealousy and comparison become your god over faith in Jesus. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
Look what happens in verse 12 – verses 12-13. It says, “When he…” talking about Peter – they’ve moved on to another city now. It says, “When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers who were not circumcised.” Super important, right? He’s hanging out with people that aren’t obeying the Jewish law. And he’s perfectly fine. But then it says, “But afterwards, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore.” This is so powerful. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision, rule following. And as a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy. And even Barnabas was led astray by the hypocrisy. Peter broke the rules.
Now, how often does this happen in our churches, ladies, where God has called us to a certain calling and then we realize, “Uh, well, that girl – she ain’t godly enough? I don’t want people knowing that I’m hanging out with her.” Maybe God has called you to a community of faith. And you’re like, “Well, they’re too godly.” And we get to this place where we start to look for the approval of man rather than the approval of God because at the core of who we are, we fight this battle of not being enough. And here’s the deal. Our greatest desire is to be fully known and to be fully loved. Our greatest fear is that we will be fully known but that we wouldn’t be fully loved. And the struggle is real. And much like Peter, we choose the path of people-pleasing.
There’s a book called Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. It absolutely changed my life. And Brennan calls this people-pleasing, “The Imposter.” And The Imposter is the person that we become. We put our faith in people and outcomes and become the person that people want us to be rather than the person that God calls us to be. And this was me 10 years into ministry, 10 years into marriage. My husband and I, we had been in youth ministry all over the Midwest. We’re in the midst of planting our first church. And, y’all, like, every place we went, growth happened, and people came to Christ. Like, if social media existed, we were the Chip and Joanna Gaines of church planting.
Trisha: Everything we touched grew. It was amazing. And in 2002, we planted our first church. And I know that many of you in this room not only know my story, but you walked with me in it. I know that many of you – uh, you haven’t heard that my rule following heart and my rule breaking husband started to erode not only our marriage relationship but our relationship with God.
On October 9, 2005, my husband came home. Our church plant was thriving. We were 3 years old. We started with 12, and we were nearing topping out at, like, 800. We had it all. We had three beautiful kids who loved the church, who loved the Lord. So, he came home after speaking on a Sunday. And I was taking a nap because when you’re a church planter, that’s holy.
Trisha: And he woke me up, and he said, “I need to tell you something.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I’m done.” Like, you’re done with what? “I’m done with you. I’m done with ministry. I – I think I might be done with God. I’m just – I’m so sick and tired of the rules. I’m so done. I’m having an affair. It’s with your best friend. And I want out because life looks better without you.” In that moment, that collision of faith with my rule following heart – that he was breaking the rules brought me to a place where life was colliding in a way that I didn’t just lose my marriage over that confession. I didn’t just lose my best friend. I didn’t just lose my church family. I lost the only identity I’d ever known as an adult. I was Trisha Davis, the pastor’s wife. And with one confession, I was stripped of everything. And here’s the deal. The affair gets all the attention. The affair is the bomb that I dropped. But the affair was a symptom of much greater issues in our marriage.
And I had to choose if I was going to choose a different narrative. ‘Cause here’s the deal. If I’m gonna be honest with you tonight, God was getting a good deal with me. Justin was getting a good deal with me because I was faithful. I followed the rules. I became the balanced person who balanced ministry and balanced marriage and balanced family. I worked hard for that. I worked really hard to hide my depression, to be the cheery pastor’s wife that everybody needed me to be.
The Bible says, “You’ll reap what you sow.” What was I reaping in this, God? See, that moment forever marked me. And although I had hit rock bottom, rock bottom is still solid surface to begin to stand. And I had to choose. I had to choose if I was going to trade in my need to be right, to trade in my need to control, to trade in something different for a faith in Jesus. Faith gives you an identity that goes beyond your performance. This faith in Jesus, He gives you a new identity, and it goes beyond what you can do for God, and it leads to a life of freedom. Like, it’s real, you all. It is not “five happy hops to a freedom-filled life.” It’s hard work. But when we choose to trade in the things that hinder us from placing our faith in Jesus, freedom is found.
