Over the past few months I’ve been slowly reading through a book called Holiness by J.C. Ryle. It’s a fantastic book, and there’s a great quote on almost every page, but I find myself taking it in small pieces and coming back to it every few days.
The “chains” mentioned above are probably not what you would think. Let me give you part of the preceding paragraph so you’ll see what he’s referring to:
The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight [against spiritual apathy] in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or twice every week. But of the great spiritual warfare – it’s watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests – of all thing they appear to know nothing at all. Let us take care that this case is not our own.
Not to say that there’s anything we can do to earn God’s love, or anything close to that. Scripture is clear that it’s only through faith in Jesus that people can be right with God. It’s not about what you do, say, or think that makes you close to God – it’s all about the price Jesus paid to ransom our lives.
But once a person has been redeemed – once their life has been changed by the life-giving power of Christ – there should be something within us that fights back against the world’s temptation to become spiritually numb and go with the flow.
I’m asking God to give me grace and strength to face the ever-present temptation to be chained with lukewarmness and spiritual laziness.
Five years ago, I did an interesting thing. I sent myself a time-delayed email, and I received it just last week. Here’s a short excerpt:
As I write this you stand on the verge of something awesome that is happening at Southcliff. You’ve started training leaders on how to do cell groups, and tonight you have a strategy meeting with them to figure out how you’re going to multiply your first group. This Fall, Southcliff is also going to do a program called 40 Days of Community. This is an exciting time at Southcliff, and it is your first year of ministry as Associate Pastor.
Right now, I’m a bit scared about what will happen with all of this stuff, but I’m trusting God to do something beyond my wildest dreams.
Kind of hard to believe that was only five years ago. I sensed that God was up to something, but it’s amazing to look back at how things progressed:
- Experimenting with small group ministry and learning more about websites
- Planning and eventually launching a satellite campus of Southcliff and serving as their Campus Pastor
- Serving with great people and working hard together to reach out to the community
- Grieving through the process of seeing the campus close after two years
- Understanding that God was moving me into a new phase of ministry
- Moving from Texas to Tennessee to join with Faith Promise
Every one of these steps was challenging in one form or another, but it’s neat to see look back and see how God has been at work. “Beyond my wildest dreams” is a pretty accurate description.
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
– Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)
Isn’t it amazing how much comfort this world can try to offer us? We’re surrounded by conveniences – fast food, nice grocery stores, amazing technology, and abundant entertainment. So many things try to win our love and steal our attention away from God and eternal things. For the Christian there is a constant struggle to remember that this world isn’t our real home.
Tonight, I am again praying that God will keep what is real and lasting in front of me. I’m praying that He will give me eyes of faith and a heart that only finds fullness in Him.
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.
– Sir Frances Drake (explorer and naval pioneer during the Elizabethan era)