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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. [Hebrews 12:1-3]
I skipped church last Sunday morning and went for a wander instead.
I read more of a book i’ve been reading, I thought and prayed, for a good while I simply sat there, not thinking, not waiting for anything particular, simply being, and losing track of time.
I believe prayer is everything, I need no convincing, but its tragic how easily I can get develop a bored and lazy attitude towards it, being subtly persuaded to believe that for the most part we can get by alright without it. Foolishness. A few paragraphs I read that morning (p71) brought back some perspective:
The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer. It doesn’t matter what your tradition or my tradition is. The house is not ours anyway; it is the Father’s.
Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, “My house shall be a house of preaching”?
Does it ever say, “My house shall be called a house of music”?
Of course not.
The Bible does say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Preaching, music, the reading of the Word – these things are fine; I believe and practice all of them. But they must never override prayer as the defining mark of God’s dwelling. The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people’s lives during ten minutes of real prayer than on ten of my sermons.
Faithful Father, forgive me for my pride and the foolishness of my self-sufficient and independent spirit. Cure my blindness, open my eyes, convict me of my sin and of my need for you. I’m sorry I forget so easily Lord, teach me to fear you.
A few months ago my pastor recently asked a group of us to come up our “5 rules for life”. Some people liked the exercise, others didn’t, some found it easy, others more difficult. Personally I enjoyed it and found it really got me thinking. 5 wasn’t enough but I managed to keep it down to 7. Naturally everyones were different, for me they ended up focussing on my particular weaknesses. Anyways, the 7 I settled on were:
1. Always pray, always praise
These are non-negotiable essentials for me. I need connection to God. Sin is inherently self-focussed but praising draws me out of myself and lifts my eyes, to behold something much bigger, far more glorious and beautiful. I was created to praise, I guess it makes sense to make a point of doing what I was designed for. Its not all about me – helps keeps things in perspective.
2. Just do the right thing (especially when it hurts)
One of the most God-glorifying opportunities I have. This is where the rubber hits the road and the world around us sees our faith for what it really is. For me when its hard to do the right thing, its all the more important that I do it.
3. If God speaks, believe and obey – don’t get stuck on the why
I like to feel in control. God offers me wisdom, insight and instruction for every circumstance. The question is do I trust in his wisdom and love for me enough simply to obey without my needing to fully understand why? Do I believe that he truely knows best… enough to let go? Always a challenge.
4. Never base a decision on fear. If in doubt, do it
I am a recovering coward who desires to love better. 1 John 4 paints a clear picture that fear and love cannot exist together. Subconsciously fear paralyzes me given the opportunity and so i’m always striving to recognise how the devil would use it against me to hold me back. It requires me to be brutally honest with myself and my motivations, knowing I exercise courage in the face of fear, not in the denial of it. My perogative is inaction over over-action hence the “if in doubt do it”.
5. Destroy idols ruthlessly, show no mercy
Idols are awful things, promising satisfaction and fulfillment outside of God. Our hearts covet many many things. In Psalm 86 the psalmist prays for an “undivided heart”. I ask for the same. But as God faithfully reveals to me the idols I worship (and they get everywhere!), I must fight against them, fighting always to de-throne myself and to allow God sovereign reign over my heart.
6. Why not me
I can often find myself thinking stuff like “Why should I have to do that?”, “Why me God?”. In sin my heart demands its rights relative to others. However, if I instead turn it round and ask myself “Why not me?”, “Why shouldn’t I do it…” I can have no complaint given what Jesus teaches about serving. I can never serve enough. Another bad tendency I have it to quickly disqualify myself and deny my gifts and abilities. My pastor suggested I should take “why not me” as a reminder not to.
7. Don’t worry, you’re not here forever
This is one of my greatest comforts. Don’t get me wrong, I love life but I groan with creation in longing for perfection. Heaven is up ahead and so even when life can appear to really suck, I can lift my gaze to the horizon I can joyfully slog it out while I wait. Its my inheritance and where my hope ultimately lies. Nothing else will last. Ultimately, its all good! :)
God loves us, we are His children. No circumstance we face in life is unknown to Him. In faithfulness He gives and takes away according to our need, always within His perfect knowledge of us. How far will we trust Him? How faithful do we believe God to really be? Its easy to give the right answers but the integrity of our belief is proven in the way we live our day-to-day lives in the ways we react to the various circumstances.
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.