This is the second blog in a series I’ve titled, “Restoring Vitality?” The first is here.
I’ve been graciously invited into the lives of congregations in order to help them assess health and discern what the Lord may be wanting to do in the future. So like a doctor, we ask questions that get us to the symptoms a church may be experiencing and hopefully the process helps us find a path of renewed health.
I’ve been to a lot of doctors in my life, especially in the last 8 years. The good ones ask a lot of questions and then they listen for the answers. If they do that well and they have experience in the area of trouble, then they can guide me toward solutions that will lead to greater health.
Spiritually speaking, when we are stuck in a developmental stage, we need to notice something is amiss. Is there a pain? How, when, why, does this present itself? What are the results? Once we’ve done a little honest appraisal of our condition, we can begin to walk through a process by which we can engage the Spirit of God and experience his leading and his fruitfulness in our lives. Let’s look at a few of the questions that might help us see what’s really happening in us.
WHERE AM I?
Where am I? is the first question. This is the insightful question that God asked Adam in the Garden of Eden. If you remember, Adam and Even had sinned. They immediately saw their need to cover up. So they constructed loincloths out of fig leaves. Then it says, “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” And they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.” (Gen. 2:8). Then God called out to the man this important question, “Where are you?”
I believe God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were. And I tend to think he knew why they were there. So, why did he ask? He wanted Adam and Eve to hear the question. They needed to notice where they were and how they got there. They had a relationship of oneness with God. The garden was a place of peace. The relationships were rich and full. But their world was now fractured. It was broken. They were alone, hiding from God and one another.
There are times it seems that God asks us that question. “Where are you?” Am I hiding? If I am, why? Do I find myself in the midst of broken relationships? Am I motivated by fear? Where am I stuck? Is life harder than it seems it should be? If God were to walk into the room at this moment, would I expect his embrace, or his rebuke?
The first step of growth is always noticing where I am. I need to look around within and without. I need to notice the condition of my own heart. I need to identify the thoughts and actions that rule my life.
WHAT ARE MY DESIRES?
Another question to ask in this process of honest appraisal is, “What are my desires?” I think we need to dig deep into the desires of our hearts. Our desires come from a life of being formed by our families, our own personalities, and our life experiences. And our desires shape our decisions, our expectations and our reactions to the world around us.
Our desires also shape the way we experience Jesus. Jesus was walking our of Jericho and there were two blind men calling out to him. They called, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And Jesus stopped and asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” They replied “Lord, let our eyes be opened!” And Jesus healed them. Their need and their desire to be made whole shaped their experience of Jesus. They needed a healer. And they found a healer.
I wonder how my own desires have limited my experience of Jesus. I have often just wanted Jesus to fix something, or provide something, or relieve me of something, rather than wanting him to transform it – or transform me in it. I want my “daily bread.” But I don’t really desire that “His kingdom to come.”
A.W. Tozer wrote in his book, “How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit,” “For instance, are you sure that you want to be possessed by a spirit other than your own? Even though that spirit be the pure Spirit of God? Even though he be the very gentle essence of the gentle Jesus?” In this little book, he is telling us that our desires matter. As long as we want a God to patch up the lives we’ve designed, we will hobble along going from crisis to crisis looking for those little slivers of relief. As long as we look to Jesus as the guy who will save us from the flames, we will miss the joy of seeing eternity at work now. Our desires either expand, or limit our experience of God in Christ.
WHAT ARE MY QUESTIONS?
A last appraisal question to ask is, “What are my questions?” This may seem odd to ask a question about questions. But I think our questions reveal something about where we are in our spiritual journeys. First, let me say there is nothing wrong with questions. Questioning is an important part of development. Job would never have been ready for God to reveal himself, if he hadn’t spent a lot of time asking his questions. But what we wouldn’t expect is that the next time something went wrong, he would start asking the same questions again.
In Hebrews 6, just before a warning about not leaving the faith, the writer wrote “Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of a faith toward God…” (Hebrews 6:1). He seems to be saying, “Guys, these are the basics. We should not have to keep going back to the same questions again and again. We should be past this by now.”
As we grow in Christ our questions should change. There will always be mysteries to the faith. But there should be areas we are becoming more sure of. There should be questions that are getting settled as we live with Jesus. And that should lead us to new questions which propel us toward a deeper understanding of our God.
ENCOURAGEMENT, A First Step
I encourage you to take a piece of paper, get alone with God and let him guide you in assessing your spiritual journey. Even better would be passing this along to a fellow believer in Jesus and talking through it. Often someone we know well will have some insight that we don’t have about ourselves.
Be assured of this, whether you are hanging out in the bushes, or are experiencing mixed desires, or if you’ve been stuck on the same questions for years, there is a God who is pursuing you with all his love, goodness and strength. And he wants to lead you to new heights of knowing him. That’s why Jesus joined us and that’s why His Spirit is still here.
Comments, shares, questions and likes are welcomed and appreciated. I hope you’re looking forward to the next step in Restoring Vitality, I am.