Obedience Matters Part 2

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God responds to action that springs from faith in Him. Obedience matters. Period. It’s evidence of your faith. And it’s evidence that you are who you say you are.

That is the point of  Obedience Matters Part 1. We looked at Rahab, how the Lord delivered her from destruction because she hid the messengers (Joshua 6:25). Remember, Joshua didn’t say, “Because she believed me.” He said, “Because she hid the messengers.” But we know she only hid them because of her faith in God.

In other words, it is as Paul Tripp states in his book,lNew Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, “Faith in God is more than believing the right things. It’s living the right way because you believe the right things.” Our faith affects the way we live, which means obedience matters. I’m stating it this way because we live in an age where authority is constantly being questioned. We don’t like it. Our culture embodies the cry of the crowd when they yelled, “Crucify him.” We want the King of Kings dead (Mark 15:13-14).

We don’t like submission. We don’t like to think that our ways must change. We’d rather change the wording. We want to participate in what God is doing. We want to cooperate with his plan. We want to love. It’s all about love, right?

Yes, a love so great and demanding that it crushes us and brings us low to the point of surrender. A love so pure that it causes us to weep because our sin has us feeling so unworthy of it. A love so gracious that it lifts our heads and builds us back up. A love that transforms. A love that takes over. A love that obeys.

Obedience matters.

And honestly, I sometimes wonder why I bother writing about this at all. I mean, just re-read Tripp’s quote. So many have already written about the relationship between faith and works. Today, I want to take it a step further.

Do you want to know another reason why our obedience matters?

It affects people. Obedience affects people for good. In fact, John states that we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:2). I remember stumbling over this awhile back. I couldn’t take my eyes of the phrase “children of God.” I asked myself, “What in the world does my obedience have to do with other children of God?”

Disobedience also affects people. Let’s return to Joshua. But this time let’s look at chapter 7. The Lord instructed the Israelites NOT to take the things devoted for destruction from Jericho. I want you pay close, close attention to Joshua 7:1.

“But the people broke faith in regard to the devoted things,

For Achan the son of Carmi,

Son of Zabdi,

Son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things.

And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.” (emphasis added)

What happened here? Who disobeyed? Who is affected by the action taken?

At first glance, as you start reading, it seems like everyone disobeyed and took the devoted things, but that’s not the case, is it? No, Achan took some of the devoted things. Yet the Lord’s anger burned against the people.

There’s so much that can be said here, so much that I can’t even get into because I haven’t completely wrapped my mind around the significance of the corporate people of God. We are so individualistic as Americans but God has a totally different perspective. He’s redeeming a People. And In Christ, he refers to us as a body. Paul makes the effect we have on one another apparent when he describes how a hurting member of the body affects the rest of the body (1 Corinthians 12:26).

We can’t just think about ourselves. It’s so easy for me to coddle sin and be okay with how it will affect me or my walk with God. I never give thought to how my decisions may affect those around me–not just in the present, but in the future.

Every time I read through this Bible this reality strikes me. It’s all over the Scriptures. Our actions can impact even our children’s children. I think of my husband’s grandfather, Mardy. My husband looked up to this man so much. I don’t know if Mardy ever knew how much his decisions for Christ would impact his grandson, but in many ways they have shaped the way my husband thinks about his life and how he wants to live. What battles did Mardy have to fight to become this example? What discipline did he have to enforce? How many times did he have to humble himself and obey simply because of what he believed about God? What if he had broken his faith instead?

That brings me to another observation about Joshua 7:1. I am amazed at how it directly relates to Part One of this series. Joshua writes that the people of Israel broke faith. How did they break faith? By taking the devoted things. They are one in the same. And the Lord, when his anger burns, he’s responding to them both. We live out of what we believe.

If you keep reading, you will see what this means. In short, 36 men die at the hands of their enemy. Which surprises Joshua and the rest of the people because they had experienced unimaginable victory with God on their side. And the people of Ai were a small people. How could this have happened?

People died because of one man’s disobedience. And it gets worse.

Keep reading.

God allowed the people to suffer the consequences, meaning there were consequences for the people of Israel if one of them disobeyed here. But he punished Achan, and not only Achan, but his family.

They die.

Achan devoted himself and his family to destruction by taking things that were devoted for destruction for himself. And I have to think that they this said something about his faith too.

