Oct. 19, 2016: My Loose and Unsettled Heart
The Apostle Paul wrote that, “He [Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). So what is my response to the power of Christ resting upon me, because I fully recognize my weakness. But how do I keep my strength up in Jesus?
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Look to Jesus.
The Word of God encourages us to “…remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23) and yet at the same time, acknowledges that our hearts, as Richard Sibbes (17th-century theologian) put it, are “… loose and unsettled.” And because of this, Sibbes counseled, “…we must [first] look up to Christ, the quickening [life-giving] Spirit and make our resolutions in His strength.” So in my weakness, I am encouraged to look first to Jesus and to pray to the Lord, as David did, “…direct [my] heart toward You.” (1 Chronicles 29:18). “This,” noted Sibbes, “is a pleasing request, out of love to God …” And it is a prayer that Jesus will always answer.
2. Soak in His Word.
Sibbes would also encourage us to “store up [God’s Word] in our hearts, and refresh them often...” There is a tradition that says David used Psalm 119 to teach his young son Solomon the alphabet – but not just the alphabet for writing letters: the alphabet of the spiritual life. And in this way, David told Solomon (and us), “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105).
3. Take every opportunity to draw close to Jesus.
James exhorted believers to “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Jesus invites me to take every advantage of the unfettered access to Himself that He has given me through His work on the Cross: by His word, in prayer, in worship, in solitude, in fellowship, and in serving and loving of others. In staying close to Jesus, His Spirit has the fullest opportunity to show me where my weakness lies and where the enemy has some measure of hold over me. Scripture assures us, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Staying close to Jesus enables us to more swiftly recognize His promised escape route.
4. Acknowledge that we are weak.
So when I fall, and I will fall, the first thing I need to do is to overcome my pride and humbly confess my sin to God and then allow Jesus to lift shame and guilt from my heart by accepting His complete and total forgiveness. Sibbes ventured that in a believer’s life there can be said to be three stages in overcoming sin: The first is where we try to resist but we are foiled. The second is where, having failed and sought His mercy, His grace then helps us overcome – but it really is a battle! The third stage is where we suddenly discover that by His grace some particular temptation is now under the submission of Jesus. Sibbes is not suggesting that this process is linear. This is no waltz – 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3… For me, I think it would look something more like 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1…3! This is perhaps just another way of saying that we are a continuing work in progress, and He is patient and He is merciful. He has promised “…I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15).
Sibbes offered our loose and unsettled hearts these words of encouragement: “Grace, as the seed in the parable, grows, we know not how. Yet at length, when God sees fittest, we shall see that all our endeavor has not been in vain.”
I pray that you would know the power of Christ resting upon you and that His grace is sufficient for you, even in all the looseness and unsettlement of our hearts.