Posted by Anne Witton on Friday, August 26, 2022 Under: Reflections
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12: 1 – 2a
I want to have a richly satisfying, intimate relationship with God but at times I haven’t been prepared to put any effort in. I know that I’m saved by grace and that I’m sustained by grace alone and sometimes I’ve wrongly assumed that this means that my choices and behaviour don’t matter because it’s down to God to do everything. A couple of analogies have helped me see the error of this thinking.
- Imagine I want to run a marathon, but I don’t want to fork out for the trainers or drag myself off the sofa for a run, or stop eating junk food, or be disciplined about sleep. Would anyone take me seriously as a ‘marathon runner’?
- Or say I want to be able to play the piano but I’m not going to invest in one, or have lessons, or practice or learn to read music. Do I really want to be able to play the piano at all?
The thing is, if we really want something, we are prepared to put the effort in and make sacrifices to get it. Where we invest our time, money and effort is a very good indication of what we actually value. So if we’re not interested in any spiritual discipline or in taking our sin seriously, we probably need to question how much we actually care about following and enjoying God. Saying that we wish God would make his presence felt to us while we’re deliberately disobeying him is like asking God to speak to us while simultaneously putting our fingers in our ears and shouting at the top of our voices.
God’s part and our part
To be absolutely clear, we don’t earn our salvation and we can’t do anything to make God love us more, or to lose his love for us. He has taken the initiative to bring us into relationship with him and there’s nothing we can do to earn that or to make ourselves more acceptable to him. But we can cut ourselves off from the ongoing experience of his love and the joy of life in him by our wrong choices. We can refuse to let him in and turn our backs on everything that he wants to offer us. He longs to be with us and give us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1: 3), but we have to cooperate. We have to be willing to receive it. Here are a few biblical encouragements:
- The church in Laodicea were lukewarm, missing out on all the riches of Christ. In John’s vision of Jesus, these are the words that Christ speaks to them:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Revelation 3: 20
God won’t break the door down if we refuse to invite him in, but he longs for us to open it so that we can enjoy intimacy and sweet fellowship with him.
- If we want God, he doesn’t hide from us:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7: 7
- God’s given us his armour but we have to put it on:
Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6: 13 – 17
It's no good leaving the armour in a cupboard and then leaving the battlefield disillusioned because we’ve been struck by an arrow.
What are we going to choose?
God will always honour obedience. He will meet us in our most fragile state and give us the strength we need for the journey. And he really wants us to experience the depth of his love and enjoy the richness of life in him. How much do we want that? Enough to give up stuff that we know is wrong? Enough to read the Bible even when we’re tired? Enough to go to church when we don’t feel like it? Enough to pray even when we’re in pain? My experience over the last year has confirmed to me that it is totally worth pursuing God even when we feel like we can’t. In the words of the Anglican liturgy, he has met us in his Son and brought us home. He will always bring us home if we’re willing to go with him.
For some of us, pursuing God will mean other lifestyle changes like deciding to stop drinking, changing jobs, going to a different church, choosing to forgive somebody, going away by ourselves with God to recommit to him, moving cities or stopping hanging out with certain friends. Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (Matthew 5: 29 - 30). Are we going to do whatever it takes to follow God wholeheartedly?
I know from really tough personal experience that sometimes the Christian life is really hard and God seems far away. But the encouragement in Scripture is always to press on (Heb 10: 36; 1 Tim 4: 16). Keep going. If we don’t feel instantly better, we need to persevere and keep seeking Jesus. Sometimes it takes time but it will always be worth it. Just like sometimes a training run is really hard and you don’t feel like you’ve made any progress, or a piano session might feel like you’ve forgotten what you learned and aren’t getting anywhere. The frustration is temporary. Don’t give up. If we keep going, the trajectory will be moving us towards Jesus and deeper into his heart and love for us
Our time here is really short. Are we going to squander it by messing around with things we know won’t really satisfy? Are we going to be half-hearted Christians feeling unfulfilled and vaguely guilty that we’re just going through the motions? Are we tempted to try and get away from God completely, even though we know that doesn’t really work? Or are we going to take a leap of faith knowing that Jesus will catch us and take us on the adventure of our lives? Are we prepared to get rid of the things that hold us back (Hebrews 12: 1), put on our armour (Ephesians 6: 13 - 17) and march onwards along the path of life in the power of the Holy Spirit with Jesus as our lover and friend? How much do we want God?
Let’s be like Moses, one of that great cloud of witnesses, who “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”
Hebrews 11: 25
In : Reflections
Tags: god jesus perseverance discipline