I know that even I as a pastor have some Sundays where my mind is not focused on God during the worship service. If we’ve become accustomed to certain routines as Christians, whether it’s our daily quiet time, prayer time or worship, this reality of quarantine really helps us test the heart behind all that we do. Or at least, I hope you won’t ignore it.
We can account for our sinfulness and weak flesh to say that we can never truly give the perfect heart of worship until we are in heaven. However, when being a Christian and doing what Christians do becomes more of a duty, a chore, and a burden instead of our joy, we are in dangerous waters and we’re sinking.
There are degrees to the maturity of this joy that I speak of. A young Christian may be overjoyed in a naive sense, full of blind faith and zeal. Think of the early years of Peter who always seemed to speak before thinking. But that joy becomes matured as the young Christian continues to be faithful to spiritual disciplines that help us grow in faith. These are referred to by J.C. Ryle as ‘the means of grace.’
Do you know anything about enjoying the means of grace?
By ‘the means of grace’ I mean five main things: reading the Bible, private prayer, meeting with other Christians for worship, taking the Lord’s Supper and keeping the Lord’s Day holy. These things God has graciously appointed either to bring us to faith in Christ or to help us make progress as Christians. Our spiritual condition will largely depend on the way in which we use them. Notice, I say the way we use them, for there is no automatic benefit in doing them. It is of great importance how we do them. So I must ask you, Do you find delight in reading God’s Word? Do you pour out your heart to God in prayer? Is the Lord’s Day a delight to you as you spend it in praise, prayer and Christian fellowship? Even if they had no other purpose, the ‘means of grace’ would still be useful as pointers to our true spiritual condition. Tell me what a man does in relation to these things and I will soon tell you whether he is on the road to heaven or to hell.J.C. Ryle, Walking with God (Abridged and simplified version of Practical Religion)
Since I brought up Peter, look at the kind of person he is by the time we get to the early church in the book of Acts. We see already from the beginning, Peter standing up to take the lead among the disciples and then preaching the Gospel to the people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of the Pentecost.
Here is this man who just 50 days before was afraid to be associated with Jesus, now preaching boldly in the streets of Jerusalem. He made such a commotion in the people that he was arrested and demanded by the religious authority to stop talking about the Gospel.
We see an account of incredible boldness as Peter stands against them and says, “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
There were many things that led Peter to change so drastically and grow to such faith. The foundation to all of it was the fact that Jesus did physically rise again from the dead and had appeared to Peter and many others. And it was also the fact that Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit as well. But all this faith to live in the power of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit did not come from nowhere. It was actually through his failures and trials that brought him to this point.
Yes, Peter almost drowned because he was afraid when Jesus called him out into the water. But tell me who else walked on water? Yes, Peter refused to let Jesus continue to say he would die and Jesus calls him Satan. But who else is called the ‘rock’ upon which the church would be built because God revealed to him that Jesus is the Messiah? And even after seeing the church grow in the thousands, we still see Peter being afraid to associate with the Gentile Christians and is called out by Paul for hypocrisy and fear of man. But we see Peter overcome this hypocrisy and fear of man as he defends Paul’s position on the matter in Acts 15.
We may be struggling in our faith, making mistakes and regretting our failures. But if we remain faithful to exercise the ‘means of grace’ in our lives, we will see that it is through the fires of our trials that our faith is purified and strengthened.
Continue to examine your heart through all this and if your delight in God and the things of God is waning, do something about it instead of waiting for something to happen. Reach out to a trusted Christian friend or leader and figure it out because it isn’t simply a matter of healthy or unhealthy Christianity. It is a matter of heaven or hell.