I like the early morning hours, the feeling of being quiet with my thoughts, with my prayers, a chance to sort out my priorities. I like the way my mind slowly unfolds from a night’s sleep with quite a bit of help from caffeine. I like the fact that I am getting a do-over. The morning is a fresh start, a blank canvas on which I will do something, maybe even “paint a picture.” Who knows?
In my last post, I expressed a very negative view of the Christian life, the fact that we all struggle to no avail a lot of the time. I promised that in this post I would “shine some light.”
To be honest, that last post did not have much light. It may have had some excruciating truth but little light. Jesus said in Matthew 5: 16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” That means live a positive life before others, not taking credit yourself. Let your Father get the glory.
What can we do to be positive about our spiritual growth? How can we develop some light to shine?
First of all, we need to be serious about it. It is important. God knows we are not going to attract unbelievers or minister to the needs of others if we are in the doldrums, living a mediocre life, going nowhere.
Secondly, we need to quit searching all over the place for the magic bullet that will grow our spiritual life. It is not in a book about spirituality. It is not in thoughts from your pastor. A spiritual retreat or conference will not give you long-term spiritual growth. All those things will help temporarily but they won’t help in the long-term.
What will help?
We need to realize we are on a journey. The trip is not a journey from point A to point B. There are many, many detours we make in our journey. Sometimes it may even feel like we are starting over on our journey as we make our share of mistakes.
But it starts every morning when we get out of bed. We advance in the day ahead or we retreat. Who is in charge of our spiritual growth?
To grow spiritually, we have to take the action that will advance us in our connection with God. No one can do this for you. It is a daily seeking to love God and to love your neighbor. Remember Jesus took an extremely complex idea of spiritual growth and said “Love God and love your neighbor.” For Methodists, John Wesley said “Avoid doing the things you know are wrong. Do good to everyone that you can, as often as you can. And pursue those practices that encourage you in the faith and draw you near to God.”
That is the problem for most Christians. The spiritual silver bullet is too simple. It is like grace. What does a sinner need to repent of his or her sins? Ask God for forgiveness. God will extend His grace to you and forgive you if you are truly contrite. What can you do to earn grace? Nothing. God wants you to have it and there is nothing you can do to earn it.
There has to be more to it than that.
No there isn’t.
The fact of the matter is it is deceptively simple. Extremely profound ideas are like that. God knew that love God and love your neighbor was enough to keep us all busy for our whole lives. The concept is challenging. He knew we would struggle with the simplicity and He knew we would fall short.
And we do.
Every morning we begin a new day, it is our challenge to live out Jesus’ admonition. There will be days when we feel peace, and joy and hope and there will be days when we feel like we are utter failures at this “Christian thing.”
That’s ok. We never need to give up. We need to continue to pursue a relationship with God, no matter what life throws our way.
I guess you may be wanting to know where that magic bullet or that silver bullet is; you know that thing you have to do to kick-start yourself in the positive spiritual direction.
Here is where it is.
It is in your heart.
You have to give your heart as much as you can to Jesus Christ and if you do that you will have the source that will grow you. Your light won’t shine every day. That’s too much to ask. But it will shine some days.
You know, those days when you are doing the things that help you to be more like Christ.