This is the third article in a series I am writing on Turbulent Times are here to stay. You can check out the other entries here:
Build on the Rock of God – Spiritual Foundations for a Rapidly Changing World
When life becomes stressful and insecure it is the strength of our spiritual foundations that determines how well we weather the storms. Now obviously this is a topic that is very inadequately handled in a single blog post. I could write a book on it and many that are far better qualified than I have already written hundreds of books that spell out the spiritual foundations we need to stand firm. The problem is that most of us don’t seem to listen to what we read or put it into practice. We want to be in control, we want to determine our own future rather than putting it in God’s hands.
Spiritual foundations don’t just spring into being at a moments notice. They are laid years in advance and must be constantly nurtured and grown until they become the very fabric that holds all of life together.
Strong spiritual foundations don’t just appear because we go to church each week and read the bible regularly either, in fact I sometimes think that these regular observances make us complacent about our spirituality. Strong foundations require regular self examination. They are formed by the ways we weave the principles and practices of God into the fabric of all we are and do.
Psalm 51:10-17 has always been a great reminder for me of the principles that provide immovable spiritual foundations for stressful times. It is a psalm that I come back to regularly when I know I need to be strengthened and changed.
- Create in me a clean heart O God. Solid spiritual foundations begin in the place of prayer – not intercessory prayer but contemplative, penitent prayer where we lay our lives open before God and allow God to show us where we need repentance and forgiveness. Though time spent praying doesn’t make us more righteous it certainly places us in that position of humility in which we can more easily discern and grow into the ways of God.
- Renew a steadfast spirit within me. This speaks to me of the need for a heart attitude of endurance and perseverance. Unless we firmly believe that God walks with us through the hard times as well as the good we will never develop strong and enduring foundations. It always amazes me how often people turn and run for something new when things get tough. Or else they buy into escapist theologies that encourage complacency and inactivity in this world while waiting for soul rescue into the next. Looking and listening for where God is at work in the midst of our struggles rather than looking for a way out is essential if we are to remain faithful to God’s call in these challenging times.
- Do not banish me from your presence. This reminds me of the need for regular times of fellowship with God not just on my own but in company with others who seek to move forward into the ways of God. This morning I read some very apt words in Hebrews that seem appropriate here So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16)
- Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is essential for our spiritual wellbeing. I am not sure that God ever deliberately takes the Spirit from us but I do know that I can quench the Spirit’s ability to guide and instruct me in the truths of God. And I can also create a shell around myself that makes it almost impossible for God’s Spirit to comfort and sustain me when I most need that help. Learning to discern the Spirit’s guidance is something that only comes through practice and it is easy for us to take this guidance for granted. I have met very few people who intentionally keep a journal of their prayers with the sole intention of learning to better discern the spirit’s guidance. I know even fewer who deliberately nurture that sense of the Spirit’s comfort and love that is so essential to our relationship with God. I must confess that I am not good at this either though I am not sure why. I know how easily I misunderstand what the Spirit is saying . I know even better how often I need the comforting presence of the Spirit particularly in the midst of challenging times.
- Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Stress often undermines our joy and makes up lose hope in the promises of God. Allowing God to restore the joy of our salvation in the midst of challenging times speaks to me of our need to live with gratitude at the centre of my life. Counting my blessings, looking for where God is actively at work in our world, getting involved in activities that I know please the heart of God are the best prescription I know for restoring God’s joy in my life.
- Grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. To respond to change we must be able to bend and not break. A willingness to listen, to learn to obey and to change are at the heart of our Christian faith. Being willing to follow God into the midst of the pain and suffering of others is never easy. It demands a flexibility of sprit that holds lightly to the things that have been so that we can move into the things of God that will one day come into being.
- The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. Not a crushed and drained spirit but one that is broken of its independence, its pride and its self centredness. The imagery that comes to my mind is of a horse that is broken so that it can be controlled by its rider. The wildness, the self will, the desire to go our own way must all be broken and repented of so that be can be fully open to the ways of God.