We disobey all the time. We make excuses for it because we are saved by grace. But our actions affect people. Our actions affect our effectiveness in the body. Our actions affect our families. The Lord will do His will despite us, but we have to know and accept that obedience truly matters.

I love reading the Old Testament because it has a way of highlighting spiritual realities and impressing them deeper in my heart. There’s a rawness in the Old Testament Scriptures that just makes everything so real to me. But the reality is that when we disobey, we are not punished. One already suffered and died for the disobedience of the Church, and in drawing us to himself and giving us his spirit, making himself known to us, he has given us all we need for life and godliness. There is unimaginable grace for us to obey. We simply must believe in Him.

Our faith in Him transforms us. He changes our hearts. He changes our lives. The way we think. The way we live. We never stop growing once we find ourselves in Him. We never stop becoming more and more like Him. That’s a huge part of what it means to be His.

When we live as though disobedience doesn’t matter, we are saying the above paragraph doesn’t matter. And we’re not just saying that to God, we’re saying that to everyone around us. And that affects people.

I can tell you, firsthand, that I affect my husband when I resolve to obey God as best I can and depend on God for the grace to do so. I am available to serving him and building him up. I make decisions that bless him and others. I get out of the way and do what the Lord desires me to do, and it ends up being sooooo good. So much better than anything else I would have done.

But when I cave, when I give in to temptation and disobey, when I break faith and resolve to do what I want to do, it’s hard to shake that and go right back to following God. It usually has a domino effect on the rest of my day, which affects those around me too. I am not as available to my husband, my son, my family, or my church. I am selfish. And I don’t care until the Holy Spirit gets my attention and I turn from my sin yet again.

And what if I make a pattern of that? What if I make a life of “doing me” whenever I have opportunity? What will my son pick up from that over time? What does that say about God?

This little series is for me, People. I need to remember that obedience matters. The Lord responds to it. And it affects people. Even those most dear to us. Can God do amazing things in their lives despite us? Sure! But should we presume upon his grace?

Yes, we are saved and swimming in gracious waters. But let’s continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Why?

Because God works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure!!!  There’s so much grace and so much strong help in our Lord. Let’s make an adventure out of using it!

More to come on those amazing verses (Philippians 2:12-13) soon.

We Can Sharpen with Our Struggles

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Sometimes I need to be shaken.

If we are all honest about our walks with God, there are times when we simply check out. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am one of the few who covets time to simply “do me.” I want to binge on my favorite shows. I want to pursue my favorite pastimes. And the more I do that, avoiding other responsibilities and avoiding spending time with God, the more I DO NOT WANT to spend time with God, nor do I want to obey Him. I ignore his gentle urgings. I tune them out and I do what feels good.

I do not think I am alone here.

These are the times when I need to be shaken, when I need a gracious reminder of what is truly important and of what I truly desire in my inner being.

Today, God graciously used a conversation with a friend that I had over text to shake me out this “doing me” state. This was unexpected, because my friend is struggling today. We were texting back and forth as I attempted to appeal to her, reminding her of her identity in Christ and what I believe she truly wants in her inner being.

But I wasn’t shaken until I reminded her that our decisions today do not simply affect us today; they affect our tomorrow, and they affect our families, and they can even affect future children. My decisions today can have great impact on not just me, but the people around me, and people in the future I do not yet know. This is incredible. As I wrote this to her, it dawned on me that I can’t just “do me” as if there is no consequence. Sure, there is a grace. And, sure, as a pregnant woman, I need to rest. But I know the difference between resting and checking out. Trust.

Friend, you know who you are. I know you will read this. And I just want to thank you for sharing your struggles with me. For even as we struggle, we sharpen one another. And because of your struggle, you shook me out of a dreadful state. God was in the midst of our conversation, working as He always does. And because of you, I am now going to open my Bible and be still before him.

We are not meant to walk this Christian walk out on our own. God created us to do life in community, interdependent and thriving off the various strengths he’s given us.

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.

–Proverbs 27:17

 

The 5am Experiment – 100 Jumping Jacks, Whatever it Takes!

What’s the first thing you want to when you wake up early? Last week, I mentioned that I like to drink a cup of water. Yesterday a friend recommended doing jumping jacks. Seriously. Jumping Jacks? At 5am?

