Have you ever wandered why some people, who have presumably been saved for quite some time, don’t seem to grow spiritually and keep dealing with the same issues? Maybe you even find yourself in this category. Well, in either case, I ran across something today while I was studying that I think could shed some light on the matter.
Before I share, I do realize that there is potential for a few to take this the wrong way. So, let me first say this: we should be careful not to look down on those who don’t appear to be growing; and just in case you fall in this category, you should not look down on yourselves either. When God sees sin, there is no one sin more evil and detestable in His sight than another; to Him, sin is sin no matter the form and no matter who commits it. When Jesus shed His blood for us, He didn’t shed more for some than for others. He loves us all the same, and we are equally undeserving of, yet qualified to receive, that love. To look at what will be said with an eye to condemn (others or self) is to look through the lens of religious bondage, and we are Free by the Word around here! Now, with that being said, let’s dig in!
To many people, saved and unsaved alike, living a Christian lifestyle pleasing to God can seem rather daunting. Add all the religious rhetoric, it can seem impossible. Well, let’s think this through. Why would a God, who loves us more than we could ever love ourselves, require of us something that was impossible? He wouldn’t; He just loves us too much! He knew that seeking after Him was a journey and, like any other journey, one that we would need to prepare for. So, He actually gave step by step instructions on this preparation process.
In the book of 2 Chronicles, the effectiveness of two kings of Judah, King Rehoboam and King Jehoshaphat, boils down to one thing: one prepared His heart to seek God and the other didn’t. Let’s talk about the one that didn’t first, King Rehoboam. If you read 2 Chronicles 11, it looks like King Rehoboam started his reign fairly well as the first king of Judah: he fortified cities, made room for the Levites to conduct their priestly duties, and assured provisions and protection for the inhabitants of Judah. As a matter of fact things were good for 3 years. As the son of King Solomon and grandson of King David, he had learned a lot about who God was, how He had protected and provided for the children of Israel, and how he, as king and a follower of God, should conduct himself. However, in Chapter 12 the king stumbles, loses his zeal for the things of God, and he and all the inhabitants turn their backs on Him. After such a good start, why did he fail? 2 Chronicles 12:14 tells us exactly what happened: “And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord (NKJV).” He relied on his own strength, his works and those of his predecessors, instead of understanding that seeking God requires the personal invitation of His presence.
Now let’s look at the other king, King Jehoshaphat. His reign also started well, fortifying cities and making sure the inhabitants were protected, and the record states in 2 Chronicles 19:3 that even though he makes some mistakes, good things were found in him and God was pleased. Why? Because he prepared his heart to seek God. So how did he do it? Here’s the step by step:
- Humble Yourself (Psalm 10:17): This is all about posture. Think about a time when your parent or guardian tried to give you direction but you refused to look at them or pay attention to what they were saying. In that moment, you were refusing to be humble and submit to their authority. Not only were you being disrespectful, you were probably missing out on some very important instruction. Humbling ourselves to God’s authority over our entire lives is even more critical. When we decide that we can not effectively live a Christian lifestyle without Him and submit ourselves to His leading, we automatically place ourselves in a posture to receive from Him all the wisdom, guidance, and blessings He has for us. And since He is not a God that will force His will on us, our humility gives Him permission to change our hearts and our lives
- Remove All Idols (2 Chronicles 17:6, 19:3): Once we take on this spirit of humility, submitting our lives to anything or anyone else will void the preparation process. Idols are not just engraved images, statues, etc. An idol is anything or anyone that takes the place of preeminence in your life. This does not mean that you neglect your family or other important aspects of your life. After all, humbly submitting yourself to Christ will only teach you how to love your family more perfectly. For He loves them more than you ever can! With the understanding that everything in our lives is better when done through Him, making the decision that nothing or no one will be more important in our lives than Him and His word prepares us for the next step.
- Study the Word (2 Chronicles 17:7-9): King Jehoshaphat understood that he couldn’t expect himself or the people of Judah to live lives pleasing to God without first learning what pleased Him. So he studied and sent priests to teach the people what pleased their God. We live in such a “give little, get much” society; we want to give as little as we can but expect a lot. The principle of sowing and reaping is seen all throughout the scriptures, and this is no different. We will reap according to how we have sown (2 Corinthians 9:6). We can no longer neglect our personal study time and rely on the church services to fill us, especially if your attendance is sporadic in nature. His Word is necessary to renew our minds, changing the way we see ourselves, the world, and our God. If you want a more effective Christian life, you will have to study in order to allow His Word to change your heart and your mind.
- Practice Prayer and Fasting (2 Chronicles 18:4, 2 Chronicles 19:3, 2 Chronicles 20:3): When seeking the Lord diligently as King Jehoshaphat did, practicing a lifestyle of prayer and fasting is a must. It is simply not possible to be led by Him if you don’t know His voice, and you won’t know His voice unless you communicate with Him frequently, sharing your heart and listening for His. Fasting grows our focus and discipline needed to make this a part of our Christian lifestyle. The King made several mistakes along the way, but his first response was always to seek the presence of God through prayer and fasting. This is why he was rewarded to see the supernatural in his life, and we can experience the same! He is a rewarder of those that dilgently seek Him! (Hebrews 11:6)
- Obey the Word (2 Chronicles 17:3-6): Now, I found this interesting. Verse 6 says that the king “delighted in the ways of the Lord”. This means that he obeyed God’s word AND was glad to do it! When I read this, I thought about all the times growing up when I obeyed and washed the dishes but was mad at my parents the whole time while doing it…and looking at my son fume while he obeys me and cleans up his room. It’s funny to think about but powerful when you compare it to how we obey God. Taking pleasure in our obedience to God indicates that our hearts are committed to Him regardless of our feelings.
If you take a good look at the steps, you will probably say that these are things that we must do throughout our Christian life, and you are correct. All of the steps are necessary in order to maintain an effective Christian lifestyle. To avoid frustration, exasperation, and self-condemnation, the key for those just starting their Christian journey will be for them to start with these steps and to continuously refer back to them to avoid an attempt at Christian living on their own “good works” and without Christ. For the person that attempts this, their journey will stall- no spiritual growth- or fail. So, if you’ve stalled or failed and are starting again, let me encourage you to follow the steps. God’s grace is more than enough to cover you when you make mistakes. Perfection isn’t expected, but a prepared heart and the earnest pursuit of it is!