But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
I know the text doesn’t say it but I can only imagine the tears flowing from the father and mother in the story of the prodigal son. In fact, the King James version says “he fell on his son’s neck” in a dramatic display of joy and love. Awhile ago, my family brought me to tears of joy with a surprise visit from my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in months. I heard the front door open and thinking it was my older daughter I made my way toward the front of the house to tell her hello. When I realized it was my younger daughter I was overcome with tears and unable to speak. I stood there sobbing in her arms.
It may seem strange to be thankful to God for tears but without them our world would be so vanilla. I’ve laughed until I have cried with friends and family. I’ve cried out to God, thankful for His grace and salvation. I’ve wept at the birth of my daughters. And yes, I’ve cried those tears of sorrow, of loss, of anger, of desperation.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5
So often we must weep, live in hard times before we can experience the full glory and blessing of God. It’s why James tells us we should consider it joy to experience trials. Because those trials produce good fruit in us. And that fruit becomes something for us to share.
I have a friend whose 90 year old mother confesses to not remembering the last time, if ever, that she has cried. What that means is she hasn’t participated fully in the gifts of life. With each winter season in our lives we are so often rewarded with the spring, a time to bring us great joys. I want to go from this life knowing I have cried many tears from laughter, thankfulness, joyous surprise, beautiful surroundings and more. I heard a Christian teacher say, “If you want the joy of Sunday’s resurrection you must first have the tears of Friday’s crucifixion.”
I’m so very grateful to God for giving us the outward ability to show our emotions. To show those we love how much we love them, even after they are gone. I’m looking forward to the day I can cry tears of joy when I see Jesus’ face watching for me from a long way off. I know that when I get close enough, I will fall into His arms weeping, filled with joy.
If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The word “love” is found over 300 times in the King James Bible. And if we were to study each mention, we’d probably find quite a lot of different uses of that word. In our lives we use “love” in reference to friends, food, hobbies, God, spouses and more. Each having a different meaning.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The current great lie about love is the statement “love is love.” It’s use in this phrase is to convince us that all worldly love is good. But as anyone who has taken a hard look at the idols we place in our lives we know that isn’t true. We, as Christians, also know that deep, interpersonal love like the love between spouses, is reserved for specific relationships. Love, as God has gifted us, is not just a feeling or a yearning. It’s to be a mirror of the love God shows us.
God asks us to show love for our neighbors through kindness. He asks us to show love to sinners with forgiveness and compassion. He gives us families to express deep connections. And He reserves a special love between a man and a woman.
Love is one of the many gifts from God that cannot be fully explained. It’s not just our brain firing off electrical impulses when we see an attractive person. If that were the case it wouldn’t explain loving people who hate us. I thank God for this big, mysterious gift of love. And I thank Him for how much He loves us. His love is so unexplainable yet simple. We don’t deserve it and He will never take it away.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:12
If today’s verse sounds familiar, it should! The King James’ version was our stepping off point for this new series – “That ye be not slothful…” Remembering that the Greek word for slothful, nothros, means slow or sluggish, Paul urges us to grab hold of our inheritance and be diligent to the very end (Heb. 11-12).
What does this look like in our everyday lives?
I had an acquaintance tell me the other day that she would like her church group to start back in studying the Bible. You see, with the chaos from the pandemic their family lives have been turned upside down. Kids are constantly home and constantly needing help with getting the education our schools have neglected to provide. And so studying the Word has fallen by the wayside. They are waiting for a “better time” to reboot their studies.
Hours for the world! Moments for Christ!
But if we are to be honest if it weren’t the pandemic, for many Christian believers there would be something else keeping them from regularly attending church, going (prepared) to Bible Study, sitting quietly studying His Word. For my family it once was youth sports. We abandoned church for softball tournaments. We saw it as a season that would eventually change and God probably didn’t really mind.
Had I truly valued what God wants for me I would have realized that during that season I especially needed His Word. It’s when our lives seem most chaotic that we need to grasp hold of God. He is our center, our Rock, our plumb line. He puts the swirling world and all its stresses into perspective.
The world has the best of our time and our prayer closets the leftover fragments.
So, when Paul reminds us to not be lazy or slothful or sluggish with our obedience to Jesus he especially means during difficult times. To not turn to the flesh for solutions and comfort. He chastises us to finish strong by keeping close to God.
I’ve invited many friends and acquaintances to participate in Bible study. And every time I hear multiple people say they are too busy with “life.” Work, family, hobbies, other obligations take precedence. I get it. I’ve been there many, many times. But when I look back to those times I do so with a measure of regret. Because those times are gone forever. Times when I could’ve really used the Word of God to comfort me and to reignite my faith. There are so many instances where I needed God’s wisdom to make better choices – both for myself and my family.
We do not forget to eat. We do not forget to be diligent in business. We do not forget to go to our beds to rest. But we often forget to wrestle with God in prayer and to spend long periods in consecrated fellowship with our Father and our God.
Our days are numbered here on earth. Christ sacrificed Himself to a horrible death so that we may have a close relationship with God and the gift of salvation. When our ledger is opened at the end will it show that we have made God the primary focus of our time or will He be a footnote?
That ye be not slothful, but followers
of them who through faith and patience
inherit the promises.Hebrews 6:12
I don’t typically pull Bible verses from the King James version. But in one of my devotionals this version of Hebrews 6:12 was the focus of that day’s study. It got me thinking about my own faith and where I stand with “slothfulness.”
When you hear that word “sloth” you probably think of the lazy animal, hanging out in a tree accomplishing next to nothing all day. Yet slothfulness is not the same as being lazy – which is how the word is translated in the New International Version. In fact, the word “slothful” in Greek is quite different. And in the context of the verse in Hebrews it means to not allow our faith to become monotonous or without a blazing flame.
Slothful: nōthrós – slow, sluggish; monotonous
For many Christians we say we are religious because we attend church regularly. We get up Sunday morning, find our usual spot to park at church, listen to a sermon, sing a few familiar songs, and look forward to the donut or muffin on the way out. We might chat with a few friends then head to whatever else we have on our plate for the day. We can check off our “faith” for that week. We might even go to a Bible study during the week to put another tick mark on our “faithful” list.
And for you overachieving, super involved Christians, it’s interesting to note that the author of my devotional is an accomplished author, missionary and evangelist. He realized he was a good “worker” for God. But somewhere along the line it became just that – work.
But what God wants of us is deep, passionate faith. And if you already have that – awesome! I hope you will still enjoy what is to come in my Fresh Fire posts!
He wants us to be in love with Him. He wants us to be eager to speak with Him and to be sad if we don’t feel His presence. He wants us to stand for Him in the face of those who would speak against Him. He wants us to seek the opportunities to speak about His glorious promises. He wants us to remove all spiritual neutrality and instead burn red-hot for His message of love, forgiveness, redemption and salvation!
My son-in-law once shared with me Charles Spurgeon’s compilation of prayers called, “Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare.” I soon got my own copy and was amazed with the fervor level of his sermons. There’s nothing slothful about Mr. Spurgeon! I wanted to share this excerpt about praying with a blazing heart:
“I would that some of you prayed more vehemently! “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matt 11:12) An old Puritan said, “Prayer is a cannon set at the gate of heaven to burst open its gates.” You must take the city by storm if you would have it. You will not ride to heaven on a feather-bed, you must go on pilgrimage; there is no going to the land of glory while you are sound asleep, dreamy sluggards will have to wake up in hell. If God has made you to feel in your soul the need of salvation, cry like one who is awake and alive; be in earnest; cry aloud; spare not.
Charles Spurgeon, The Raven’s Cry
Whew! I get exhausted each time I read that! And yet, during the “Great Covid Pandemic” I watched friends’ faith fall by the wayside. They were comfortable with sitting in their PJs watching a church video and nothing more. I also watched others be lifted to higher heights. Their Bible study life became daily and hour-long. Their prayers became constant and vibrant! Their work of sanctification grew by leaps and bounds! I have written before that I believe a great sifting has occurred. Those who choose to be “slothful” in their faith will continue to slide out of a relationship with Jesus. But we don’t want to be lost into the world.
For five weeks, I’ll share 25 verses about strong, energetic, and passionate faith. A few may feel familiar but my hope is that most will be something new. Because that’s what this series is about – stripping away the “usual” and monotonous and injecting a bit of new fire.
God’s promises are so much more beautiful and glorious than anything the world can ever offer. It’s up to us to grab hold of our faith with renewed vigor and fire. It’s up to us to burn in passion for our Lord.
Here’s the prayer from that day’s devotional about slothfulness. I hope you pray it as a stepping off point for the study!
“Lord, help me understand how totally unacceptable it is for me to lose my passion, momentum and desire. I ask you to forgive me for allowing any hint of slothfulness to operate in my life. Today I repent and deliberately turn from slothfulness. Holy Spirit, I turn to you now and ask you to stir and reignite the fire in my heart. Please help me regain the zeal, the thrust and the fire I once possessed. Help me to keep that fire burning this time, never to lose it again. I pray this is Jesus’ name!”