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Cardiovascular activity helps you to wake up quickly. The worst thing I can do when rising at 5 am is to walk to the living room and sit down. Walking to kitchen, drinking a cup of water, and making coffee is often enough “activity” to help me wake up as well, but doing 100 jumping jacks definitely got the job done.

It sounds crazy, but sometimes when you are fighting for faithfulness, you have to do whatever it takes, right?

So I am happy to say that I was able to get up and stay up on Day #13 of this experiment. I am also happy to share that last week I had every excuse to give up. But the Lord kept me. My husband got in a car accident. He was driving my car because someone stole the side mirrors from his car. Now my car is out of commission and we may end up having to pay for it even though the accident was not his fault.

Something like this would usually make me feel justified in “doing me.”  In the past I would have said something like, “This is just too much. I can’t deal with this and and get up early. It’s not happening. I need a break. Some relief. Something!”

But the Lord is helping me. I am also aware of the prayers and support of my friends. Thank you for encouraging me to do what I believe is right. Many of you have expressed that you could not get up at 5 am. I hope you read my post last week regarding this not being a law. I appreciate how most of you understand that we are all fighting to be faithful to God in our different ways. My posts do not make you want to get up super early to do that, but it encourages you to trust God and to do whatever he leads YOU to do. Wonderful!

I am very aware of the fact that I cannot be faithful without the strong help of God. His Spirit is ever at work in me, giving me hope, giving me strength, working in me to will and to work for his good pleasure. So I join the psalmist from my reading of Psalm 21 this morning. I rejoice in your strength O God! In your salvation!

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. (Psalm 21:13 ESV)

We love to sing of Christ our King,
And hail Him, blessèd Jesus;
For there’s no word ear ever heard
So dear, so sweet as “Jesus.” –George W. Bethune

Tomorrow, I hope to address how rising early has affected the rest of my day, specifically how I serve my husband. Because, if you recall, that is what started me on this path in the first place. I saw my selfishness and needed to make a change.

The 5am Experiment – Selfishness is the Symptom of a Greater Problem

I am going to keep this one short. We did it! We rose at 5am three days in a row! It wasn’t easier today. I actually think today was the hardest. We let Darth Vader rattle in our kitchen (Darth Vader is our alarm clock). We were both thinking something like, “If [he or she] stays in bed, then I can stay in bed.” But the Lord helped us, and we got up. Again, if my friend wasn’t calling each morning, we would not have gotten this far.

This morning I read Mark 12 and was struck by Jesus’ answer to the scribe’s question. He had asked what the most important commandment in the Bible is. And Jesus answered,

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)

I became so aware of how little my love is. Some people think my love is great because they compare our lives and draw the conclusion that I am this great, holy Christian. I promise you that you are wrong. My love is small. It is there, but it is small. My affection for Christ reaches its peak each Sunday and then diminishes throughout the rest of the week. I have moments where I am suddenly aware of the goodness of God and how privileged I am to know him, but I often have to persevere in pressing to know God more throughout the week, because I need God. I need to hear from him. I need to know him. I need to regain focus and kingdom purpose each day.

God used the above passage, and really all of Mark 12, to show me that the selfishness or lack of sacrificial love that I see in myself as a wife is a symptom of a greater issue–the selfishness and lack of love towards God. God is FIRST. And if I am struggling to love and serve him, I am going to struggle to love and serve Adam. In other words, if I am loving and serving Adam more than I am loving and serving God, then he has become an idol.

So here I am today, praying for great love for God, greater affection for Christ, a heart of worship and praise. Yes, for increasing knowledge of God but also for a changed heart.

I am grateful for these mornings, my friend who faithfully calls each day, and for the prayers of my sisters in Christ. Thank you!

We’ve decided that on the weekends we will wake up at 7am instead of 5am which is still a huge adjustment for the weekend. On the weekend we often stay up later, and it’s unrealistic to think that we will retire between 9:30 and 10pm. If I lose too much sleep, I will not be able to sustain this new habit next week. I will return on Monday with an update.

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“O, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love.”

The 5am Experiment – The Horrible Ten

Darth Vader woke me up from the kitchen. No joke. He was gift from my friend, Liesel, an alarm clock that rings (if you can calling it ringing) with a vengeance. Then my phone followed suit, also from the kitchen. Thank God for my husband who jumped up to shut both of them off. I laid in bed angry.

