Picking Up Where We Left Off
“…Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3
In last week’s post, I began to talk about what it means to lose the will (or desire) to endure for the sake of the Kingdom of God. More specifically I described how I went from being thoroughly on fire for Christ to seemingly hanging on by a thread to my faith and will to be pleasing to God. I can honestly say that I am so disappointed with myself for letting such a thing happen to me, but I know that God is going to use that part of my relationship with Him to reach others who have also found themselves weary in well doing. So, to that point I say, “to God be the glory!”
As promised there are some things that I wanted to talk about further, and so this post will dive a bit deeper into the aspects of a fading sense of faith and conviction. The first thing that I want to talk about is the concept of being “ritually clean” before the Lord.
Ritually Clean vs. Purified
“For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean…” Ezra 6:20a.
Years ago I was spending some much needed time in reading the Scriptures, and I began reading about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple in the book of Ezra (I was going through my own season of “rebuilding” at that time in my life). While reading, I came to the 20th verse of Ezra 6, and the term ritually clean was something that really struck me. What was so interesting about this term is what it could imply in a broad sense. The Priests and the Levites had a prescribed way to interact with the things of God, making absolutely sure that they adhered to the instructions that God gave to them through Moses, in order to be considered even remotely fit to do the job that was laid upon them at birth. Their garments, physical stature, and everything about them had to be on point in order to be found “ritually clean” enough to come to God and perform the duties on behalf of the nation as well as on their own behalf.
The thing to remember is that this was just the point of order for their appearance and the customs of their jobs, and it was meant to be an outward sign of their heart towards God and His will for their lives (clean, purified, in order, obedient, submitted, etc.) When we read through the scriptures, we see unfortunate examples of priests and Levites who were only ritually clean (outwardly) and unclean (inwardly) when it came to their heart or intention for fulfilling their duties. People like Korah (Numbers 16), Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10), Eli, Hophni, Phineas (1 Samuel 2:12-36), and others were examples of how one could look at their outward appearance and assume that their heart was also in alignment, primarily based on their appearance and their position, even though it wasn’t true.
Here’s why this was so important to me in that season years ago and even now: I never wanted to become a person who was only ritually clean before the Lord. In many ways I felt like Jonah, praying from a pit that welcomed me after I made erroneous decisions and lost sight of who I am called to be in Christ. I wanted nothing more but to serve Him with all of my heart and soul, putting my will away in exchange for His, but I had to get into a place where I remember that this was my heart’s desire. I realized a while ago that my obligatory sense of obedience was an indicator that such a thing had happened. When this becomes a reality, the alternate routes into disobedience, the sins of our past, the temptations of the present, and the losing of the hope for the future can become easier and easier to adhere to, and it will alter our sense of worth and change the way we see God as well as others. As I said in the previous post, this is a rather dangerous place to be.
I can honestly say that I am truly grateful that not even this frame of mind is outside of God’s love or His reach! For me, a sense of compromise when it came to how I was supposed to live my life actually became a feasible and acceptable notion in some areas of my life, when it should have been an absolute abhorrent idea to consider. No matter what the sin may be, and no matter how one came to the point of walking in sin, the wages are still death. But thanks be to God because there is no sin that is more powerful than His transformative power as it is applied to those who will come before Him with a heart of repentance and a will to serve Him. His gift is everlasting life through Christ, and the benefits of this severely outweigh any instant and finite gratification that can come from any sin. Furthermore, I am so grateful that God finds us wherever we are, and will do a work within us in order to transform us. We as His people do not have to settle for being merely ritually clean. We can allow God to do a work within us that will deem us (by His Holy standards) as purified vessels of honor, ready to be used by Him for our good and His glory. This truth is something that we must tell ourselves daily, especially when we are in a season where we are rebuilding what we have let fall apart in our relationship with Christ. I believe that deep down within us all lies a deep-seated desire for purification as well as a determination to follow after Christ. We must activate it with a faith-filled “YES” to Him and to His will for our lives!
The Pilot Light
One of the things that I think about the most in times like these is that within my life God has given me such awesome people to keep me accountable and to correct me when the need to do so arises. Two of those awesome people are my Mother and my Mother in the Gospel. At different points in my life they were able to see the things that were changing in me, and were wise enough to pray for me and warm enough to love me through it. As a result of such love and covering, I have always been able to share with them the things that are going on with me and the things that keep gnawing at me—even when I may feel as if I cannot tell them, due to my own sense of shame and guilt. I remember telling them both at different times that I fully acknowledge that I am not where I should be, and that there is more for me than what I see now, and that I trust and know that God will get me to that point if I only continue to believe and really press towards the mark. I also told them that in the seasons where I seemed to fade in my faith or in my willingness to endure hardship like a good soldier, that the Lord has always kept a pilot light lit within my soul, and that this was the reason why I could not completely turn my back on the God of my salvation and the Keeper of my soul.
