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Pillars of Heaven or the Valley Of Ono?

December 14, 2012

Do you find your spiritual life waxing and waning? Are you excited for the Lord for a week or two, only to wake up one morning and realize that all that desire is gone? After this, do months go by before you feel anything again? You’re not alone. It turns out that this is a common complaint among Christians. Most have a deep desire to serve the Lord, but they struggle to keep up the routine when life just keeps getting in the way.

I also struggled with this issue, and felt terrible guilt when my desire to serve the Lord wasn’t there. Then one day I was reading Romans chapter 12, and when I got to verse 2 it hit me. I am not sure what the reasons are that other people struggle to remain faithful day in and day out, but for me it was a commitment issue.  I think I was expecting God to fill me with great emotion all the time so that I would want to serve Him. But no one can live on emotional highs 24 hours a day. The crash will eventually come because our bodies aren’t designed for that. But on this day I realized that the work of sanctification has to start with me. I have to make a commitment to serve Him when I feel like it and when I don’t feel like it.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This and other similar verses explain that it’s up to me to continue to feed my mind. As long as I am not feeding my mind with the things of God, it will naturally try to revert to its old way of thinking. Because of what happened in the Garden of Eden, all humankind is now fallen. If we don’t constantly work at remaining faithful, we will naturally go back to our fallen ways. Philippians 2:12 – 13 tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that is working in us both to will and to do. The Spirit of God is not going to commandeer our bodies and force us into holiness. We are saved completely by grace. But after that it is up to us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and work out our salvation daily by continually renewing our minds. This is why Jesus said that some would produce a harvest of a hundredfold, some sixty-fold, and some thirty-fold (see Mt. 13:8). Some renew their minds daily, some weekly, some monthly, and some less than that.

What I’m trying to say is this. We must continuously feed our minds with the Word of God. We should start our day with prayer and Bible study. We should memorize Bible verses and go over them throughout the day. We should listen to uplifting music and read or listen to uplifting books, avoiding or minimizing the less worthwhile stuff. We should fellowship with other like-minded Christians. We should practice a lifestyle of talking with God throughout the day, praising Him, relying on Him, offering up little prayers for others as things come up.

The worries of life will still creep in. There is no avoiding the blaring televisions and obnoxious billboards and annoying sales pitches and commercials. There is no getting away from the aggravations of life. We live in the world and nothing can make all that go away. But if we keep feeding our minds with God’s Word these things won’t have the effect on us that they previously did. We can keep ourselves from being of the world.

Is this easy? Absolutely not. It will take daily practice. This means getting up for morning prayer and Bible study even when you don’t feel like it. It means listening to uplifting music when you’d rather not. It means doing it day in and day out, even when you don’t want to until it becomes a habit. Eventually it will become the new normal. It may take months or years, but it will be worth it.

I have begun working at this on a regular basis, even when I don’t feel like it. I keep a notebook with me of Bible verses I am trying to memorize (I have always been terrible about this, but have committed to learning at least one new verse a day). I pull this notebook out every now and then and review verses, along with building a new habit of praying throughout the day. And surprise, surprise. Something interesting is happening. Whereas before I had mountain and valley experiences, now I see the spiritual landscape flattening out. I used to be on top of the mountain for a couple of weeks and then find myself in the valley for months. Then something would happen and I would be on the mountain again. But now my walk with God is more consistent. I am no longer living on borrowed emotion. I am serving the Lord with my heart and with my head. When the emotion and desire is not there, the steady relationship remains. And with this steady relationship with the Lord my joy grows.

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