Originally Published January 12, 2011
Every year at this time, there’s a lot of talk about New Year’s resolutions. The new year seems to bring with it a feeling of starting fresh, getting a do-over. I’ve never really been one for making resolutions, but this year, New Year’s coincided with some work God was doing in my life to give me a fresh start.
Sometimes we can get into a rut in our spiritual lives, a rut that’s too deep to just step out of by making a few minor adjustments. God has to reach down and pull us up and out of it. That’s where I was. Spiritually, I felt dry; as if God were in the other room, and I couldn’t quite find the door to get to Him. My Bible study and prayer time were shallow and hit and miss at best, and I was frustrated.
In answer to my crying out to Him, the Lord began to pull me up out of that rut. As He did, what He showed me was that I needed to get “back to the basics” in my spiritual life. This article is the first in a series exploring the basics God is leading me back to.
Grab God’s Hand
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
II Timothy 2:5
Looking back, I can see that one of the ways I got into my rut in the first place was some “stinkin’ thinkin'”. My spiritual life was just beginning to show some signs of dryness around the edges. I thought it was because I was doing my Bible study and prayer time out of habit every day rather than doing them because I felt a supernatural draw to them.
I decided that, rather than have my time with the Lord as a built in part of my every day schedule, I would ask God to give me a hunger for Him and his Word, and that when I felt that longing for Him, I would spend time with Him. I honestly did this with the best of intentions, because I felt myself slipping away from the Lord and wanted to be close to Him again.
Good intentions are a great thing, but if the action they inspire is wrong, the intention is worthless. The action has to be the correct one. Mine was not. John Wesley said, “A fanatic is one who seeks desirable ends, but ignores constituted means.” “Constituted means” simply refers to the normal order of operations God has set up. For example, if I want a cake– a desirable end –I don’t hit my knees, ask God to send me a cake, and then go look in the oven to see if it’s there. I go to my cabinet, get out the ingredients, mix them up, and bake them. Those are God’s constituted means by which I can get cake.
It works the same way in our spiritual lives. Holiness, sanctification (spiritual growth), and hunger for the things of God aren’t three wishes magically granted by a genie, even if you call that genie “God”. You have to use God’s “constituted means” of doing the work to get there. (Which is not to say that we can achieve holiness or spiritual growth merely as a result of our own efforts, only that Bible study, prayer, fellowship with other Believers, etc., are the means God has set forth in Scripture by which He causes us to grow in Christ.)
Paul describes our walk with the Lord as a race or athletic event (I Corinthians 9:24-27, II Timothy 2:5). You don’t just rub a lamp, make a wish, and, BAM, you’re a great athelete. You get up every day and train and condition whether you feel like it or not. Some days, you’ll be excited about working out, other days, you’ll want to stay in bed, but you still do it. It’s the “doing it” that creates the desire to hone your abilities more, and makes you love the sport more.
Likewise, we will never develop holiness and a closer walk with the Lord just by asking Him for them and then sitting and waiting. As we ask, we have to do the work of study and prayer– even when we don’t feel like it. It is in the “doing it” that God creates the hunger for more of Him. I discovered as I waited and waited for God to draw me close to His side that I was slipping farther and farther away from Him. I was trying to get to my desired end without using His constituted means.
So, when we’re down in that rut we can’t get out of, we should cry out to God to reach down and lift us out of it, but that’s not all. When God extends His hand to pull us out, we’ve got to reach up and grab hold of Him and hang on, even when we don’t feel like it. That’s called obedience, and Jesus said if we love Him, we’ll obey Him (John 14:23).
There are going to be some dry spells. After all, God didn’t talk to Moses from the burning bush every day, now did He? The answer is not to ask God to set the bush on fire, but to hang on to Him in faith when all we see in front of us is a charred pile of sticks.
Keep walking, keep obeying, keep seeking Him. He has promised we’ll find Him (Luke 11:9-10)