One of the challenges for us as followers of Jesus during this pandemic is maintaining a vibrant faith while not being able to meet in the normal way. This is why I believe God is re-training us during this season to walk from rest. (There’s no social distancing with the indwelling Holy Spirit!) And we see the barometer for our vibrancy when we take an honest look at the condition of our heart.
Apparently, passion and enthusiasm for Jesus can have a shelf-life, if we don’t manage our hearts well. Here’s what Paul told Timothy in this regard:
2 proclaim the Word of God and stand upon it no matter what! Rise to the occasion and preach when it is convenient and when it is not. Preach in the full expression of the Holy Spirit—with wisdom and patience as you instruct and teach the people.
3 For the time is coming when they will no longer listen and respond to the healing words of truth because they will become selfish and proud. They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear. (2 Tim.4:2-3 TPT*)
It’s an interesting juxtaposition. Paul is telling Timothy to preach the gospel, even when it’s not convenient for him, while living in a time where people have grown dull of hearing because they prefer convenience.
The first thing we need to know is that it’s God’s passion that ignites our hearts. We cannot conjure up this passion in our own strength. When we put our cold, dull hearts before the blazing bonfire of His love, we are ignited with pure joy and delight!
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 NKJV*)
I shared a study before that found that 32% of committed Christians have stopped attending either an online or on-location local church since the pandemic. Almost one-third who were faithfully working together in church families before now seem comfortable to just go on social media and listen to podcasts when it suits them…or they’re just not doing anything at all.
I’m not trying to be judgmental here, and there’s certainly other reasons why people have disconnected from these vital relationships; I’m only pointing out that while Holy Spirit is our Comforter, He’s anything but comfortable! He’s perfectly willing to break us out of our complacency and unexamined confirmation biases. And He’ll even use a pandemic to do it.
The Living Word exposes these self-inflicted boundaries to us—piercing our hearts, interpreting our innermost motives, and even challenging our cherished assumptions. This is why I contend that we should learn to let the Bible study us.
12 For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts. (Heb.4:12 TPT*)
Here’s the danger. Without this continual “piercing,” without the Spirit’s constant recalibration of our perspective, without letting Holy Spirit speak through other people we’re in community with, who may even irritate us at times, our unexamined life will be just be following our own confirmation bias.
They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear.
Like birds of a feather flocking together, we’ll only be open to teachers we already agree with. We will have stopped “the eyes of our hearts from being enlightened” (Eph.1:18), resting in a truth that makes us comfortable instead the Truth that makes us truly free.
But, as Jesus told Peter, if He cannot wash us, we cannot share in His life (John 13:8). And we show we’re legitimate sons and daughters when we submit to this process.
7 Fully embrace God’s correction as part of your training, for he is doing what any loving father does for his children. For who has ever heard of a child who never had to be corrected? 8 We all should welcome God’s discipline as the validation of authentic sonship. For if we have never once endured his correction it only proves we are strangers and not sons. (Heb.12:7-8 TPT*)
This correction deals with this box we’ve built our around ourselves, our propensity to walk away instead of grow, always learning but never experiencing the most important and wonderful discoveries about ourselves that we only find after we faithfully submit to His correction.
11 Now all discipline seems to be more pain than pleasure at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it. (Heb.12:11*)
This is because so much of what God wants to show us lies outside of our “box”; it lies beyond all we can ask or even imagine (Eph.3:20). We have no mental grid for it while still stuck inside the echo of our own thoughts.
Beloved, this is the key to staying strong in the Lord and staying vibrant in the faith, regardless of our circumstances. Let’s let Jesus be our guide: “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb.5:8). While it’s not always easy to follow Him instead of our fickle desires, the reward is incomparable! It was Jesus’ secret to a life well lived.
Finally, may the Will Reagan song, “Fill Me Up” be our continual mantra: “You provide the fire; I’ll provide the sacrifice.” As a prayer toward this end, let’s let Tasha Cobbs minister to us with this song…until we overflow.