"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Monday, December 31, 2012

God’s Character is Our Lifeline

Some years ago, I was traveling through California with my family, and we occasioned to cross the mighty Sacramento River via ferry (indeed, you read that correctly.  It was an Oregon Trail moment, although we were not obliged to caulk the minivan and float it across the river).  After a short wait, as the ferry eventually began to move across the calm river, some of us did not even notice, so smooth and quiet was the transition (and the realization was, yes, the most riveting moment of the entire crossing).

Sadly, the transition from the bedrock of godly faithfulness to the unsounded ocean of spiritual apathy is often much the same.  We do not always take note of our passing from terra firma to gloomy waters.  The truly difficult and tragic part comes when we look about and comprehend at last that we are adrift in this expansive ocean of spiritual sluggishness, but, by definition, find ourselves unable to overcome the strong currents which have been pulling us from the shore. 

 What does this look like in the believer's life?  A Christian realizes that he has grown distant from the Lord by his own inaction.  His misspent energies have propelled him away from his Savior, and he is repulsed (though perhaps not very strongly) by the selfish pride he finds issuing freely from his own heart.  This Christian knows what he must do - he must draw near to the Lord through prayer and through the study of God's Word, but one thing remains elusive:  conviction.  Prayers are stuttered until their momentum is squandered.  The mind returns to other pursuits.  The Bible is read, but it is cursory and halfhearted.  The eyes falter and the heart is unmoved.  The apathy deepens.  Does this sound at all familiar, reader? 

The problem is that we are attempting to rid ourselves of the apathy without addressing the very cause of the apathy.  It is like having a knife stuck in one's abdomen, and carefully applying a bandage around it.  We are saying, "I need to change my spiritual unconcern," but what we need to be saying is, "I need to refocus my selfish and wayward heart upon the Lord."  It is a subtle change on the surface, perhaps, but it makes worlds of difference - one seeks to repair self, while the other desires to return to a humble intimacy with God.  Do you see that the first statement has not served to remove our gaze from ourselves, and so is not very far removed from the condition of apathy?  Spiritual apathy is the result of spiritual distance.  Spiritual humilty is the fuel that diminishes this distance.
It seems, then, that the best course is to lay ourselves entirely aside for the time being, stop worrying about our apathy in and of itself, and start considering the character of our God.  Open the Psalms, not because they are easy or lightweight, but because you are certain to find the Lord's true praises proclaimed for His name and deeds.  Seek that praiseworthy character, and when you have found even a morsel of it, stop and consider it in all of its glory.  Savor the excellence of your God, friend!  Marvel at His flawless character - look as intently as you like, for you will never discover even the tiniest fault.  Take whichever element of His fame you have come across in the Psalms, and think how your Lord, by means of this attribute, continues to affect your life.  Are you pondering His unchanging character?  Then rejoice that this faithfulness allows you trust His promises!  Perhaps you see His justice, and you know therefore that you are secure in your salvation. 

This is a rich and generous tally of blessings indeed, and it steels a heart with joy to delve into it, for God has made us both to interact with His character and to desire His character.  We understand His character as it touches upon our lives - we are rendered humble and grateful when we see Him near and at work.  Look for Him, brother!  Do not rest until your desire for the Lord is rekindled, sister!  We cannot and should not expect satisfaction from merely human pursuits or human excellencies - God has designed us to desire more (Ecc. 3:11), and we cannot be content with any less.
Immerse yourself in the Lord, then, and be glad for His excellencies.  Go to Him in prayer, for it is from this stronghold that we praise Christ unselfishly, that we seek His forgiveness readily, and that we beseech His intervention earnestly, even if it is intervention in our own languid hearts.  Put simply, it is here that apathy becomes but a memory, for the heart that made glad by God's character is not one that remains unmoved by His grace and His promises. 
"Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate."
- Psalm 111:2-4


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