Last week as we considered how to consistently “maintain a joyful Christian walk”, an investigation sparked by Andrew Murray’s jewel “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer”, we covered points one through 9 in the outline below. This week we will finish with points 10 through 15. I pray these words help you draw closer to the One who loves us so, so, so very much.
- Practicing His presence.
- “As you do not know the path of the wind. . . “(Ecclesiastes 11:5)
- The message of the hummingbird.
- Drawing nearer to God includes pulling away from the world and self.
- Steps to wholeness of healing, which is this joy of depending only on Him.
- STEP ONE:
- “But I am already living a holy life”, my flesh says.
- More pruning produces more fruit.
- Too straight and too hard?
- Are You my vital necessity, Lord?
- Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness?
- STEP TWO
- STEP THREE
- ONE LAST “STEP”
- I know You will guide me, Lord.
 Are You my vital necessity, Lord? Jeremiah 29 is a letter God wrote through Jeremiah to the captives exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem because of their wickedness and unrepentant idol worship. In the first nine verses, God told the captive Israelites to settle down and work for the good of the place they lived (Babylon) because “its welfare will determine your welfare.” (V. 7b, NLT). God told them they would stay in Babylon 70 years, which was until their punishment was completed. (Notice how God is taking care of them, even while they are being punished, by telling them how to have a better life.) In verse 10, God promises that after 70 years He would return them to Jerusalem and “do for you all the good things I have promised.” (v. 10b).
And then comes the well-known verse, Jeremiah 29:11:
11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (NIV)
Let’s look closely at verses 12 through 14.
12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.
13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (emphasis added)
14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity and gather you from all the nations and all the places to which I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.”
God reassures His rebellious people that He has good plans for them, and that their final outcome will be one where they love Him whole-heartedly and find Him as well as enjoy freedom again. I think God gave them this encouragement because He knew it would take some of them the whole 70 years to seek Him whole-heartedly. Verses 12-14 concern the “then” time or “in those days,” meaning when the captives are returned to Jerusalem. God says “in those days” His people will pray and He will hear, and when they seek Him as their VITAL necessity and seek Him with ALL their heart, they will find Him and He will bring them back to Jerusalem.
Perhaps the lesson for me, regarding spiritual growth, is that when my life includes putting other things before God—which is idol worship—I will get my consequences, as the Israelite captives did. And I will live with my consequences until God’s righteous judgement on my sin of putting things above Him is completed. And then, after I have learned my lesson through the harsh, but righteous circumstances of my sin, I will then be free FINALLY to seek God, inquire for God, and require God [as a vital necessity] and search for Him with my WHOLE heart. And then—when I truly have no other gods before Him—then is when I will find God and He will return me to my own Jerusalem, my own fortified city where God dwells and truly reigns, my own life where I have the light of peace in my heart.
I believe this process of sin-captivity-judgement-restoration applies to any scale of time, from our ‘little” failures that take us away from God part of the day to on-going, unrecognized and/or unconfessed sin that steals our closeness and our peace for many months or years.
 Am I (still not yet) a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness? (Romans 6:19-23) God makes it clear that “when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16, NIV). So as long as we serve and obey our own flesh or the enemy, we are enslaved by our flesh or the enemy. The consequences of our voluntary enslavement is that the enemy takes us “captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:16, NIV), and we are unable to “maintain a joyful Christian walk in God’s way”, which is a symptom of the diseased condition of our heart. I have to ask myself, “Is my heart still not totally submitted to obedience to God?” Am I carried away to Babylon sometimes, made captive and my will controlled by the cruel enemy, because I still sometimes “offer myself’ to sin?
Perhaps we weak humans simply do not truly learn what seeking God whole-heartedly and with our whole heart is, i.e., as if our life depends on it, until we are in desperate circumstances.
First by force, then by choice? This is why I say God blessed me with depression–it forced me to keep my mind on Him and His Word constantly. My case is not as extreme but it reminds me of the book “Shadowlands.” When his new wife had cancer, C. S. Lewis was so driven to constant prayer that he said prayer was all he could do and that he had to pray to survive.
Perhaps, after circumstances force us to lean constantly on God, the next quality of character to be developed is to choose this constant leaning, even when we feel we can manage “without thinking about God while we visit with family, spend an afternoon at a museum, etc. I ask myself, “Freda, is that not self-confidence and self-sufficiency?” This voluntary constant leaning Andrew Murray speaks of costs “self-will, self-pleasure and self-confidence.” I do have to give up all of self if I am to give all my heart to God.
Although I have lately been spending more time in prayer and Bible study and meditating more consistently during waking hours, trying to grow closer, I sense that asking God to “heal me” in this way is a definite, concrete step, much like the very first time you tithe and must trust that God will meet your needs that month though it looks impossible if you give Him ten percent.
I am certain God will help me in this. As He promises in Romans 6, if I offer myself continually to Him to obey Him, I will be a “slave to righteousness”, which means I will be under the control of righteousness.
16 Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God
17 But thank God, though you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed.
18 And having been set free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in thought, purpose, and action). (Romans 6:16-18, AMPC)
 STEP TWO: The second step is to “look to Him as your only help.” (p. 84) We must say, like the lame man at Bethesda “I have no one to put me into the pool” (John 5:7). We must know that there is no help for us here on earth. We must confess our weakness and “know there is no hope for you unless Christ in His mercy heals you.” I think that is something else I must say to the Lord and keep on saying. I do understand that every good thing comes from Him, as James 1 says, and that even our desire to please Him, comes from Him working in us as Philippians 2:13 tells us.
 STEP THREE: The third step is to respond in faith. As the lame man at Bethesda believed Jesus and obeyed and walked, so too must we believe that there is “truth and power in Christ’s word.” (p. 85) “If we fix our gaze on Christ. . . we will have courage to obey.” (p. 85) Yes, I must believe that even I, with all my weaknesses, I can walk in the way God intended. I can exercise my faith which is “. . . being sure of what we hope for and sure of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV) and I can, like Abraham, believe “. . . in the God who brings the dead back to life and Who creates new things out of nothing.” (Romans 4:17, NLT)
 ONE LAST “STEP”. Andrew Murray then wisely warns about forming false expectations, to not, for example, expect “to be all at once be proficient in prayer or any part of the Christian life.” He concludes the chapter by saying that, like learning anything, we must start at the beginning, but we must start. I will heed this warning because, as a perfectionist in some areas, I can expect too much of myself and get discouraged. I will take the attitude of James 5:7 and be patient as God works in my heart. I can wait “. . . for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” (NIV)
 I know You will guide me, Lord. Thank You, Lord, for the grace I feel to yield and not struggle with the idea of this greater pruning of self. But I do need Your clear guidance, Lord. I will meditate on and pray Psalm 25 with greater intensity, and I will declare it.
You know, Lord, in this matter of living my whole life for You, in the past I have been too zealous in some ways, like staying up too late reading the Word, sitting at the desk too long when I need to go exercise, or depriving myself of so many pleasures that I became resentful and frustrated with the lifestyle I created for myself in trying to put You first.
I know I need adequate rest and exercise and time with family and friends. And I have learned it is essential to invest at least a bit of time regularly in keeping my home and surroundings tidy. But, Father, what about “leisure time”? Lord, I do not want to spend too much time on that but neither do I want to become unbalanced and eventually frustrate myself and cause discouragement.
I paused, but only a moment before a clear thought came. “I can spend time praying in the Spirit for direction about this.” I have learned recently (although I think I knew it in years earlier and ‘forgot’ it) that when I faithfully set aside time each day to pray in tongues about something specific, He answers clearly.
“Yes! Lord! I know You will answer!”
And, another thought came then, one I was not so excited about.
“Lord, is the healthier diet You recently led me to part of all of this? I have fallen away from it lately. Is this part of the things that seem “too hard and too straight”? Well, I will include prayer and prayer in tongues about that, too. As Paul said in I Corinthians 14:15, “I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.” (NIV)
“Father, You know this will be a new and exciting adventure. Thank You for leading me to that book through my friend. Something has not seemed quite right between us for a while, and I think it is what I have heard some Bible teachers and preachers say, that You sometimes pull away so that we will press on further and follow You into new places.
Dearest Father, with the psalmist in Psalm 27:4, I say:
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.
Yes, Lord! Keep me close while I grow!
Note: For more about “Standing Strong Like the Hummingbird,”—see the May 9, 2020, blog post. May our loving Father grant both of us grace to stand strong and to move forward with Him in our personal growth. Amen and so be it, Lord Jesus!