Today marks two weeks until our Wedding! Time is flying.
This morning I woke up with so many mental pages of thoughts. Do you ever have those days, where for some reason you just can’t seem to get out of your head? The harder I tried to get my thoughts focused on Christ, the more I pushed myself to become closer to Him, the more He seemed to escape. It is a pretty frustrating thing when that happens.
I believe there is a reason for that. Very quickly I felt The Lord show me how much my ‘doing’ is out of religious striving, and not out of a heart that even desires Him. That frustration is not so that we simply try to seek Him harder by our own strength. I believe God was revealing to me that even though I am seeking Him, I am doing it out of my own strength. When we do things rooted in our own strength, we can easily become proud when we reach our end goal. Basically, quiet time is the goal, devotions is the tasks, and I simply check them off when I feel that I was enlightened. But the truth of Christianity is that we are completely dependent on the Trinity of God the Father, by the person of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. To come to deeper revelation of who God is and His heart for us requires the deepest roots of moralism and religiosity to be severed. It isn’t about me and my strengths and weaknesses. It is about Christ, and my need to surrender in humility, and recognize that apart from asking The Spirit to lead me, I can not do so on my own.
This plays out the same way with Ashleigh. When she needs served and helped, does it truly glorify God for me to help her, but all the while I am annoyed in my head, disappointed that she didn’t just do it herself? I may be serving her with my hands while simultaneously being completely selfish in my motives. This leads to a religious moralism where I can deceive myself that I am doing for her what is right. But in those moments, I am not truly serving her. The point of serving is a surrendering of your will to someone else and saying “I defer my interests in order to hold you higher than myself.” Having a “fake it until you make it” attitude may work great in business, but it doesn’t work in a relationship where you are required to give yourself spiritually to one another. My relationship with her can not be faked. I can for a few days or weeks perhaps do things just for the sake of doing them, but eventually I become exhausted and I reveal my true character. I wasn’t doing things out of love for her, I was doing them out of a religious obligation that glorified my actions, all the while my heart was completely selfish.
I believe that this is the same thing that happens when we try to seek God harder without first acknowledging that we can’t even seek Him without a new heart that even desires Him.
However, just because I don’t feel that I am serving out of a correct heart, that does not mean I should simply check out and say “Forget it, I can’t get this right so I won’t do it at all.” As I was pondering all of this this morning I was reminded of James 5:16- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” A huge part of Scripture is context, especially since the first word of 5:16 is “therefore,” which points back to a point made in a previous verse. Beginning at verse 13 through 15 we see: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” In verse 13 we see that if someone is suffering, he should pray, and a few verses later we see that if someone is sick they should ask in faith for prayer. It requires faith to ask someone to pray for us as well. So the person in need of prayer is admitting that they alone can not heal themselves, and they are needing faith in Christ to believe that He alone is able to heal them. In verse 16 it talks about the prayer of the righteous person being effective and powerful. What makes that person righteous? Faith in The Lord alone which requires abandonment of self in humility, and a new heart given by The Lord.
While in context James is talking about physical illness, I don’t believe it is a stretch to conclude that the same is true of spiritual sickness. In regard to serving and seeking out of a wrong motive, pride is a spiritual sickness. When I say to myself “I am just going to serve you,” and have no heart of service towards Ashleigh, or whoever I serve for that matter, then the truth is that I am not serving her the deepest needs of her heart, and I am certainly not loving her as Christ loved the church (dying to self, in humility). The same goes for my relationship with The Lord. If I simply lay there with my Bible and read a little bit yet become frustrated with my inability to focus, that self-frustration is pride, myself telling myself “I should be able to attain to Godliness without God.” The mark of Christian maturity is not needing God less. That seems ridiculous, but how often is that what we do?
So how do we grow in intimacy with The Lord, and not out of only religious duty that does not glorify God? Our frustration is meant to lead us to Him even deeper. I’m not supposed to lay in bed getting frustrated that I don’t feel like reading the Bible, or I don’t feel like keeping my heart aligned with Him. The same way that the Bible instructs us to confess to each other, we need to confess to The Lord in prayer and relationship: “God, I want to truly know your heart, I want to truly know who you are. I have gotten caught up in trying hard and being good for the sake of being good, and obedient for the sake of being obedient. I have exchanged a relationship with you for a duty of doing something for you. Teach me how to love you.” This works the same with Ashleigh. We need to confess our sins to each other as James 5:16 says. Be honest. Open yourself. Tell your spouse that you deeply desire to serve them, you weren’t serving them out of a correct heart, and ask for their forgiveness. Ask God for forgiveness and ask Him to show you how to serve from a heart completely reliant on His Spirit for strength and power. It is called Christianity- not Kentianity. Don’t expect to be able to do this without His guidance and power. Jesus has already died on the cross for all of your sins, and your sinful nature. Do not grieve the Spirit by attempting to work your way to Him. Accept His work, confess your sins to Him, and ask Him for more of Himself.