Monday, February 3, 2014

Perseverance, Plodding, and the Father's Pleasure

"For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done. whether good or bad."

II Corinthians 5:10
I think of my teabag, soaking, drenched in the steaming water and I think, "That's how my life, my moments should be--steeped like a teabag in prayer, saturated with the heaviness of petitions uttered, silent groanings, deep cries to the Almighty from the depth of gratitude and sometimes desperation. 

Because sometimes we are desperate. 

And sometimes we are grateful and our thankfulness pours out like a gurgling, bubbling joyful stream, and we just can't contain it. 

I remember moments like these--slow brimming tearful moments, silent, heavy praise to my Father of mercy--

The day that our five-year engagement suddenly snapped closed in what could only be a miraculous triumph of the Father's kindness and faithfulness. 

The morning in the garden when I realized and felt the Father's love for me.

The day that my baby came into the world and lay in my aching arms. 

Those days . . . 

And there are those times when all of a sudden, after long hours, days, months, years of plodding and praying and fearing and wondering and listening, when the Lord breaks through and we see His hand working where we hadn't seen it before. 

Some area of obedience, where we have listened to the Spirit's voice, maybe in praying for an unsaved loved one or friend, maybe in an area that we are learning faithfulness and self-control, maybe a breakthrough in our prayer life--our Baal Perizim where we suddenly "see" the hand of the Lord in a fresh way blessing the obedience that we offered through His Spirit. 

A moment like this came quietly for me a little while ago. Not like a gust of power or wind, but quietly and I saw the Lord's hand.  One of my favorite quotes is of the Baptist missionary William Carey. When asked about the "secret" to his "success" with missions, he answered that he "could plod." He could continue year after year after year in a given pursuit without "giving up," (even when there were no visible results) when he knew that the work was of God. 

After my baby was born and when I began to bring her to church, I felt led to keep her with me through the worship service--to teach her slowly from when she was very little to be able to eventually sit quietly in the worship service with the intent of worshiping together as a family through the entire service. (I bring this up as a situation in which the Lord taught me to "plod" in an area that I felt He desired for me to obey Him in--not as a form for every family/person to follow. Although I believe that worshiping as a family is important, the Lord can lead different families in different ways in this area, and it is between them and the Lord to determine the individual course that He would have their family take. The important thing is that a family is walking with and listening to the Lord and that their desire is toward true worship. Obviously, this may take a different form for a larger family or for a family with a toddler and an infant, for a single mother, and so on.) 

At any rate, I believed that the Lord had laid this particular course of obedience upon my heart in my individual circumstances. Week after week I sat in the back of the church and kept my baby and now toddler with me during the time when the worship service was held. At first, I had to go in and out of the sanctuary many times when she was fussy, noisy, etc. But as time wore on, she began to sit for longer periods of time through the beginning of the service, before the sermon was given. When the Pastor began speaking (usually a good 45-minute sermon or so) I took my daughter into the foyer, right outside the sanctuary and sat there on a folding chair with her as if we were still sitting in the worship service and where I could faintly hear the sermon. Again, at first, we could only sit outside for a few minutes, but as the weeks wore on, we have been able to sit quietly for longer periods of time (aided by a snack, and the Lord's mercy--with quite a few "ups and downs" :-)). 

It struck me the other week, that Debbie finally seemed to understand (in her age-appropriate way) that we are quiet when we worship and that different behavior is expected of us in church than during playtime, time at home, etc. She is becoming more interested in the hymns as I point them out to her and direct her focus on what is going on around her. She looks at the Bible when we read it and understands that something "different" is happening. She is increasingly more attentive to the different parts of the service. 

When I am no longer able to keep Debbie quiet in the foyer, we go to a quiet room somewhere else in the church and again I speak softly to her and we do "quiet" activities together until we hear the last hymn being sung. I'm trying to impress upon her the "spirit" of worshiping the Lord with other believers in the way that I feel that the Lord has led me--and of course, He may lead someone else in a completely different way.

But I say this to illustrate the principle of "plodding" in an area where the Lord is drawing your heart toward some particular step of obedience. Many weeks, I felt like "Why am I doing this? Why am I putting so much energy and effort into this?" And some weeks my daughter is not as attentive and sometimes she's distracted, and I've felt discouraged. But I want to teach her this principle of "worship," and so I plod on . . . 

And then, all of a sudden, it seemed, the Lord showed me that He was blessing this obedience. I noticed a small change in Debbie, and my heart was glad in Him and in what He had done through simple, plodding obedience. 

For some reason, the Lord has continually impressed that principle on my heart, that is, the principle of "plodding." For years I walked for exercise, day, after day after day in sunny weather or bad, usually going along the same route for months and months. This, in some kind of a "practical" way taught me how to "plod," something that I've needed to learn in my life. The simple act of day after day doing the same activity was building not only a physical, but also a mental endurance and stamina in my person that has helped me in my walk with the Lord.

My Mom was talking to my sister and me in the car the other day and she said something that stuck with me. She said (in reference to how we as Christians can become complacent in different areas of our lives and more and more like the world), "Be fanatical! Don't be normal like everyone else!" Her words strongly impressed upon me the urgency of walking, plodding, living my life as a follower, a lover of Jesus Christ. And she meant it not in the sense of being a misfit or a fanatic just for the sake of drawing attention to oneself, but in the sense of determinedly obeying the Lord even when others were choosing a "wider," "easier" way. 

And it's so easy to be "normal," to be a little bit spiritual and a lot like the world--distracted, shifty, our hearts set on things that are passing away and rejecting what is eternal.

How well I know . . . 

And when everyone else forsook Him, He turned to His disciples and asked them if they would also go away (implied--"like everyone else")  And Peter answered, "To Whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!" (John 6:67-68)

To whom shall we go? To pleasures, to more and more entertainment? To friends or food or pets or work? Or to the One who has the words of eternal life?

To Him I go . . .

 This has been an extremely useful article for me, written by Noel and John Piper:

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