Spiritual practice: Believe
There is a significant difference between those things that we think about and those things that we believe. For example, if someone thought about the world coming to an end in 2012, they may ask some questions or even worry a little. But that is significantly different than someone who chose to believe that the world would end. Very few people conduct themselves in exactly the same manner when facing an impending death. Belief shapes action.
But don’t we face an impending death? No, we may not know when, but we know we will. Right? So how do we live our lives? Believing that this physical body will face a physical end? Believing that our spirit will face a spiritual future? Or do we believe that we already live in a reality that holds ultimate meaning, ultimate purpose? Is this it?
Our beliefs are often unspoken, but they are not invisible. In fact, it is in speaking our beliefs that we sometimes confront our own inconsistencies. We may speak our beliefs and realize the significance of our failure. If we believe that there is no hope for rescue from our failure, we may believe that we should not share our failure. If we believe that the world around us will prey on our weakness, we will fiercely guard those shortcomings from coming to light.
But what if we believe the words of John 5:24?
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Jesus said these words in the midst of an explanation to the Jewish leaders. He had been questioned concerning the healing that took place on a Sabbath. Fortunately for us, and unlike us, Jesus did not leave his beliefs unspoken. His words and actions matched. He lived love and lived loved. Jesus knows the weight of the truth of his words. He knows that our belief place us on one side of the chasm of sin or the other. He also knows that he is the bridge. Just two verses prior, Jesus shared these words in John 5:22,23:
“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”
Do we believe that? In order to stand with the Father, we must be judged by the Son. And that judgment is simple: do you need him, or not? The healing that had taken place on that Sabbath was of a lame man by the pool. The healing was offered; the man was told to get up. He did, and realized his healing. But what if he had never stood up as Jesus commanded? (There is another subject that could be dissected – obedience to the words of Christ – but that will have to wait.) What if the man didn’t like being told what to do? What if he preferred to keep doing daily exercises until he had the strength to stand on his own? What if he believed that this seemingly ordinary person of Jesus could not heal him?
Unspoken, maybe, but belief is never invisible. The man stood up. We read a few verses after this that he had no idea who Jesus was. I love that. We, okay “I”, often believe that we must first tell someone all about Jesus so that they can be healed. Don’t we? We believe that someone who has not met Jesus must first hear all about the technical details of Jesus: “He did this, but not that…he’s God, but human too…he did this and that for me..”
According to my actions, it might appear that I believe Jesus is just one of many options on eEternity..the site where people can choose their healer. It’s fair to say that those around me would be much better off if I helped them meet Jesus, not blabber on about Jesus. If a lame man can be healed without even knowing it was Jesus, what makes me think that has changed?
It hasn’t, but sometimes we need to reflect on our actions to reveal our beliefs. Don’t spend a day evaluating your beliefs. That is a waste of time. Either you believe something or you don’t. If the man had believed Jesus could not heal him, perhaps he would have just kept being brought to the pool, unaware that he could walk. I say “perhaps” because we do not know. He chose to believe. Does it say that? Yes.
“At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” (v. 9a)
Are you walking, or are you sitting? Your actions will tell you. So if you choose to reflect on your beliefs today, simply evaluate your actions. The Son of God has spoken healing. Live it.
639) Unexplained energy
637) Smiles from the reluctant
636) Safe travel
635) Connecting again
634) Someone willing to listen
633) Humbling phone calls
632) Unexpected texts
631) Encouraging words
630) Prayers that undo
629) Green lights
628) Giving up
627) 1:1 time with the young men at work
626) Having sleds to spare
625) Parentswho drive great lengths to give gifts
624) Caleb’s willingness to share
623) Those who step up when needed
622) God working out the details
621) The adoration of a grandfather for his granddaughter
620) Friends who make and keep promises
619) Appreciating friendships
618) Jonathan’s flawless delivery of breakfast for five
617) Waking up – the second time – to the aroma of breakfast being prepared
I label the day as “assessment” because it held no other distinct qualities. When you do not set a course for your swim, you spend your time responding to the current. That was the case today. It was very different than the day that I had anticipated even 24 hours prior.
*Jonathan had requested to spend the previous evening with me, so he did. This altered my evening and subsequently my morning.
*Jonathan pulled out his loose tooth in the evening, which affected my actions when I awoke at 1am.
*I was asked to work, which altered my agenda for the day.
*The timing of snow in the morning affected my Internet usage as I tried to determine if school was closed.
*I received paperwork to complete for Joshua, which affected my use of quiet time.
*The questions in the paperwork made me think of Joshua’s friendships, and I invited a good friend of his to visit us.
*Joshua needed to stay after school so the timing of our arrival home was affected.
*The timing and location for meeting up with Joshua’s friend affected our dinner plans.
At the end of the day, I felt exhausted. There are certainly some reasonable explanations for that: repeatedly waking during the night this week, two days of weather that affected my travel, working mornings without down time in the evenings. But, as I traversed the waters of this day, this day with different plans than my own, there seemed to be one recurring theme affecting my energy: failure to be.
To be still. To be where I am. To be who I am. There is a constant working within me, a voice that prompts to do, to accomplish, to seek, to chase. But to be? No. The avoidance of resting while awake goes back to the point that was discussed this week at Bible study – we do not like to be alone. And we don’t like to admit that we can be very alone even when surrounded by others. Whether married or single, childless or child-full, introverted or extroverted, employed or not, there is one person you cannot escape – yourself. And it is in the silence, in the resting, that you bump into yourself.
There is both comfort and frustration that I gain from the wisdom of my elders at Bible study. When I am told that dying to self is a lifelong process, I am comforted to know that there is no pressure to arrive. It is not a task I must rush to have “done,” so I should enjoy the journey. And there is the frustration: dying to self will happen all along the way. It is not an easy task; it is not a task at all. It is the working out of relationship.
When I am constantly on the go, constantly doing, I am not being. To do seems more familiar than to be. More familiar is more comfortable. But what, then, am I missing? I am missing the comfort of being known. I am missing the peace of being loved. Missing the comfort of rest. Dying to self is not simply sacrifice, it is transformation. When there is less of us there can be more Christ. When our agenda is set aside, his moves in. When our discomfort is exchanged for his, we have peace.
The growing sense over the past few days is that I cannot simply establish parameters. I cannot simply sacrifice. I must also strengthen. And, in my assessment, I recognize that the best way to strengthen will be to spend some time being. A few weeks ago I wrote about my realization that the challenge to “spend a day with Jesus” seems difficult. Difficult because we do not do well – I do not do well – at setting down my agenda. Maybe I can in moments, but not for a day. But I also understand that if I do not set aside my agenda for a day, I will miss the time of Christ telling me what he wants to say. I may miss the truth that he wants to tell me.
Yes, I believe that Christ is with me always by the indwelling off the Spirit. But I also recognize that my spirit is louder than I’d like. Do, do, do, keeps me from the simple act of be. Be with Christ. Be loved. Be still. I cannot turn that into a task to do; I must allow that to be a desire of my heart.