Listen to what it says in Verse 19, “For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me, so I died to the law. I stopped trying to meet all of its requirements so that I might live in God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. So, I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me, who gave Himself for me.” If I could reread that, I would say, “So I lived in this earthly body trusting in the Son of God, who loved you, who gave Himself for you.” When we choose to trade in the things that hinder us from placing our faith in Jesus, freedom is found, a faith that gives a new identity, a faith that gives freedom.
Justin and I, um, we didn’t find freedom because we chose to restore our marriage. We found freedom because we placed our faith in Jesus. And it begins with the trade, when we choose to trade in The Imposter of the person we think we should be or the person we think we ought to be to the person who God calls you to be. And He says, “You are loved. You are chosen. And you are redeemed. Will you choose it?”
And for my story, Justin had to trade in the lies for truth; truth that would set him free; truth that he had hidden so long behind the lies of being sexually abused as a kid; a 10-year pornography addiction. And he believed the lie that if he told me everything, that if he was fully known, that as his wife, I would not fully loved him. But when he confessed everything, it was the first time – even rock bottom, there was truth to be had, and the truth was setting him free. And now 11 years removed from that moment, y’all, we are walking in freedom. Our church plant isn’t about coming full circle. It’s about the overflow of who we are in Christ. It’s a we get to.
I had to choose to trade in my bitterness for forgiveness. Forgiveness was hard. Forgiveness felt like he’s just getting away with it. Forgiveness felt like he was just getting out of jail free. Then I realized that when I traded in my bitterness, I found that forgiveness resurrected what bitterness tried to destroy. Forgiveness replaced my fear and replaced my husband’s shame and gave way to a life and a marriage of freedom.
John: And that’s where we’re going to end this presentation from Trisha Davis on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: I just love Trisha’s spirit. Um, she’s a real breath of fresh air. And I think the key takeaway from her message is the word authentic. We need to follow the Lord and His calling on our life in the most authentic way possible. We can’t rely on following human rules to achieve enough points to get us into Heaven. That’s the Old Testament thinking that Jesus came to fulfill as our sacrificial Lamb. But when we keep our eyes on the Lord and do what He calls us to do the rest will naturally fall into place. As Trisha said, “When we put our faith in people and outcomes, we’ll become the person that other people want us to be rather than the person God calls us to be.” And what a devastating illustration of that principle that Trisha experienced in her relationship with Justin. They were working so hard to advance the gospel, but almost completely lost their marriage. And let me remind our listeners. If you feel like your marriages is at a crossroads, please let us help. Our Hope Restored marriage intensives provide a four day experience with lasting results. Two years after their visit, four out of five couples say they are still married and doing well. That’s a great success rate. So, to those of you who donate to Focus on the Family, let me say thank you for making Hope Restored possible. We are making a difference and most importantly the Lord is making a difference through our efforts. And if you can make a donation of any amount today, we’d like to send you the book that Trisha and her husband Justin have written called Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough. And that’ll be our thank you gift for supporting the ministry.
John: And as we’ve been saying all summer long this, uh, pandemic had a big impact on all of us in a variety of ways. Uh, from the perspective here at the ministry, donations are down, but the need for family help is so much greater than ever. So, if you’re able, please make a generous donation to Focus on the Family today. And, uh, we’ll say thanks in advance. We’d really appreciate your prayers as well, of course. Donate and request a copy of Beyond Ordinary by calling 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or donate online and request that book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
Drawing from her years of work as a counselor and her own life experience, Leslie Vernick offers guidance and hope to women who are in need of finding safety and healing from an abusive marriage. (Part 1 of 2)
A panel of three moms in different life stages offers encouragement to listening moms who are feeling exhausted and burnt out. Our guests discuss the unique challenges of motherhood, offering their insights on the effects of childhood wounds on parenting, prioritizing marriage, depending on God, and much more. (Part 2 of 2)
A panel of three moms in different life stages offers encouragement to listening moms who are feeling exhausted and burnt out. Our guests discuss the unique challenges of motherhood, offering their insights on the effects of childhood wounds on parenting, prioritizing marriage, depending on God, and much more. (Part 1 of 2)
Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 1 of 2)
Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 2 of 2)
Jonathan McKee offers parents practical advice and encouragement in a discussion based on his book If I Had a Parenting Do Over: 7 Vital Changes I’d Make.