In last week's post, I challenged us to be resolute in the faith, especially in our spiritual disciplines. As we do this, I want us to examine our hearts.
At the start of a new year, we are energized to begin anew in those areas that are sagging, literally (like my exercising) or spiritually. Discipline requires practice, training. It's an 'over and over again' work and needs to be done regardless of my feelings. Last week I mentioned some bad advice given to me through the years regarding Bible reading--that if I don't feel like it, then don't do it. I would just be a legalist if I read my Bible but my heart wasn't in it.
And that's just one lie that we begin listening to as the days pass by.
Let's look at the things we see sagging in our lives. Is your prayer life vibrant? Yes? Keep pressing on! Be invigorated by seeing God's hand at work in your every day life. Or, no? What is keeping you from praying? I could never exhort you as well as J. C. Ryle in his little booklet, A Call to Prayer. But, I want to challenge you nonetheless...
What about reading the Word of God? Are you on a plan to read it through this year? Are you staying constant in that goal or are you falling behind? Maybe you've given up because it seems oppressive to stick to this plan? Or maybe it has just become boring, lacking spontaneity?
These are just two examples of how we can begin strong and quickly fade if we aren't examining our hearts. So, let's examine...
If you want to give God your first of the day by praying and reading His Word, what can sabotage that? Examine. Is it picking up your phone? Is it getting started on your to-do list? Is it rolling over and sleeping until your house is all up and active? What is it? Know this about yourself.
If you want to read the Word through this year, what prevents you from doing this year after year? Is it a particular book that seems too familiar or boring? Is it the accusation that you're a legalist and should be more spontaneous in your reading? Examine this.
What causes you to sin, what leads you to fulfill your flesh, why do you keep falling prey to the same temptations? Search your heart and examine why.
Then, be on guard and wage war!
If we start the day knowing what will sidetrack us from our desire to grow in faith and holiness, then we can be prepared with a strategy to stay the course. If we end the day preparing our hearts in this same way, then we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live for Him.
To choose my flesh, my feelings, over growing in Christ reveals my heart. It is selfish, it is lazy, it is full of sin apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I need Him. You need Him. To depend fully upon Him requires humility from us. Reading His Word, denying my flesh, seeking guidance and strength from Him through prayer--all these things help to conform me more and more into the image of His Son, Jesus.
Be prepared. Examine yourself. Know what keeps you from making Jesus #1. Find those things that cause you to stumble and then fight against your flesh in following them. Most of all, examine why Jesus isn't a priority for you. While it is important to be steadfast in the spiritual disciplines, it is also critical that the foundation of all of this is your changed heart due to the Holy Spirit's work. Remember your baptism (Romans 6); remember that you are a new creation. If you don't desire Him, and you are assured that you are His child, then repent. If you aren't assured that you have been made a child of God, then seek Him now. Surrender to Him and be made new and have the hope of eternal life.
It might seem a silly idiom, but once a pastor told me that the Christian walk is not a sprint, but a marathon. We are in this for the long haul, however long God gives us to live this earthly life. Don't give it your all one day and then give up. Live for the Lord each and every day knowing that it is He who gives you the strength and the power to live as a new creation.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6: 8-9