About every three to four years, I lose some of the joy of my salvation. Even though I’ve been a serious follower of Jesus for more than 40 years there have been times when I’ve been plain worn out from life, difficult relationships, even from ministry.
And I’ve been worn out from trying to stomp out the little brushfires of sin that I knew were holding me back from experiencing what the Bible calls the abundant life.
Using some internal, moral actual table I’d give myself credit for church attendance, regular personal devotion, giving and generally bring a good guy – with offsetting debits for sin. I’d wait around for a few weeks, (months occasionally) for the Holy Spirit to do what I thought I could not, ignite the fire once again.
What really frightened me wasn’t these periods of being spiritually flat. What truly scared me was that after a time, I’d get used to it – the new normal. That I’d end up like so many I know whose central purpose in life appeared to be killing time pleasantly in warm places, doing a little volunteer work, oh, and of course going to church and Bible studies. I wanted more and I know the Holy Spirit wanted more for me.
I don’t have a formula to follow to light the spiritual fire in me, or anyone else. However, I have found doing the following things often help break the spell.
Self Examination This I know – God didn’t move or change. If I’m failing and spiritually flat, the problem is me, so I start asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin in my life that may be holding me back. I generally go to these verses for guidance: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:7 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
Confession I try to set aside enough time to confess every sin area in my life that the Holy Spirit has convicted me of. And equally important is examining whatever I needed to do to not sin in the future – a pre-decision.
Increase my Bible Reading Something happens to me when I read five or six chapters of scripture instead of “sound bites” of a chapter at a time. I often begin to see patterns in the longer readings I missed before. I try to begin my reading with this prayer, “ God teach me everything you want me to do and give me the courage to live it." Then I look for things that God is saying, or situations others found themselves in and ask myself, “Is that me? If so, what does God want me to do?”
Obey the 10 Second Rule more I often tell people that I end up reading my own book, or parts of it several times a year. I’ve found, just doing the next thing I’m reasonably certain Jesus wanted me to do to be a way the Holy Spirit gets me back on the obedience track. There is nothing like obedience to warm your heart toward God. There’s nothing like inaction, or disobedience to cool it.
Thank God More It has been said that, gratitude is the mother of all other virtues. I try to wake up each morning and thank God for another day of life, even before I get out of bed. Then I try to look for things to be grateful for throughout the day and give credit to God for each one.
If you have ways God has used to help you “out of the desert,” please share them with us. Thanks.