Frequently we talk about “those things” we wish we could get rid of in our lives. Habits, addictions, tendencies, sins that we recognize as being detrimental to our lives. We even go to great lengths to understand why we struggle with the things with which we struggle. Somewhere in the midst of this desire to find the cause of our issues I think we have lost the reality that “those things” are choices.
Don’t get me wrong, our past can give us an affinity toward certain habits and sins, but at the end of the day, we make the choice to indulge. This is how Paul explains it in Romans 6:16, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” (NLT).
Recently, while reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges I was struck by this statement, “It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins yet be careless in our intake of the Word of God.” (page 75).
Our desire to get past “those things” while failing to regularly consume God’s Word is like someone wanting to run a 26.2 mile marathon but failing to regularly run in the months leading up to the race. We would look at a person who did this and think that they didn’t really want to run a marathon, and that they just wanted to talk about running a marathon.
Furthermore, when we are intentional about our intake of Scripture and put it to memory, the Holy Spirit brings those passages to mind at the right time. Maybe you need to start with Romans 6:16, so that when you are faced with temptation you can be reminded that it is your choice. You choose what to obey, temptation or God.
If you struggle with saying things you shouldn’t maybe you need to memorize Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those that hear.” (ESV).
If you struggle with lust it might be helpful to memorize Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (ESV).
Greed? Colossians 3:5, “ So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (NLT).
Unforgiveness? Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you.” (ESV).
I could go on, but you get the point.
Understand, we have a choice Who/what we will obey. If we are going to be conformed to the image of Christ, for the sake of others, and to the glory of God, we must be intentional about our Scripture intake.
It’s your choice, who will you obey?
In 2011 I was talking with a friend who had registered for the Illinois Marathon half-marathon race. As we talked I thought, “I should do this.” Keep in mind that this conversation was in January, the half was to take place in April, a half is 13.1 miles, and I hadn’t run since I left ISU in 2004. Naturally I did the only reasonable thing there is to do, I went home got online and registered for the race, I also talked another friend into joining me in my insanity.
Even since this entry into the running world, I have learned several things about which I could spend a great deal of time writing or talking about. I have inevitably learned a lot about running, but I also have learned, through observation and conversation, much about spiritual life. I learned that while on a 6+ mile run with people it provides a lot of time (especially when you are as slow as me) to talk. There have been times when the run was pretty much a full on Bible study, other times it was a discussion of the value on our marriages and how we can continue to honor those marriages and set an example for others.
However, these are not the things I want to address presently, rather I want to talk about one of my favorite aspects of running. I absolutely love the running community. Through running I have seen community that transcends race, religion (several of the runs, I mentioned, where we talked faith and Scripture it was a protestant, a Catholic, a Mormon, and an atheist), gender, lifestyle, politics, etc. These things fade to the back as we all gather around a common interest, running.
Ever since I began my journey running I have started, stopped, and restarted several times over. It is frustrating to begin from square one again, but that’s been my pattern. A couple years ago I was a few months into running again, I was scheduled for 6 miles that day, but by mile .5 I wasn’t feeling it and began to mentally talk myself into simply running 2 miles and being done for the day. As the group began pulling away, because I just couldn’t keep pace with them, one guy stayed with me and I decided I would go until he took off then I’d turn around. That day I ended up getting in my full 6 miles, because he stayed with me the whole time. The crazy thing about it is that his pace then was easily 4 minutes a mile less than mine, yet he ran slow in order to encourage me and keep me going. I recognized a while later that I probably would have quit after that day had he not stayed with me.
Additionally, “races” are incredible venues for community. The last run I did was a 6.5 mile trail run, it was also an out and back, which meant not only were people running in the same direction but we were also meeting people coming at us. The entire 6.5 miles was filled with encouragement, warning of obstacles, and motivation from others. As I listened to people speaking words of encouragement and motivation between breaths I couldn’t help but think about the example that it sets for the Church.
This is why the author of Hebrews writes, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (10:24-25 ESV).
The very thing I have experienced within the running community is what we should be practicing and experiencing in the faith community. We need to begin to look for those people who are struggling, thinking about quitting and run with them. We need to be warning each other of temptations that may be headed at us. We need to tell each other “Good Job.” “Keep it up.” “Press on.” “You’re almost there.” “It’ll totally be worth it when you cross the finish line.”
Who do you need to encourage? Who has God placed in your life that you can come alongside and help them press on?
It is time for the Church to begin setting the example for the rest of the world.
I cannot recall talking to a Christian who didn’t desire for their prayer life to be more fulfilling, more fruitful, just simply better. Discontentment regarding our ability to pray seems to be common among Christians. I want to share something that I have found helpful, however, what I am about to say does not sit well with all, but I ask you to hear me out.
Through my spiritual journey I have found prayer books have brought a whole new depth to my prayer life.
Let me explain. It is easy for me to slip into autopilot mode, to say the same thing I always say, and cruise through. Using prayer books leads me to pray in ways that I wouldn’t pray, often even praying for things I typically wouldn’t think to pray. Prayer books stretch me.
One such book that has bore much fruit for me is John Baillie’s work A Diary of Private Prayer. I was first introduced to the original version a couple years ago, and recently found an updated copy. I would like to share a portion of the morning prayer on day 11 from the updated version.
“Yet, Lord, do not let me rest content with an ideal of humanity that is less than what was shown to us in Jesus. Give me the mind of Christ. May I not rest until I am like him in all his fullness. May I listen to Jesus’ question: What are you doing more than others? And so may the three Christian graces of faith, hope, and love be more and more formed within me, until all I do and say brings honor to Jesus and his gospel.”
I wonder what it would look like if we all began to allow prayer books to stretch us and help us grow. This is not at all to say these replace our spontaneous off the cuff prayers, simply that they supplement them. I wonder what would happen if we all began to pray this short prayer above regularly.
Imagine with me what it would look like if the Church across the nation were to regularly pray to “not rest until I am like him in all his fullness.” And for “faith, hope, and love [to] be more and more formed within me, until all I do and say brings honor to Jesus and his gospel.”
I can’t help but think we may begin to see some of the cultural change that we long for. If we won’t pray for it, who will?
Will you commit with me to pray this prayer every day for the next month?
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