“There’s nothing on earth that I want apart from God.”
To which you might respond: “Liar.”
You’ve heard me say those words on a number of occasions. Many times I’ve found myself yelling them out in the middle of a sermon: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.” (Ps. 73:25-26) It’s one of my favourite passages.
But is that really a true testimony for me? Can I embrace those words as my own? Can you?
In one sense, no, that’s not true for me. “Liar” might seem a fair charge.
In recent months, I have often felt spiritually flat, lacking zeal and passion in my faith. Crucially, that reality has profoundly bothered me.
How about you? It’s hard to judge these matters, isn’t it? Maybe, the thought comes, I should just chill out a bit and get over it.
Even as I type about a lack of passion for God, so many other voices speak up – pleading tiredness, ‘normal life’, grief, end-of-holidays woe, the stress of ever-growing to-do lists, etc. “Oh, and Martin,” goes the voice in my head, “let’s not forget that you’re not 20 anymore!”
Some of those things have certainly played a part in how I’ve felt these last weeks. And I am well aware that the Christian life is not about always smiling and always singing.
And yet, I just know it – I’ve not recently been as zealous in my love and service for Jesus as I have been in previous moments in my life.
I know it. And I hate it. Therefore I have hope.
Tired? Flat? Not praying as much as I should have been? Not as lost in worship as previous seasons in my life? Yes.
Satisfied with that? No! May it never be.
Hope for the spiritually struggling
To not care – that is what it means to be “lukewarm”. I don’t believe any Christian can be lukewarm. Jesus doesn’t spit His own people out of His mouth (see Rev. 3:15-21). To be lukewarm (that word is only used once in the bible) is to feel completely content and settled with life away from God, without any sense of need of God (vs. 17).
That’s not me. The very nature of this moment I’ve been in – is that I knew I needed to change, and I wanted to. It didn’t always feel like I wanted to. But somewhere, deep inside me, my soul cried, “O, for a closer walk with God”. This is all grace.
The kindness of God leads me…
As mentioned above – I do want to be zealous in my faith. That’s about more than just bouncing around quoting bible verses with a warm fuzzy feeling (all good things though they are, by the way) – in this passage in Revelation 3, Jesus says zeal will result in repentance – choosing to come home to God.
I want that – to know the cry of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Lk. 18:9-14); to taste more and more what it feels like to “shout for joy, and fall facedown” (Lev. 9:24); to “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11); to know I just must get to Jesus, even if it takes a miracle like walking on water (Mat. 14:22-33); to have my thirst quenched, even though I so often want to lie in the dust, even though I’ve got nothing to buy water with (Is. 55:1-6; Jer. 2:13); to say to God, ‘if You don’t come with me, I’m not going’ (Ex. 33:14-15); for my soul to long for the lovely dwelling place of God (Ps. 84); even to be so bold as to pray that I might “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [I] may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:14-19)
I do want those things. Even today I feel it deep in me – God’s not done with me yet. But so often I sit in the dust, struggling to remember what that feels like. So it is a life-shapingly great comfort to know that Paul concludes his Ephesians 3 prayer by saying, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)
This is His work. He invites me in to His work. And He is able, yes He is. That’s good news!
So will you join me in praying that God, through the power of His Spirit, might be kind enough to grant us the “one thing” we so often lack – the heart that desires Him above all else.
As I close, I would like to commend a series of messages to you – they’re from the 2017 Convergence Conference which happened in Oklahoma at the start of this month. The organisers say of this conference, “We aim to challenge and equip followers of Jesus to eagerly embrace both the functional authority of God’s Word and the full range of miraculous gifts of the Spirit, all to the glory of God in Christ.” They have recently released audio and video from all the main sessions – this can be accessed on the conference website (audio at the bottom) or via Andrew Wilson’s blog (which is definitely one to regularly check out).
I’m working my way through these messages and have found them really inspiring and challenging (loads to think about for us as a church). And then I got to Francis Chan’s talk – and when you get there, you’ll see why I was finally sure I had to land on this topic for this first blog.