Monday, July 31, 2006

It’s Not What You Do, but How You Do It

In the book, “He that is Spiritual”, Lewis Sperry Chafer writes:

True spirituality…is a divine output of the life, rather than a mere cessation of things which are called “worldly.” True spirituality does not consist in what one does not do, it is rather what one does. It is not suppression: it is expression.

He goes on to say…

The world and “worldly” Christians turn to so-called “worldly” things because they discover in them an anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life. Little is gained toward true spirituality when would-be soul doctors have succeeded in persuading the afflicted to get on without the anesthetic. If these instructors do not present the reality of consolation and filling for heart and life which God has provided, the condition will not be improved.

Now, I know this is talking about how the Holy Spirit fills us, but it got me to thinking. My initial thought was how so many of us struggle with what God wants us to do with our life; and through this many of us end up with a feeling of frustration that leads to a sense of emptiness. In order to fill that emptiness, we look for ways to escape by turning to “worldly” things or activities. But as I reflected on this I came to the conclusion that the frustration may not be so much “what” God wants us to do, but rather “how” God wants us to do it.

In other words, instead of allowing God to use us in the way He designed us, we allow ourselves to be influenced to doing things the way someone else deems we should (albeit with good intentions). Typically this comes from someone in authority or in a leadership position who has influence with believers.

I have heard of pastors (or would-be soul doctors as Chafer refers to them) who convince people to give up things that may be considered “worldly” without realizing how much joy and fulfillment it brings to their life. It may be something as simple as playing softball in a men’s league. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to witness to friends and teammates, the pastor has convinced the person to give it up “for God” in order to serve the church in some way. The person who follows this advice may end up with a feeling of emptiness. They love the competition of playing softball, but now find themselves doing something that is completely unnatural to them.

A person in this situation may find himself turning to other things to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life. Instead of playing softball they may turn to something as innocent as getting lost in a book instead of dealing with what is bothering him. On the surface this may not be a bad thing; but if it consumes them to the point that they shut out the world and accomplish nothing, it can be very damaging. I’m sure you can think of other habits which may be more damaging. Whatever the habit, it is only a way to lessen the pain of giving up something that brought so much joy. Only when a person deals with the root cause of why they turn to this “worldly” habit will they turn away from it and fill that void by serving God in the unique way they were designed to.

Chafer writes, “How misleading is the theory that to be spiritual one must abandon play, diversion, and helpful amusement!” He goes on to write:

It is a device of Satan to make the blessings of God seem abhorrent to young people who are overflowing with physical life and energy. It is to be regretted that there are those who in blindness are so emphasizing the negatives of the Truth that the impression is created that spirituality is opposed to joy, liberty and naturalness of expression in thought and life in the Spirit.

The bottom line is when we are saved, it doesn’t mean we have to give up everything that brings us joy, but now we must use those things to bring glory to God. Perhaps you like to play golf on Saturday morning with a group of friends. Or maybe you like to ride your motorcycle in the mountains and stop for a cool drink at a place that may be viewed as inappropriate to most Christians. Both of these activities can be opportunities to share the Good News with others who may not otherwise hear it, while at the same time fulfill your heart and life.

Chafer concludes with, “God has provided that our joy shall be full.” We need to be assured that it is okay to live life in the way we were made. It’s okay to do what God has called us to do in the way He made us. When we do this, our heart and life will be so full of joy we won’t need any “worldly” habits to nullify the emptiness. We will be completely fulfilled and filled with the Spirit.

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