I thought about going back to sleep. But then I thought about my friend, Danielle, who would call in 15 minutes. When you wake up and are actually AWAKE and WALKING, you wonder if you really need someone to call you for accountability. But when you are resisting the urge to go back to sleep, it is clear – knowledge of the coming phone call is absolutely necessary.

Back to my anger. Back to the resistance. I didn’t sleep well. It seemed. . . what’s the word? Right to go back to sleep. But I sat up. Drank a couple sips of water and got out of bed.  I walked out into the kitchen, still wondering why I wasn’t doing the sane thing and sleeping for another 30 -45 minutes. “The Horrible Ten” describes the first ten minutes of the morning when I cannot trust my own mind.

The good news is that I, eventually, remembered that the goal wasn’t to simply rise early. The goal was to get up and get time with my God and King and to serve my husband. Once I remembered the goal, I was happy to be awake. Coffee helps too.

So I am happy to confirm that I woke up at 5am for the 2nd time. I would say one of the highlights is the pace of the morning. I have time to think about the day and to pray over it. I have time to think about what my husband needs. I have time to not just read the word and say a quick prayer, but to spending time praising God, confessing sin, casting my cares, and praying for others. And then I can make our sandwiches and get ready for the day.

For me, personally, it also helps to shower at night.

And to go to bed on time! I happy to also confirm that I went to bed relatively on time–at 10pm! I wanted to stay up and read a little more, but I had to remember that I was going to bed early so that I can get up and pray in the morning. I did not want to steal from that time.

Last night I also had to remind myself that the goal is not be this perfect person or this perfect little wife. I can forget that at times when I am fighting sin. Rather than fighting sin for the sake of being closer to God and living in his purposes, I can fight sin just so I can feel good about myself and feel like my life is perfect. No, that’s not the goal. And I must remember lest I start thinking that I am doing this in my own strength and not by the grace of God.

Yesterday, because I was able to think and pray over the day, I resolved to do some cleaning after dinner. I resolved to fight laziness, to be fierce against my desire to remain on the couch until bed time. I promise you. There was a moment when Adam was reading and I was sitting beside him that I almost faltered. I knew I had to finish dinner, but I toyed with the idea of just sitting there. Maybe he would help with the last part, but then I remembered my morning prayer and got up. After dinner, I refused to sit down because I knew I would do it again. So instead of retiring to the living room after dinner to talk, we stayed at the table. After dinner, I looked at the time. It was 8:14 pm and I planned to both dust and mop the diner area and kitchen before 9pm. I finished around 9:15, prepared our lunches, and started to get ready for bed. So instead of a lazy day, I worked as an advisor at an university for 8 hours and then I worked at home for a few more hours.

It was a great first day of the experiment, but again, the goal is not perfection. The goal is the Lord. I want to change. I want to honor him more with my life. I want our home to be a place of rest for my husband and a place where many can come and be blessed by the Lord. I want to develop good habits that will be a blessing to our future children if we are blessed to have them. I want to grow in many areas, and I am afraid this is the area the Lord keeps impressing on my heart.

Today will be a little different because we have plans this evening. But I prayed over today too, and I will let you know how it goes. Please pray for grace and discipline tomorrow morning. I need at it 5 am when I wake up and I need it at 5 p.m. when I get off work!

“The world tells you that if you look out for yourself, then you’ll be happy. But it’s the woman who lives for God and others who is truly joyful.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

I am finding the above quote to be so true. It’s interesting how much easier it is to serve someone when you were already planning to do so.

A friend of mine commented on yesterday’s entry saying the following, ” [I am] provoked and encouraged to grow in discipline/consistency as well (in different ways).” I hope you are too.

I pray that you will be diligent (or FIERCE) in fighting against known sin in your life for the sake of a stronger and more intimate relationship with the Lord. I pray that your desire to be faithful in living for the Lord would be so robust that you would not stand for anything to get in the way. May the Lord bless you with a strategy, a plan, a new discipline that will help you be victorious!

The Lord promises to complete the work he started in us (Philippians 1:6), but we definitely have a part to play in that great work. “A true woman,” says Nancy Leigh Demoss, “says yes to God.”

