Thursday, April 21, 2011

on spending time well

I am sooooooo glad I went for evening service this Maundy Thursday. It is so wonderful to be in God’s presence with other believers, to experience that love and peace and joy, that refreshing and renewal of one’s spirit.

Did you know, by the way, that the word “Maundy” derives from the Latin mandatum? "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos", or "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you". Jesus said this in John 13:34, when he was explaining to the Apostles the significance of his washing of their feet. Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper of course, and tomorrow will be Good Friday.

Our pastor delivered such a great sermon this evening (we have four different pastors at our church by the way, so when I say “our pastor” I’m not always referring to the same person). During it, he asked us to spend some quiet time reflecting on the sins we struggle with in our lives, and then to ask God how we can overcome them. Naturally, a whole string of sins and shortcomings came immediately to my mind; they probably came to my mind pretty quick because I’m always having to ask God’s forgiveness for those same sins in my daily prayers.

At the same time, as our pastor had requested, I cried out to the Lord (in my heart) to tell me how to overcome these weaknesses in my life. And I heard then, again and again, with increasing emphasis – “Spend time with Me”.

And in the extra minute or two that our pastor gave us to pray before resuming his sermon, I just came to the realisation or revelation that yes – the way to conquer our weaknesses, to cast out our demons, to break the addiction of our sins, is best summed up by that invitation, that direction, that injunction – spend time with God.

The time we invest in unhealthy habits, negative thinking, immoral, bad or plain stupid behaviour, can swiftly be turned to excellent use by giving it to God. Spend time with Him. Make time for Him. Talk with Him, get to know His character and His ways, listen to His promptings, follow His guidance, ask for His grace and His help. Mark 14:38 says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” If I don’t discipline myself to spend time with God, it is so easy to drift into sin and all sorts of bad behaviour.

Our pastor used himself as an example, referring to the time he was preparing for a marathon. With discipline and dedication, he eventually did manage to get his body into excellent shape, and complete the run well. But while it had taken him months of effort to get fit and healthy, it was easy, and didn’t take long at all, to drift back to crappy eating habits and couch potatohood.

He cited an excellent quote by Canadian theologian D.A. Carson: "People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."

Yes, spending time with God, keeping to His path, is definitely a discipline, but really, it is so so worth it. And you know what, the more time you spend with Him, the less you feel the discipline, and the more you notice the blessings and the gains.

Remember Isaiah 30:18, which reminds us that “the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!”

“I love those who love me,” says the Lord, “and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me” (Prov 8:17).

Have a lovely, blessed Easter!


Fdoeppen said...

Thank you again and again.
My heart melts reading your words, they bring hope to my heart, that I can become a much better person.
This feeling of emptiness and uselessness clouds my mind, I can't even think straight.
I have closed the doors of my heart and left God outside :(
I must bring Him back!
Happy Easter, girls!

Unknown said...

Jan, your posts this month have been beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for the time and effort you have put into them, and for the wisdom you have shared. I treasure every word!

Blessed Easter to you, too...:o)



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