Late winter malaise is tough. Of course we know that any minute spring is going to come soon. We know we are about to store our winter jackets and enjoy warm weather. But it is easy for us to turn our anticipation into frustration in these long in- between times.
Living a life of faith is the same. Sometimes faith moves quicker - when growth is evident, and we are able to see signs and works of God's power in our lives. But other times our faith seems to slow to a crawl through dry seasons of suffering or frustration. We move slow, dry out, and we wonder if we are still moving in the right direction.
Both of those spiritual seasons are found in the Scriptures. But the temptation when life and faith begins to slow down is to stop. And coming to a stop is maybe the worst thing we can do in our faith. Because once we stop we lose all momentum even momentum we didn't realize we had. Getting started again become so difficult. And we end up working in forces of darkness that we didn't even know were trying to bring us away from God's trajectory.
Paul says the life of faith is like a long run that requires training and discipline. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Cor 9:24-25
The faith practices that move you forward are just as important - or more - in dry seasons as they are in deep moments of faith. Worship matters as much whether you are in a season of joy and celebration or one of personal pain. Generosity matters whether you just got a pay raise, or if you are worried your check will bounce. Faith sharing can still change someone's eternity whether you are in the mood to offer an invitation or not. Your presence and connection is a gift you give to others whether you realize that extending a smile and welcome and conversation is Kingdom building work.
So whether you feel like your faith is full of joy like the warmth of a spring day that showed up early, or tired and cold like a winter that won't end... regardless, God is God, and God deserves better.
1. Have you ever run a long race? What did you do when you got tired?
2. How is your faith right now? Are you feeling slow and tired? Or are you in a season of great progress?
3. What have you let slip that God deserves to have you invest in? Worship? Generosity? Invitation? Community?
God, thank you for blessing me with such care and guidance. Lead me forward in Your ways. Help me to choose Your path and teach me what is next ... for You... today in ways small and large. Forgive me for my neglect and fatigue. I love you.
"Jesus stands as a towering figure in history because all across time, he has forced history’s view of true character to bend to his own character rather than vice versa. He showed how love could be far more just, true, sacrificial, and by the way more interesting and complex than mere approval. It took a God-man to be able to do that." -Tom Gilson
Here is a story we look at frequently at Big Life C.C.:
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
It is no surprise that we find our own ideas and thoughts and beliefs to be good... we have spent our lives building our ideas through experience, trials, and errors. We believe our own understanding of truth... and we might even justify our decisions, positions and politics as being "good".
However, Jesus cautions us strongly about living in confidence of our own sense of what is good. Here in Luke, the religious man describes making some admirable life choices, and feels entitled to declare himself 'good' about his life as a result. However, he fails to acknowledge his deepest nature as broken, lost, and blind. He fails to fall on his dependence on God and instead lists his own "good behaviors."
There is a truth deeper than what we think, or what we do... it is what we are in our very being. It is shown only in relationship to Truth in the form of Jesus. We are created as children of God, in God's own image, like Jesus... yet we bend and twist from that towards greed, selfishness, vanity, and disdain towards others.
The tax collector reveals this self-knowledge and takes a posture towards God and self that Jesus says is "just." He is not concerned with what the other guy got right OR wrong. He is only consumed with his own knowledge of self, and his shortcomings, as well as deep reverence for God's righteousness.
The ONLY posture of TRUTH, the deepest truth, is one of absolute reverent, dependence on God. Over and over the Bible calls us to humility first... and over and over humans come up with a different answer to elevate ourselves. The only posture that is righteous is that of humility. And in humility we find ourselves in a common posture as all humankind... on our knees before God in worship, heartfelt acknowledgement of our need for God's mercy, and grateful love.
Grace offers redemption, but grace is only found in the fullness of Truth.
"For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” - Jesus
1. How do you elevate your own ideas? How do you contrast yourself to others?
2. If we live out this Jesus teaching, what is our righteous posture / attitude towards God? Towards other people?