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The 5am Experiment

Yesterday I was convicted. After a two week holiday hiatus and another week of being sick and off the radar, I found it very difficult to get back to an already-not-too-great routine. Every morning my husband and I would wake up late. After work, I often neglected to do my share of the household duties with the excuse that “I’m just too tired; I just need to lay here on the couch.” Shameful! So my husband, again, after a week of taking care of me, has been doing a whole lot to help us stay on top of things. But even he would say that we are both getting lazy.

So yesterday, after another morning of waking up too late, and after a couple days of watching my husband struggle with what our days have become, I knew there needed to be a change. The Lord convicted me of my selfishness in marriage, making each day all about me. He convicted me of not being a strong help to my husband. Sure I was helpful in some things, in encouraging him when he’s down, in making sure we have food to eat throughout the day, planning meals and so forth. But I was not being a strong help. I was not helping my husband reach his goals, one of them being to get time alone with God (praying and reading the Bible). I was not helping him to have time to plan for the next day at school (he’s a teacher) or to get around to things that are on his heart to do. Usually, he gets home, he helps me in what I need to do, he plans a little, and then he helps me some more and maybe gets some time to pray before he goes to bed.

This may not seem like a big deal to you but it is a big deal to me! As a woman and as a wife, I believe that I am to be a strong help to my husband and I believe that my primary responsibility is to “work at home” or make a home for my husband and for God’s kingdom purposes.

Yes, I work full-time. This means that Adam and I share a lot of the household duties. But I barely do my part. Just barely. And I’d like to do more, honestly.

So that’s where the 5am experiment comes in.

She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. (Proverbs 31:15 ESV)

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:27 ESV)

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. (Psalm 119:147 ESV)

This last verse is key. I desire to rise early to (1) get time in the word and (2) look well to the ways of my home. But O how I need the help of the Lord! It’s funny because the Lord is a strong help. Being able to imitate this aspect of his character is a privilege, but it is also ironic. I can’t be a strong help without his strong help.

Today is my first day waking up at 5am. A friend of mine called me to make sure I woke up and that was sooooo helpful! It helped knowing that she was going to call. I thought she was going to check on me at 5:15. I told myself at first, “I’ll just go back to sleep for 15 more minutes,” but then I remembered that she was calling to make sure that I woke up at 5. She happened to wake up earlier today so she called me at 5. Again, what a help!

I am happy to say that it went very well. The greatest part was watching my husband get his time with God. Yes, I got mine and it was very good. But remember, I desired to do this in the first place because I want to serve him. Thank you Lord for grace to serve him this morning.

If you are reading this and you are a Christian, please pray for us that we will be disciplined to go to bed earlier so that we can wake up on time.

I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow! I plan to document the experience for 30 days. Hopefully by then it will be a habit! early morning

Memorize to Fight!

I don’t want to lie to you. I stink at being consistent in memorizing Scripture. For some people the very act of memorizing Scripture is difficult. For me, it is difficult to keep the Scripture memorized. So why do the work of memorizing and reviewing Bible verses?

The most common answer is to fight sin as the Psalmist states in Psalm 119:11. And that is true, but is there more to it than that? Why do we need the word in our hearts?

To fight the good fight of faith! To be ready to share the Gospel in season and out of season! To fight the spiritual battle that is behind all evil in the world as indicated in Ephesians 6.

By hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the word, you are training yourself for the WAR that must be fought against sin and against Satan.

Yesterday, one of my pastors pointed out that soldiers obsess over their training, because they must always be ready. To not be ready either means their own death or the death of their friends.

We must think in the same way. Memorizing scripture will make you fierce in battle, because the word will already be in your heart and ready be used.

So what you are you memorizing?

Right now I am memorizing Titus 3:1-6:

Remind them to be submissive to all rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

I highlighted the part I had to correct after typing it out. I plan to memorize verse 7 next.

This verse comes up a lot when I arrive to work. It informs the way I interact with my co-workers, my bosses, and anyone I interact with  in the building. It reminds me to not be partial. It helps me to not judge people who do not share my values, because, let’s be real, I don’t even live up to my own standards. And God did not save me because I was good. He saved me because He is merciful. This verse is a great reminder of the Gospel and all I have to be thankful for in Christ.

