Who would I be if I were all God created me to be? What would that person look like?
In Christianity, we are given the glorious high calling of representing Christ... His love, goodness, mercy, and selflessness. I cannot be the only one who finds myself not making the cut of "perfection" every day. In fact, some days, I feel closer to resembling the vindictive antagonist in a horror movie than looking like Christ. You know, the one that makes you yell at the TV screen like, "Dude, what is your problem! Just be nice!" Yeah, scary. The truth is that the task of looking like Christ is an impossible one at best without full empowerment by the Holy Spirit. (And a full night's rest). Likewise, the Spirit at work in us is only possible when we empty ourselves to make room for Him. Author Mark Batterson has what he calls "the theory of everything" since in everything, you need the Holy Spirit and that He is the answer for everything you need. Through my 23 years on earth, I have found that I NEED the Spirit alive in me to be the best me I can be; and that comes through times in His presence.
Every Sunday we hear words like "prayer," "worship," "Bible reading," and "time with God." We know these things are good for us. We know they are incorporated elements of good Christianity. However, how often do we apply these disciplines to our daily routines? Our author explains the spiritual disciplines this way:
"The spiritual disciplines are art forms...you have to grow in the spiritual disciplines little by little. That's how you go from strength to strength. You keep benchmarking. Your faith ceiling becomes your faith floor." (If, chapter 5, page 53).
Growing in faith is an active spiritual discipline, not a passive experience because sanctification is a process. It is a process of becoming like Jesus. And, if there is one thing four years of Bible college taught me, it is that faith is a journey and that we have to start embracing the process.
Christianity is not something that just happens. It is an active walk with Christ. If you want a deeper spiritual life, then take time to spend with God. Learn about Him. Study who He is. The more we get to know Him, the deeper in love we fall. It would be foolish to say you love your spouse or best friend yet rarely see them, never attempt to call them, and even ignore them when they reach out. Likewise, journeying with the Lord is a deep friendship. The more time we spend time with Him, the more we get to know Him, and the more intimate the friendship becomes.
God wants to give us an abundance of growth. He has the strength for the difficult season you are going through. He has joy for your broken circumstance. He has control for your weakness. He has mercy for your mistakes. Can we really justify turning away such goodness? Don't miss out on all that God has for you! Don't live life with resentment, bitterness, and frustration. Spend time soaking in God's perfect presence. Let His beauty and grace permeate your soul and smooth out the hard places you have buried deep inside. Let His compassion emanate through you to reach others. Give Him your time and He will give you so much more than you could even imagine.
If we are not spending time with God, we will never know what could have been. We will not know His will for us, where He is leading us, or even who He is leading us to. Do not spend your time letting faith pass you by, letting God's voice go unheard. Pursue Him relentlessly! Take it upon yourself to start lifting those spiritual weights.
God has humbly let me see that apart from Him there is lack. I lack. And, I am not talking about in times where I have turned away from God. I am talking about in times where I was claiming the banner of "Christianity" without the accompanied experience of spiritual maturity, time in prayer and seeking the Lord daily. Here is the reality: I can do nothing good beyond the Holy Spirit enabling me. At my very best moments, when I am loving, patient, and righteous, it truly is not I but the Lord living through me. To be honest, on my own, I fall short. Very short. Inadequate. I do not have enough love or grace for even my family and friends. I do not have enough creatively or talent to do my job with excellence. I run out of compassion and empathy for people in need of both. This is when I am doing my best by myself. But the life of a Spirit-filled believer looks so different! God enables me to do such greater things through the power of His Holy Spirit than I could if I were giving it my best shot on my own. I have the encouragement and mercy I did not have before. I have fresh ideas and recognize possibilities for growth. I can relate and find love for my neighbor on their worst days. Not. By. Myself. It is when I spend time with the Lord that He helps me become like Him. He is always faithful to show me His character and then transform me into that imagine.
But I have to flex those spiritual muscles. I have to start practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, time with God, reading God's word, and listening to His voice throughout my day.
It is funny. I use to look at spending time with God as a sacrifice. Something I was giving Him. Something I begrudgingly did out of obligation that earned me points somehow. But God completely altered my perspective. Every single time I choose to spend quality time in His presence, I am the one who is blessed. Who is renewed. Who feels an overflow of love. How could I ever see my time with God as a chore when He has given me SO much in those moments? Yes, I give up my time, energy, and thoughts. I give Him my burdens and worries. But what God gives me in return is so much greater. When I fall on my face in full surrender, I show God that I am no longer able to complete the task on my own. Then there is Jesus. Perfect Jesus. He gives me everything I was missing. And it is a result of me activating my faith and pursuing the One I call Lord.
Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." That is a promise! And I love that God is 100% trustworthy about keeping His promises. I know that if I go to God, He will meet me right where I am. The best part? He takes me as I am. Whether I was good that day or not. That is the God Who loves me. I know that relentlessly pursuing God means finding His full attention. And it is there, with Him, at His feet, where I am changed. Where I find the place I have always belonged. When I let go of "if only" regrets. When I empty myself to make room for Him. Where I become better than my best efforts. Where His Spirit transforms me into the best version of myself that I can be.