We had a birthday party here last weekend. After our guests left, I looked at my kitchen and wanted the ability to wiggle my nose and it would be all cleaned up. Instead, tired and wanting to sleep, both hubby and I tackled it in disciplined effort, plodding through until the kitchen was back in order.
Sometimes in my spiritual life I look in God’s word and wish that what I see about my life was all cleaned up, zapped into shape. Even though God sometimes gives an astonishing illumination that leads to a victory over something I’ve fought a long time, and I want that “zap” to be the end of the fight, a permanent victory. Sometimes it is, but more often than not, God asks for disciplined effort, a persevering plodding.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15–21)
As I read these words, the Lord speaks to me about daily disciplines. I know what happens when He gives the power of the Holy Spirit to be filled with joy and to have victory over a sin or temptation; I ride on that for a day or two, and then, like Wiley Coyote, find myself running off the high cliff, suspended in thin air and about to take a crash. Instead of running on the steam of one high-point spiritual event, the Lord wants me to understand that His will is not about one-time experiences, but a daily and even moment-by-moment dependence upon Him. This is not supposed to look like this: ^^^^^^ but like this ------------.
The devotional guide refers to a related false notion. Some believe and teach that after conversion, a Christian can be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and every problem is solved. They can live on a spiritual high the rest of their lives. I know a few people who think like this and all I can say is their “spiritual high” is more like a state of denial or of blindness. These people have stopped growing in their relationship with Jesus and seem to think they do not sin or have any problems any more. However, their sin and denial is obvious to those around them.
Wanting to be zapped by God is common, whether it is called a baptism or not. I’ve had those experiences where God gave me something so wonderful that I felt I would never sin again, never disobey Him again, never struggle any longer with sin (or at least a particular sin). However I soon discover this is more wishful thinking than reality.
For many, disillusionment can so easily follow. For me, I get discouraged. I have to admit that one of my problems is that I’m basically lazy. I just want to live in the joy of obedience to God without the disciplines of prayer, reading His Word, and paying attention.
Sometimes being a Christian is hard work. Yes, Jesus is the Savior and I cannot rescue myself from any spiritual dangers, yet He expects me to be wise, study and know His will, and be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. That requires being in His Word, praying without ceasing, confessing sin as it is revealed, and obeying Him in every area of life all the time.
These are often challenging demands. The joy God gives and the songs He puts in my heart are helpful, even evidence of the lifeline that connects me to Him. Yet so often being thankful all the time and submitting to those in authority over me (right now my seminary professors and those assignment deadlines) reminds me that Sunday’s wonderful “zap” usually does not last until Monday morning.