So, let me ask you again. What are you memorizing? I really want to know!

If nothing, what can you memorize? Did a verse stick out to you the last time that you were reading your Bible? Are you struggling with a particular issue that the Bible speaks to? If so, maybe you can memorize a verse that speaks to your struggle. Did your pastor recently teach on a verse that really spoke to you? Maybe that’s your weapon.
Let’s be fierce together! Let’s grow in the knowledge of God! Let’s advance the Gospel and fight all opposition together. Not with physical or human weapons, but with the powerful weaponry of the Spirit.

A Reason to Write it Down

I write to remember. Let be me more specific. I journal to remember.

So much of our Christian life is remembering God–that he is good, that he saved us, made us his own, that we are new and becoming like him, gladly. We have to fight to remember things because we forget them so easily. I can go to bed encouraged in the Lord and wake up the next morning discouraged, selfish, and stubborn, no long compelled to obey the Lord.

We have spiritual amnesia. All the time. Journals help us remember who He is and who we are. At times, journals also remind us that “this too shall pass.”

How quickly I forget what He’s taught me, what He’s teaching me even now! Precious truths! Why, even this morning, I opened up my journal before sitting down to get in the word and read the following lines that spurred me to live for God another day:

– 10/12/12 “If I treasure ‘manure’ as gain, I will not want to serve God.

-“Somehow I’ve become “lord” and that’s why [my love life or lack thereof] is such a battleground. Who is Lord of my passion? Will I submit my passions/longings to the authority of Christ and set my heart on purity?”

-10/15/12 “how to trust God  and seek Him as my gain when the dude (Adam) is around: A. Build him up even if I think it’s annoying B. Seek his interests (his gain) not my own. C. Be a godly woman

-Ammunition: 2 Cor 12–God is my strength in the midst of weakness. I can boast in my weakness for when I’m weak He’s strong. Phi 2:13–God will work in me to not only want to do the right thing but to do that right thing for his pleasure.

I could have kept reading, but I needed to take these truths into prayer. I was so encouraged, because these are things are still need to think about. How did I forget? How did I lose sight of treasuring Christ more than anything in this world? Of growing in serving Him because that is worship? I don’t know.

But praise God that I wrote these things down.

For helping me remember.

And you may not be a writer, but as I told a young freshmen in college, when we were first going over how to do a quiet time–“Even if you only write two sentences, at least you will be able to look back a few pages and remember the golden nugget you found in His word.”

The Truth About Prayer

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The truth about prayer is that if they are insincere, meaningless words built up to make yourself feel better or a simple formality before you get on with YOUR everyday, self-indulgent life then you are wasting your breath.

How do I know? Because I pray fake prayers all the time and I just realized it Monday. Let me paint the picture for you.

I have a morning routine. Wash up. Make Coffee. Eat Breakfast. Pray and read my Bible.

After this routine, I usually proceed to packing up my things and heading to the library to do some work. But Monday morning I did not want to do that. I felt down, discouraged, tired, and lazy. I was tempted to toss work aside, watch a couple episodes of Frasier, and go back to sleep.

So what did I do? Well, what I’m supposed to do, of course! I prayed in the midst of my temptation and asked for help from the Lord. Then after I prayed I proceeded to open up my laptop and watch Frasier while reclining in my oh-so-comfy bed. I will not tell you how long I wallowed in unfaithfulness. I will not tell you how this lead to more discouragement, feelings of guilt, and pathetic pining after unfulfilled desires. Or how sadness overtook my mood until the evening when the Lord convicted me of my deception. Because, of course, before that moment, I accused God of not helping me resist temptation in the first place.

“When did I not help you resist temptation?” I imagine God asking me.

“When I prayed to you after getting back in bed?”

“Oh, you were praying to Me?”

“Well, duh!”

“Oh, I thought you were talking to yourself about what you would say if you were to turn away from your sin and towards me in prayer.”

He would be right if he said those those things. Instead, he convicted me while I read Psalm 145:18.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

In truth. Did I call out to God in truth that morning? Heck to the nah. I already had my mind set on doing what I wanted. I hoped God would intervene, help me transition to truth maybe. I hoped he would zap me into an obedient child. But I definitely did not want to obey God and was not planning on it.

