Prayer and Fasting – June
It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. (Ephesians 1:1-3, The Message)
Our Point of Departure
As we have seen during our walk together this year, self-examination is an important part of following Jesus. This month marks the halfway mark of 2022, so it seems appropriate to step back for a moment and reflect on how our relationship with God has unfolded thus far. Where are we on our spiritual journey? The best way to begin that kind of reflection is at the beginning, at our point of departure.
Our experience often confirms what we learn from Scripture about the relationship between God and human beings. It’s a relationship of covenant making and keeping on God’s part and covenant making and breaking on our part. The good news is that God created each of us as one whole, good self. God desires to be in a relationship with us and again and again makes covenants with us to seal that relationship. And because God wants this relationship to be free, instead of coerced, manipulated, or forced, God gives us an independent will and grants us the freedom to choose.
The sad news is that somewhere along the way, something happened to that good, whole self, and to our relationship with God. Our wholeness became fragmented and our relationships with God and one another became estranged. We used our God-given freedom to choose in unhealthy ways and became supremely vulnerable and responsive to the power of evil.
This lack of wholeness and estrangement is a huge predicament. The good selves we were created to be are in a constant battle against the evil that lies all around us. Paul described it this way:
No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.
(Romans 7:18-19, NLT)
Two things lie within each of us – the desire to follow the good and an intense receptiveness to the appeal of the evil that surrounds us. This inner conflict is our point of departure. It is where we begin as we reflect on our relationship with God.
Many of us are uncomfortable talking about this inner struggle but identifying it shouldn’t discourage us. It’s simply an objectively observable aspect of being human.
I have always been fascinated by physics. I don’t understand very much of it to be sure, but I still find it amazing. Gravity is one of the four fundamental forces of physics. It’s one of those objectively observable aspects of our universe. I don’t have to know why gravity exists and I don’t have understand every detail about how it works. But I do need recognize that it exists. If I refuse to do that, I will never be able to completely grasp physics. But once I recognize the objective fact of gravity, I can begin to grow my understanding of it and deepen my comprehension of physics.
It is the same with the inner conflict between the good selves we were created to be and our receptiveness to the evil that surrounds us. Once we recognize it exists, we can begin the journey of deepening our relationship with God and following Jesus more closely.
But that isn’t the whole story! Even as we comprehend the objective fact of our inner struggle, we also remember that we belong to God, who created each of us as one good, whole self, and who has been seeking to be in relationship with us ever since.
As I was growing up, my parents would repeat this word to me over and over – you are a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God. That’s good news! Each of us is a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God. God freely chose to create us, we belong to him, and he wants us to realize that.
God wants us to understand that even as we experience this internal struggle, we have been given the freedom to choose. We can move toward God and the good selves we were created to be, or we can live in greater sync with the evil that surrounds us. This is an empowering experience! We don’t have to remain at the beginning. Our situation of inner conflict is our point of departure, but it is not our destination. We don’t have to yield to our inner responsiveness to evil. Instead, we can choose – every day – to deepen our relationship with God and allow him to move us closer to becoming the good selves he created us to be.
As you fast and pray this month, take stock of where you are on your spiritual journey. What role has the conflict between the good self God created us to be and our receptiveness to evil played in your spiritual journey thus far? At this midpoint in 2022, I pray that you would be aware of the ways in which good and evil pull at you as you make choices. And I pray that you would recognize that this inner battle is not your destination, but only a point of departure for you as God shapes you more and more into the good self he created you to be.