Continued from “On Faithful Plodding, Part 1”
November 10, 2010
A few weeks ago I posted some thoughts on Faithfully Plodding. To many, especially those who have strong spiritual desires, faithfully plodding may look like apathy. It has certainly looked like that at times to me. I want to look at the fuel behind faithfully plodding. What keeps us moving forward and not stagnating? I would say that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We began our worship service with a song last week called Consuming Fire, by Tim Hughes. We pray as we sing the chorus, “Consuming Fire, fan into a flame a passion for your name.” Spiritual passion is the substance of faith that is alive. Simply put it is a “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” It is evidenced by a deep desire to see, to know and to experience more of God and his work in and around us. My heart is stirred when I see it in others. I long to see it in my spiritual leaders and to share in it with my colleagues, friends and loved ones. I hope and pray that it is always stirring in me and that I allow others to see it in me.
However, there is a huge danger in spiritual hunger, and I walked through it a few years ago. That danger is pride. Actually it was four years ago, that I wrote this.
June 12, 2006
I suppose the first way [God] led me was to begin a focus this year in study and application of being ‘filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’ and operating out of the overflow of that fullness. (Eph. 3:19) As I gathered and organized my thoughts I really thought that this was more than just a study, but could result in a whole book. So I did a preliminary study on the topic of fullness in the Bible and then laid out an outline. Now I sense God saying, “Pray for this fullness and let me give you stories to fill the pages of the book.” In other words, I need to live this life first before I write a book about it. So that’s where I’m at – praying, studying & living while expecting God to answer and begin to fill me with His Spirit to be influential as His leader in the church and ambassador to the world.
I can honestly say that I have not been the same since that time. My longing to know God, to better lead my children and wife, and to lead my church family in worship has all been fueled. My daily conviction has been to not “quench the Holy Spirit.” What’s the opposite of quenching? It’s fanning the flame, allowing the presence of God within to control everything – thoughts, actions and words. I pray nearly everyday for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control, the fruit of the Spirit. I have been more aware of my sin and quicker to confess it. And boy has God answered! These have been the most exciting days of my life, and they continue to be.
But about two and a half years ago I had to learn a most important lesson. God enrolled me into the school of humility through the process of two simultaneous conflicts. One with one of my closest friends and the other with my closest friend, that is with my wife, Julie. Both conflicts spurred out of very good passions – passion for evangelism, to see people invited to come to Christ on the one hand, and passion to be God’s hands and feet to the poor and needy on the other.
The truth is that the more we long for the right things, to know God and follow his ways, the more conflict we will experience because we have an enemy who opposes such things. However, we must never mistaken our loved ones or our brothers and sisters in Christ as the enemy. The enemy is Satan. Period.
Here’s what I learned and am learning. Passion for God, desire for a greater filling of the Holy Spirit and longing to see him at work in and through my life must be accompanied by an even greater humility, gentleness, patience, compassion and kindness. I have meditated on this Scripture passage below and am committed to living here and counseling all conflict from this starting place. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-16 ESV)
The more we know Christ, the more we should be like him. Those five essential qualities come from him and must lead the way ahead of any zealous desire for greater things. Sometimes they need to rein us in, slow us down, and place us in a time of “waiting on the Lord.” Listen to God’s word elsewhere to us.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV) I’ve read that perhaps 100 times in my life and it is one of my favorite passages. Yet I noticed something huge just this moment when I pasted the text into this document. If there is … any participation in the Spirit…” Does this imply that we are not participating in the Spirit when we are not exercising Christ’s humility, love and unity? I think it does.
After this difficult lesson a few years ago I honestly didn’t know what to do with my spiritual longings, especially the desire to influence and share these desires with others. For a while I think I quenched them. But then I decided to just give them over to the Lord. I still have strong desires brewing within, the desire to give everything over to the Lord, to take up my cross and follow him at all costs, to see our church alive in Christ, consumed with carrying out his mission, willingly walking into suffering, and embracing the poor and needy. But now I find myself wanting all the more to be faithful (one of the fruit of the Spirit) in my role to love my wife as Christ loved the church and laid his life down on her behalf, to love and lead my kids toward God’s ways, and to be a good friend and brother and shepherding pastor to my church family. I want to faithfully plod, but with a gentle and humble passion stirring in my heart, being led by the Holy Spirit. I want to see greater things, while being grateful for the things I get to see everyday as I do what God has called me to do in the moment. To God be the Glory!