It's a pretty significant assignment - the last one for my degree.
And, I've been procrasinating.
I've organized the garage, brought items to the thrift store, washed the garage floor. Then I moved to the shed, pulled out items we don't use, brought those away as well, organizing and cleaning. I did some planning with the landscaper on a project we want to do on the yard, and my mom came by to help me pick the stain color for the porch.
Sounds productive, right? I felt great with everything I'd accomplished.
But, I'm still avoiding the task at hand.
In our spiritual lives we can find ourselves doing the same thing. We prioritize what makes us feel good, while sidestepping the necessary, but messy, things.
Read a devotional. Check.
Go to church. Check.
Listen to my worship playlist. Check.
But what about when the Spirit prompts us during a sermon about extending forgiveness to a difficult family member, confessing our sin to someone we've wronged, searching out an accountability partner for an area of entangled sin, or serving in an area God has called you but you're bound by fear.
Our faithful involves both putting off our sin and putting on righteousness; obedience is central to both.
We feel conviction, that uncomfortable inkling in our chest, yet we stop ourselves from spending too much time thinking on it because it's hard, it's painful and sometimes awkward.
So what keeps us from obedience?
We're tempted to think 'people don't do that'
When's the last time someone came to you, apologizing for their sin against you? Or when has a friend last asked you to hold them accountable? If these opportunities aren't on your doorstep, it's easy to assume that they don't 'need' to happen when the Spirit comes knocking on your door.
But consider Paul's advice to Timothy. Instead of worrying about what others thought of him, he was to lead the way in patterning a life of godliness for those around him. Dane Orlund reminds us that "we consign ourselves to plateaued growth in Christ if we yield to pride and fear and hide our sins." (Deeper, p.114)
We don't want to let our love grow cold, like the Laodicians nor stop depending on the Lord later in life as King Asa of Judah. We want to "run with endurance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12:1), pressing "on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:14) so that upon our finish we have kept the faith.
Other times, we don't believe we need to put in more effort
Sometimes we view our salvation like a plane ticket - we're booked, now we're just waiting for the flight.
To be sure, our new life in Christ is one of freedom, peace and blessing, but we also know without exercise muscles weaken, a garden left untended withers and driftwood riding aimlessly along the waters eventually gets hung up on shore somewhere.
Paul again admonishes Timothy to "fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Tim 6:12). In the same way, we're not to give up but to persevere, "for you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised" (Heb 10:36).
In light of our weakness and timidity we rest in the all-sufficiency of His grace, knowing He has equipped us to follow Him, as daunting as the task may seem at times. Dallas Willard reminds us, "grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action." A grace-filled attitude leads us to rest in the truth of His Word, and as a result we respond.
I eventually mustered up the discipline to finish my paper, but the lesson on avoidance kept a grip on my heart. I traveled through the Gospel of John and was reminded again, "if you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
Our obedience is a joy as we delight ourselves in Him. So, let's pay attention to the work of the Spirit in our life, welcoming it as our invitation to Christlikeness, strengthening the muscle of obedience and resting in His grace.