Thursday, April 26, 2012

Idols and Idleness

I'm embarrassed. After writing such a fervent post the other night, I didn't open my Bible for a few days. It's no coincidence that my mood started to tank, my thoughts become disordered, and my unhealthy coping mechanisms overwhelmed me by the time I crawled into bed last night. Nobody said it was easy {and no one ever said it would be this hard} <--such a good song, and so applicable to me right now.

Anyway, today started in the best possible way: I woke up slightly before my alarm and I spent an hour in Bible study. I don't expect it to be this way every day, and it's much harder if you have kids, pets, or work that demands your attention ASAP upon waking. But today I had the day off with minimal plans and starting my day this way was a luxury. It's teaching me slowly, painfully, that I can find comfort in healthy places. I can prioritize my day. Because God's graces are new every morning, not because I claim to be any sort of wonder woman (ha!).

This morning I was reading a Fred Stoeker book called Tactics (yes, it's written for men but it's also a wonderful, practical guide to securing victory in everyday life) and it led me to 1 Thessalonians 4. I looked it up and read, "it is God's will that you should be sanctified... learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable... God called us to live a holy life."

Now, sanctified is one of those words I know is meaningful, but I always forget what it's supposed to mean. Thankfully, I got my my brand new study Bible (!) yesterday and it spelled it out for me.
Sanctification, or being made holy, is the process of living the Christian life. The Holy Spirit works in us conforming us into the image of Christ. 
So this is the word I've been looking for to describe this threshold that I seem to be on the cusp of: it's sanctification.

I continued reading to chapter 5 and it literally spelled out the answer to what I've been asking: what does responding to and relating with God look like on a day to day basis? Paul says, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-23:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you... hold on to what is good... and may God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through... the one who calls you is faithful!
How refreshing. These three tenets are not necessarily easy to uphold, but when we make a conscious decision to do so, God promises that our perspective will change and our life will change.

Rejoice always
When I do His will, I will find it easier to be joyful and thankful.
"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." {CS Lewis}
Pray continually
Of course I can't be on my knees all day, but it's possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. This kind of attitude is built upon acknowledging my dependence on God, realizing His presence within and around me, and determining over and over again to obey Him fully. This will lead to a prayerful attitude, which is a natural outgrowth of regular times of morning and evening prayer (see Psalms 4 and 5).
"To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." {Martin Luther King, Jr}
Give thanks in all circumstances
My Bible commentary points out that this doesn't mean that I should thank God for everything that happens to me, but in everything. Evil doesn't come from God; I don't have to thank Him for it. But when evil strikes, I can be thankful for God's presence and for the good that he will accomplish through my distress.
"No Christian can be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism." {WR Inge}

My study notes mentioned that some Thessalonian Christians had adopted a life of idleness and it's mentioned several times throughout these chapters: do not be idle. Christianity is a verb, much like you always hear that love is a verb. Paul reminds them that Christian living is more than loving others Christians; it means being responsible in all areas of life and working hard at it!

Then it hit me: I'm guilty of worshiping idols and being idle. No wonder my outlook has been so skewed. The New Testament urges diligence (1 Peter 5:8-10) and fervency (Romans 12:11) for a reason! I have been skating along, assuming that since I don't kill or steal or tell big lies that I'm a Christian. But I wasn't growing!

1 Peter 2:1 says, "rid yourselves of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind." Deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander? I'm guilty of these things on a daily basis! Verses 2-3 go on to say, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk. So that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."

Once I saw God's hand in my life (tasted that the Lord is good), I wanted more but I didn't know what of or how to get it. I mentioned the other day that I want a mentor. I crave a small group of women who would hold me accountable in my daily walk. Christian music is on my radio 95% of the time. I find myself searching for blogs written by good Christian writers and listening to online sermons. These things are all good. Wonderful, even, but they won't satisfy my craving. Why get secondhand water when you could drink living water form the source?
"Thirsty hearts are those whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them." {AW Tozer}

"The danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry." {Simone Weil}
Only God will satisfy my cravings and to allow Him to do that, I have to drink in His Word. Right now I find myself gulping it in (in case you couldn't tell by the fact that I have way too many scripture references crammed into one post)! My spirit is so parched. I'm in an inferno and I need to escape under a waterfall of mercy. It is so refreshing! But the real challenge will be learning to savor the Word as time goes on. To find deeper meaning in smaller portions of scripture. To find a constant stream of cool water to stifle the steady burn of sin that exists in our daily lives.

If I uphold my end of a relationship with God (and even though I will lapse, because I'm human), I can cling to the promise that "the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, he will restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast" (1 Peter 5:10).

What do you do to walk in the Word every day?

P.S. Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of Tuesday's post!


  1. My heart goes out to you Therese. I am keeping your tender heart in my prayers and hope you will find the comfort you seek soon.

  2. By the way, since you asked, the God I am aware of loves and doesn't judge. Regular old flawed people we all are and to feel guilty doesn't seem to help anything. You have to ask yourself if you would remain friends with someone who was judging themselves as harshly as you are judging yourself. Take the time to count the ways you are precious and wonderful!

    I walk in the word as best I can. I don't believe God would want anything more or less. Some days I don't get it right but as soon as I recognize where I have fallen I work my way back.

    1. Guilt is definitely something I'm... well... guilty of. You're right, it's useless. The only thing we can do when we've sinned is pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and dive back into the Word again.

  3. I will keep you in my prayers. You are a talented writer and an inspiration to me!

    1. Thanks Libby! That means so much to me. We need to hang out this summer!