A pilot light (literally/naturally speaking) is a small gas flame that acts as the ignition source for a larger and more powerful burner or flame. Within our homes, pilot lights are meant to remain lit all year around, so that anything that runs on gas can be immediately ignited in order to provoke a larger and more powerful flame for standard operation of the appliances connected to it. The pilot light ensures that I can use my stove, oven and have access to hot water whenever I need it. Even when I am not at home, it stays lit, basically making every gas appliance operate on standby until I need to use them. Spiritually speaking, God has done the same for me.
As crazy as it seems to me that I let myself fall into a place of apathy in some parts of my walk with Christ, I can honestly say that I did not fully walk away from Him because there has always been a piece of me that knew that I cannot and will not survive without Him, and that my rightful place is with Him and in Him. In addition to this, at His word, His beckoning, His nudge, and the feeling of His mighty Hand pulling me up out of the pits of depression and sadness, He would put a demand on the pilot light on the inside of me and cause me to shake off the dust that had accumulated from the periods of inactivity, which would prompt me to charge forward in Him and for Him. Sometimes it came in the form of a revelation from reading the Word of God, and at other times it came from just being around those who keep me accountable because their presence reminds me of who I am and whose I am. When the larger flames were ignited, I happily burned for God again and for more of Him.
The most interesting thing about this pilot light that God has placed within us all is that it is not only meant to ignite a larger and more powerful flame for our use, but it is also meant to ignite the purification process within the soul of the believer, in order to purify the heart and the mind, the will and the emotions of those who have committed themselves to Him. Just as God had promised to His servants the Levites, He can and will also purify us as His people so that we all can offer to Him an offering in righteousness (Malachi 3:3). As He ignites us, He does a work on the inside of us so that we can be thoroughly processed and purified of self and selfish ambitions and desires, in order to be trusted to do the work that He has called us to do.
Consistency and Proper Maintenance is Key
One of the main issues in keeping myself ablaze with a godly zeal for Christ was the fact that I did not properly maintain the flame or the push. Thankfully, I am now at a point in my life where I am daily learning what it means to maintain it on this level of my walk with Christ. What I did yesterday was fine for yesterday, but today brings about its own challenges and revelations. No matter what the day may bring, I have to start my day with a mindset to seek God and to do His will—no matter how uncomfortable the execution of the tasks may be. Honestly, in this season my love for God is continuing to grow and flourish, and the very thought of how much He has loved me through the ups and down of my faithfulness (or lack thereof) is simply awe inspiring. Who wouldn’t want to serve the One whose grace and mercy keeps us from utter destruction, and carries us into a place or repentance and rededication to Him? He is indeed faithful, and I am so very happy and humbled that He is loving me enough to teach me all over again what it means to daily walk in victory as well as what it means to truly carry the cross and follow after Him.
As I stated in last week’s post, there exists no good or valid reason for a person to walk away from the Lord after experiencing just how good and awesome He truly is, and so I will not be as foolish to say that these posts are my reasons for why I spent a period of time in a less than proper posture before the Lord. What I am aiming to do is to describe some of the feelings and symptoms of the overall diagnosis—losing the will to endure—in the hopes that others who are feeling the same way can see that all is not lost and that God is still very much in love with them.
Today I can honestly say that I am willing to endure because not only has He endured for me on the cross, but He has also endured as I wallowed in self-pity, as I lost my sense of self, and as I was trying to figure out whether I was going to be all in for Him or not. Having a willingness to endure means that I am daily having to push aside my carnality, my will, and my personal feelings, all in order to walk the walk that God has ordained for me. Being willing to endure means that I thoroughly recognize that the way will not be easy, and that I may have to cry my way through some tumultuous times. However, like a good soldier, I know what I am fighting for, and I know that the Commander of the Host of Heaven has my back.
Being willing to endure also means that I am willing to submit to Him and to the purifying process that He brings us all through in order to turn us into the vessels of honor that He desires us all to be. When we think about fire and flames, we know that if we are physically touched by a flame or anything that has been lit on fire, it will not only burn our skin but also cause a great amount of lasting discomfort. The same can be said for the process of the purifying of the Lord, except for the fact that the only thing that is truly hurting is our flesh, our will, and our pride. The end result will be the feeling and expression of freedom and liberty that comes from the Lord burning away any and every internal obstacle and weight that would be meant to keep us down and out of alignment. God is truly worth it, going through the process to be used by Him. When we are through and coming out on the other side, we shall be presented as pure gold (Job 23:10).
To Him, my soul and spirit says YES!
On that note, I will end this particular post with a simple HALLELUJAH! I pray that this post will reach those who are finding themselves either weary or floundering in their faith, and that they that are in this current state of mind will realize that they are not alone, and that what God has done and is doing for me can and will be done for them, through Christ Jesus our Savior.
Thank you for stopping by Heaven’s Table!
Until next time, be blessed and encouraged in Jesus’ Name!