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Am I Spiritual Yet?

I did something this morning that I do not recommend to anyone reading this. I awoke at 5:00 AM, got dressed, left the house, and drove myself to a 5:30 AM workout. It’s just as horrible as it sounds. Heading to the workout, I was thinking to myself how much better I would feel if I had just stayed in bed. During the workout, I still didn’t want to be there and plotted ways to leave early. Somehow, I got through the workout and as soon as it was over, my immediate thought was, “I can’t wait to do this again tomorrow!” Before you think I’m weird, I can almost guarantee you that if I do actually wake up at 5:00 AM tomorrow, the cycle of emotions will repeat themselves again. It’s going to take months of consistency in this routine before I will be at a place of tolerating my own decision to put myself through this special kind of torture.

I was reminded this morning on my drive back home that our time in prayer and Scripture is often a very similar pattern. We somehow think that because we decided the night before that we were going to wake up at the crack of dawn to spend time with Jesus that everything will fall into place and we will have an almost euphoric quiet time. As if following Jesus didn’t require an incredible amount of discipline and consistency. None of us expect that after one workout we will all of sudden love working out. Neither do we think that our junk food cravings suddenly vanish after one salad at lunch. Why do we think that after one hour of personal devotions, we suddenly become a super Christian who can’t wait until that morning alarm disturbs our slumber so we can be with our Lord again?

Paul once said, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). It almost sounds like Paul was launching a CrossFit gym in the wilderness with that kind of language. But Paul understood what many of us seemingly don’t - the pursuit of holiness and the process of sanctification requires extreme patience and discipline. It does not happen overnight. But somewhere along the way as we maintain our gaze on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and continue “working out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12), we begin to see lasting results and true spiritual change.

I know this isn’t some revolutionary new idea, but I needed this short reminder in my own life today, so maybe you needed it too.

Yet I Will Rejoice

Hurricane Dorian made its landfall in The Bahamas on September 1st, 2019. I know that nothing I can say would offer any hope, healing, or answers to those who have quite literally lost everything. There is a simultaneous reality that even those who were not personally affected by the storm are searching for answers as to why something this tragic occurred - especially if we believe in a Good and Sovereign God.

But today, God brought to mind this passage from the end of Habakkuk:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
- Habakkuk 3:17-19

These words were inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by Habakkuk at a time of complete desolation in Judah. The crazy thing is, they didn’t have to wonder why God would allow such tragedy to come, because He told them that He was the One Who would bring it about on them. They were about to experience God’s judgement on them as a nation because of their disobedience and God was giving them that message through Habakkuk.

As Habakkuk waits on this destruction and judgement to come (Habakkuk 3:16), he pens the above verses.

These are at least some of the words I offer to those affected by Dorian and those wondering why this all has happened. I offer them because they are not my words, but God’s - through Habakkuk. In the face of certain devastation, Habakkuk worships. His joy and strength are found in the Lord, not his circumstances or even the explanation of those circumstances. He is able to stand not on his strength, but the Lord’s.

Habakkuk’s response to everything being taken away? Yet I Will Rejoice. Not in my circumstances, but in my God. I do not say that lightly or with any thought that it will be easy to do or even cause your circumstances to be different. I have personally been processing the fact that if Dorian had veered just 50 miles south, I could be facing the loss of just about every single person in my family. Had Dorian made a slightly different turn, my own home, possessions, and life would have been in danger. I have asked myself what my response would be in those times. And I have prayed (with much emotion) that my response would be similar to Habakkuk’s.

I’m praying the same for you as I pray for the recovery and rebuilding of my home country. These are not my only prayers or thoughts in this situation, but they have been at the forefront of my mind today.

When God Doesn't Give You What You Want

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If you’re a husband, then you’ve probably experienced the terror of your wife asking you to pick up something she needs from the grocery store. We all know that she has a specific brand, size, price, and color of the item that she requested and you had better get it right. To be fair, most of us as men don’t consider the amount of time and effort our wives put into preparing a meal for our families and therefore don’t understand the importance of getting what she asked for. However, most of us have experienced the tension of giving our wives something different than she asked for. It’s frustrating to ask for something and not receive what you asked for.

We’ve probably also been on the receiving end of this in our relationship with God as well. We are striving to be obedient to His call on our lives and in the meantime we ask Him to take care of our physical needs. Often, He does give us exactly what we’ve asked for as long as our motives are right in our requests. Maybe just as often though, He doesn’t give us what we’ve asked for.

There’s an interesting passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul is asking the Corinthian church to be cheerful and faithful in their giving to the saints in Jerusalem. He challenges them to “sow bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6) and then he gives them this assurance:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8

Maybe it would seem appropriate that if God is asking us to give financially that he would return the favor by blessing us financially - and sometimes He does that. However, the greater promise here is that as we are obedient to God by living with generous hearts, He will make his grace abound to us so that we would have “all sufficiency” (read contentment). While we may hope for financial blessings (temporary), God lavishes on us spiritual blessings (eternal).

The result is that we become even more generous and joyful because no longer are we doing this through our own strength, but the grace and strength He provides us to live with true contentment no matter our circumstances. He sustains us with something far greater than a balanced checkbook and a solid financial future. It may seem impossible to have true contentment when life keeps throwing curveballs at you and it may seem frustrating when God does not give us what we ask Him for; especially when we think we need it. This is why Paul gives us the encouragement in Philippians 4:

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13

The truth is, if we have Christ, we have enough. He knows your needs (Matthew 6:8), He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7), and He is able to meet them (Matthew 6:33), but in our praying and searching for material provisions, let’s not miss the greater blessing of his grace enabling us to live with real contentment. It is only when we live with true contentment that we can live with true generosity anyway.