The conflict of spirit and flesh is maddening. I do what I do not want to do, I do not do what I want to do. I know what I need to do, but so often I end up doing the opposite. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
And if I'm honest, I haven't been doing much to strengthen it.
That is uncomfortable for me to admit, but it's sadly true. It's not mere complacency; on the contrary, I live in a constant state of discomfort and guilt, knowing that I am not living the way that I ought to be.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and I'm too lazy to change that. That's the blunt reality of the situation.
Which begs the question... why am I lazy? When I know that a relationship with God is infinitely better, when I know that the way I'm living does not glorify the One who is worthy of all glory? I know that I could do so much more, love so much more, be so much more. And yet here I sit.
When we allow ourselves to live this way, knowing the narrow way but choosing to walk down the wider path, every moment of our lives becomes a sin. "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4:17)
Think about that for a minute. Every moment you are not pursuing Christ, a repulsive rebellion against God. Yet another reason for Him to hang on that cross. It disgusts me to think that I could make such a choice.
So why am I lazy? Perhaps my laziness stems from discouragement. Because all of the half-hearted attempts I have put forth have failed, and I despise failure. Perhaps because I don't "feel" God like I have in the past; I don't "feel" anything when I talk to Him, I don't "feel" affection, and when I read the Bible, all I "feel" is a keen reminder of all the ways in which I fail. It's hard to work up the motivation to read the Bible or pray when you don't desire it.
I read a quote once that said the moment you don't want to read your Bible is the exact moment that you need to, and I think that is true. We are sinful humans, and the desire for God is not one that comes naturally. It is only from the Holy Spirit, but our sinful flesh often does its best to stifle that desire.
I don't have time. I'm too tired. I can't concentrate. I don't feel like it. We are experts at coming up with excuses, but the reality is that when we make these excuses, we're really just saying that ______ is more desirable than God.
And yet I profess to love and have faith in this God? I maintain this attitude, yet dare to claim the name of Christ?
I'm writing this post and confessing these things because I know that it's not just me. I'm not the only Christian wrestling with this conflict, I'm not the only person starving myself of God, I'm not the only lazy Christian, settling for the lukewarm. I'm not the only one who likes shortcuts. We just don't like to admit it.
We long to love God, we desire to desire Him, we are starving to be made more hungry, we are aching to be relieved of anxiety and just trust. We want the good things of God, we want faith that is unshakable, but are we willing to work for it?
"How then shall unbelief be cured and faith be strengthened? Surely not by straining to believe the Scriptures, as some do.
Not by a frantic effort to believe the promises of God.
Not by gritting our teeth and determining to exercise faith by an act of the will.
All this has been tried - and it never helps.
To try thus to superinduce faith is to violate the laws of the mind and to do violence to the simply psychology of the heart.
What is the answer?
Job told us, "Acquaint thyself with Him and be at peace;" and Paul said "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
These two verses show the way to a strong and lasting faith:
Get acquainted with God through reading the Scriptures, and faith with come naturally.
This presupposes that we come to the Scriptures humbly, repudiating self-confidence and opening our minutes to the sweet operations of the Spirit.
Faith come effortlessly to the heart as we elevate our conceptions of God by a prayerful digestion of His Word.
And such faith endures, for it is grounded upon the Rock."
Wait... can it really be that easy?
Think about it. How do you build a relationship with someone? You spend time with them; you get to know them. Give them opportunities to prove themselves worthy of your trust. It is an investment of time, and depending on who it is, some people will get a higher priority in your life.
God - the eternal, all-good and glorious God, who created and every moment sustains the entire universe, who took mud in His hands and breathed it to life, who is eternally deserving of all glory and yet gave Himself up to these clay-men to be slaughtered because of His pure love - this God is available to you literally every moment. And not simply out of obligation because He in His omniscience can't avoid your spot in the universe. God is not simply lounging on a throne, drumming His fingers on the armrest waiting for you to acknowledge Him. He wants this relationship with you. He wants you to trust Him, love Him, spend time with Him, and glorify Him.
He loves you.
Which, quite honestly, completely blows my mind. That He should love one such as me, when I continue to reject Him and yet have the audacity to claim His name...
There is nothing more important in your life than your relationship with God. He should have a guaranteed time slot in your day, because He should be top priority. Everything else is nonexistent without Him. And guess what? You don't have to wait to consult schedules and see if you both have a free afternoon during which you can get together and chat over coffee. He is always available, always ready and waiting to spend time with you. How much time are you willing to give back?
As simple as it is to just read and meditate on the Word and pray, if you're anything like me, you might try to "simplify" it even further. I love listening to sermons and reading articles and devotionals. It can be helpful to have someone else explain a verse or a concept to you; a powerful speaker can be an effective way to a waken a complacent soul.
But the reality is, the life of a Christian is not something that can be lived vicariously. Sermons and articles are wonderful resources, and should definitely be taken advantage of, but there is simply no substitute for the Scriptures. Reading the Scriptures "secondhand" isn't enough; you need to be directly in the Word.
I realize how terribly ironic this is, but I strongly recommend reading this article by Francis Chan on the subject. This was what brought the fact that I spend too much time trying to find God outside of the Bible to my attention, and I definitely think it's worth the read.
If you want a deeper relationship with Christ, if you want to love Him more, if you want to have true faith... read your Bible. Get to know this God. Set aside time every single day to talk with Him, and read what He has said; make it a priority. And you know what the beautiful thing is? The more you read, the more you will want to. God is eternal, and therefore our desire for Him cannot be satiated; you literally can't get enough of Him. Reading and praying will awaken a deeper desire, and the indulging of that desire results in greater faith and affection for our Savior. "Faith comes effortlessly to the heart as we elevate our conceptions of God by a prayerful digestion of His Word."
In case there was any doubt, I am totally preaching to myself right now. I do not love, serve, or trust God as I ought - but I want to, and that desire is the beginning. I need to hold onto and feed that desire, rather than let it fester beneath my want for worldly things. By His grace, this is what I am going to do.
The time to live for Christ is now. Don't be lazy, don't be complacent; be radical. Live the life you were meant to - a life devoted to Christ, a life marked by crazy, passionate love. A rich relationship with God is not some far off thing, only attainable by some. It is readily available to you, if only you will pursue it.
Surrender your heart to Him, and walk worthy of our calling.
"O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, 'Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.' Then give me grace to rise up and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.: