So, the obvious follow up to my last post about spiritual junk food is how to get good spiritual food into us…how to keep that fire burning, keep the passion for the Lord and not just smolder. I don’t want adversity or hardship or the enemy’s schemes to smother my joy – I want to persevere in the faith.
I need a plan!
I am great planner – the problem is that I usually fail to follow through.
I plan how I will handle a certain situation with the kids (picky eating, whining or whatever) –but within the week I’ve fallen back into my default parenting methods. I plan to get the house more organized, stay on top of the laundry and the clutter, and it works for a week or two – but then it doesn’t anymore. Over and over the same pattern – plan and fail, plan and fail.
Why? Why this obsession with planning? And why can I rarely persevere?
I have a deep seated desire for order, improvement, even discipline, but I also have deep rooted sin in my heart that balks at the idea of control – any control – even the controls that I’ve set-up myself. Of course, I try to hide this sin behind more acceptable excuses like “life is unpredictable, how could I have anticipated every contingency? This just isn’t working anymore,” but in my heart of hearts I know I’m just rebellious, lazy, or both.
I know that discipline will set me free, and yet I feel like I am being enslaved while I submit to it, so I kick and scream and fight to be free of the very thing that will bring liberation.
The other problem with a plan is that it focusses the attention on what I have to do.
I don’t want to obscure the gospel. If you read this and think you need to go and do as I am hoping to do – as a way to secure your salvation, prove your salvation, or earn God’s favour or blessing; really for any other reason besides the compelling of the Spirit out of joy and love, then there is a problem.
I desire to fuel the spiritual fire with good things, because I love Him, because He first loved me. He has won my heart, and I know that there is nothing better for me than to be overcome by His love and goodness. Nothing I do makes me worthy of Him, nothing could. I am a hopelessly lost sinner, but for the grace of God.
I’ve had to check my motivation, yes, but I still need a plan.
I struggled with the idea of how to feed the fire for over a month. I’ve prayed and thought and read and waited on the Lord. I hesitated to make another plan that looked really good on paper, but that I would not be able to keep up. Throughout this process I continued reading in Hebrews.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11
In the past, I read this verse all wrong. I focussed on the discipline, reading it as “spiritual disciplines” – the things I need to do. I thought that if I could persevere at the spiritual disciplines (prayer and Bible reading in particular) then I would be righteous and peaceful – by my own efforts. It really had almost nothing to do with Jesus at all.
But, take all of Hebrews into account, how the author takes such great pains to show that Jesus is the Great High Priest, the mediator, the one who atones for our sin and intercedes for us. It’s the real point of the letter, not this little verse about discipline. Even just consider a few verses above:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. – Hebrews 12:1-3, emphasis mine
When I fix my eyes on Jesus, I want to know him more. In Christ, I hate my sin, and want to be holy the way He is holy. I don’t want to be satisfied with anything less than all of God.
In the Spirit there is something to be done. He will not take over my will, but he will empower me to persevere, to become holy, even as I am already holy. Verse 12-13:
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
That sin that is rooted deep disables me. It is wrapped around my heart and tangled into my every desire, thought and action – but Jesus is the healer. If I want to be free from this sin, I don’t need to try harder – I need more of Jesus!
A NEW PLAN
So, I do have a new plan, a plan to get more of Jesus in my life; a plan for someone weak and feeble, an easy, level path:
Three times a day I will intentionally put good fuel on the fire.
Firstly, I am taking my Bible to bed so I can read a chapter (or just a verse) before I get up for the day. My kids get up ridiculously early (like 5:45) so there is no way I am going to beat them downstairs for a quiet time by myself. They do, however, play quietly in the morning. When the baby wakes they know to go into his room and give him some toys and play in there. It buys me a little time to wake slowly, and to fix my eyes on Jesus.
Secondly, in the afternoon, when the little ones nap and the big kids have a little time out, I will take a few minutes, as many as I can grab, to read a little bit, or journal, or just pray and breathe. It might be pretty – I might get to have tea and quiet for an hour, or it might be an exasperated two minutes behind a locked bathroom door. The point is to fix my eyes on Jesus, and that only takes a moment.
Thirdly, in the evening, when the kids are tucked in and the house is quiet, then I’ll go tackle the kitchen and listen to a good gospel-centered podcast or sermon online. They open my eyes to seeing the Gospel in even more ways, and once again my eyes are fixed on Jesus.
And I’ll throw off some of the things that hinder:
In particular, social media. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – they are tools that can be used for good, yes, but when I over indulge I lose focus. I am restricting myself to not using it at all before 3pm, or while the family is together. There are other things that catch me up, but this is a big one, and enough to try and gain victory over for the moment.
And when I don’t want to do any of this? Well, I am praying that I will remember that discipline is not pleasant. I won’t always feel like praying – sometimes I don’t even feel like getting dressed. Hopefully with the Lord’s help in those moments I’ll remember the why, remember the joy, and ask for his divine strength to throw-off the sin the so easily entangles, and do it anyway!
I’ve put together a pocket sized planner printable to help me along in my plans. I’ll share it with you in my next post.
Blessings on you, as you seek the Lord in your own life. You may falter, but He is faithful. All hanks and praise to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith.