When we Fail at Righteousness

One of my favorite and go-to books when doing devotionals or just reading for the purpose of edification has been for year, Thomas a’Kempis The Imitation of Christ. Today I read the following:

[Jesus talking to His disciple:]

MY CHILD, you cannot always continue in the more fervent desire of virtue, or remain in the higher stage of contemplation, but because of humanity’s sin you must sometimes descend to lower things and bear the burden of this corruptible life, albeit unwillingly and wearily. As long as you wear a mortal body you will suffer weariness and heaviness of heart. You ought, therefore, to bewail in the flesh the burden of the flesh which keeps you from giving yourself unceasingly to spiritual exercises and divine contemplation.

In such condition, it is well for you to apply yourself to humble, outward works and to refresh yourself in good deeds, to await with unshaken confidence My heavenly visitation, patiently to bear your exile and dryness of mind until you are again visited by Me and freed of all anxieties. For I will cause you to forget your labors and to enjoy inward quiet. I will spread before you the open fields of the Scriptures, so that with an open heart you may begin to advance in the way of My commandments. And you will say: the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed to us.

There are times when I long for God’s presence to deeply. I just want to hear Him speak to me, to give me a word, to teach me something or reveal a new truth to bibletableme. I will get into the word and begin to read and pray. I’ll often go to a work like that of The Imitation of Christ,  Wilberforce’s Practical Christianity or perhaps Augustine’s Confessions to try and pull something out of these influential men of God that can become real in my life at that moment. I have a prayer shawl that I purchased in Israel, made of wool, tasseled as if it were ready to be worn by an ancient Jewish Priest that I admire and love to have near by.  And yet – many times, God does not come, and there is no word or new understanding. I sit wanting – but nothing.

Still there are other times, when I crack open a book and I’ll be interrupted by events of the day, the phone might ring, or just when I get set down outside at my favorite reading spot, it begins to rain.

These times can be trying, frustrating, even demoralizing. It can make us question our resiliency or even our faith. It has me. We try our best to be close to God, draw next to Him, to grow in faith, knowledge and understanding- and still and we begin to wonder, what have I done wrong? What have I failed in? What have I done, or not done?

And then it hits you.

That is the point. It has been about YOU and not HIM. You’ve done all these things in your own power, not in His power. You have been worried about what you were going to get from God and not what your were going to give.

No matter how fervent a prayer life you want, no matter how badly you want that word, no matter how great of an understanding you want of the bible or of God, and no matter how great of a theologian you might like to be, none of that will come to you of your own power. Unlike the teachers of the popular but heretical prosperity doctrine, you do not control what you will receive from God based on what you do for Him – by faith or otherwise. We MUST be dependent on the provisions of God, while we wait with the patience of God. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us God for our trespasses- even against you, God.

We need to come to the realization that as long as we are in our earthly sinful bodies, that we will be earthly and sinful. We must also realize that just because we are sinful, does not mean that we give up on living a life pleasing to Christ.

Because we are earthly and sinful, we cannot move forward in Christ of our own strength. Why? Because it is purely by the Spirit of Christ that we do anything of any eternal value in the first place. It is by the provision of God’s grace through the Holy Spirit that anything of any value comes from the broken and defiled tabernacles we call our own bodies. Yes, as long as we have breath in our lungs, we will be sinful – but as Paul expressed to all believers, we must never let this become an excuse to give into sinful failure, and we must never let this form an apathy towards reaching toward the life holiness that God so desires for all of us.

As a’Kempis says, “As long as you wear a mortal body you will suffer weariness and heaviness of heart.” While there is no condemnation on Christ (Romans 8:1), there is conviction for failures – as their should be. Remember however that this happens for two very good reasons:

  1. Because your love for God is calling you accountable for your actions which is drawing you to rely on Him all the more for forgiveness and strength.
  2. Because your relationship with Jesus is real. If you felt no conviction, it would only be because you had no love fro Christ.

Always remember there is joy in victory, and joy in our future. No one can guaranty you a perfect life here on earth, but there is one guaranteed in your future.

 

 

 

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