Then I read Hebrews 10:22.

“Let us draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

A true heart in full assurance of faith. In the moment I “prayed for help” did I really believe God’s righteous rule was better and more fulfilling than my self-rule? Did I even have faith that he would intervene and give me a better perspective?

Hmm. If I did, you would think I would have at least begun to work like Abraham had begun to walk in the direction of the Promised Land, not knowing where he was going.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus didn’t always feel like choosing to suffer. That’s why he offered prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the him who was able to save him from death (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus could not have prayed that way from an insincere heart. He sincerely acknowledged how painful the road of suffering was and would be and he sincerely prayed for God’s will to be done. The Lord heard him. The Lord sent angels to minister strength to him.
Our Father in heaven helped him.

But what can he do with fake, insincere prayers?

He can lead us kindly to repentance, help us to remember Him and the goodness of his ways. Then we can begin to pray from a true heart. And then he can help us walk out our faith with joy and gladness of heart.

We start by beholding God in truth.

Looking to Learn How to Remain Steadfast

Deb discipled me for a bit in college. She has been like a spiritual mom to me since then. I still think over things she taught me about walking with God and investing in the lives of other women.

I don’t merely want to live long. I want to be a life-long disciple of Jesus Christ. Deb, Nancy, and Jeanne place wood in the fire of this holy ambition.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of call in Christ Jesus. Let those who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:13-15 ESV).

“Let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3).

In the past few years, God has used a few older woman to pour treasure into my life, nuggets they’d received in life from Him. The greatest nugget has been perseverance, and it’s not that survivor mentality we young people are so accustomed to coddling. Deb, Nancy, and Jeanne are persevering disciples. They refuse to mellow out or plateau into a season of complacency. They may not be sprinting toward the goal in Philippians 3:14 like they did in their youth, but they are running nonetheless.

I want to be like them. When I was younger I thought there was a cap on spiritual growth/maturity. I thought once I reached it I could simply enjoy my maturity and the blessings of having “made it.” What a joke! I’m told, as we get older and wiser, we only learn how much more we need God. Our physical eyes may weaken, but our spiritual eyes are strengthened, and what we will see in ourselves will be humbling.We will be encouraged to “press on to the know the Lord.”

Deb, Nancy, and Jeanne are not satisfied with where they are in God or with what they have attained from Him. They know that there is infinitely more to delight in. There is so much more to know and learn and marvel at in God. And they want it all!

I want to be like them.

I don’t want to give up now because I’m having a bad day or because I’m still single or because I’m not getting what I want or because living for Christ demands too much for me. I want to be all in forever!

While many see Titus 2:3-5 to be mostly about teaching women how to “work at home” and take care of their families. I really think apart of this life on life discipleship has to be about learning to press on to know God in every season of life.

That’s what I want to learn. Sure cooking meals, folding clothes, being hospitable, and etc, is fabulous, kind of. But I don’t want to lose this fire in me to know God and walk with Him and grow in Him every day. I don’t want to get to a point where I don’t think I need to grow anymore, where I’m stuck and comfortable in my own ways. I don’t want to be content with a nicely run home and a decent relationship (if God grants me that). I don’t want to be content with surviving if I remain single. I want to run! I want to be like Deb, Nancy, and Jeanne, who exemplify all the things in Titus 2:3-5 and are disciples. They enjoy not just reading devotionals, but getting with women and studying the Bible. They enjoy spurring other women on to love and good deeds. They lean into what God is doing in their lives, wanting to grow, wanting to trust Him more and see His goodness wherever they are. They love encouraging young mothers. It IS possible to love God and pursue Him while having little ones. I pray I have women like them around to remind me of that should I ever be in their place.

Oh how I long to be like Paul at the end of his life  in 2 Timothy 4:7:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Thank you God for giving me people like Deb, Nancy, and Jeanne to look up to. I have not understood why you’ve taken me this route through life, but I at least see the gift of their examples. Thank you.

Laura

P.S. Deb, Nancy, and Jeanne represent a mentality I see in other older women around me as well. I couldn’t list you all. You know who you are. You prayer warriors, you! You students of the Word! I’ve been seeking you out one by one, because I want to learn how to journey through this weird phenomenon called “life” with a steadfast love for and pursuit of God. I want to learn from YOU.