My daily scripture that came on my e-mail this morning was from 2 Timothy. I read it as usual and a partial sentence caught my attention. I’ll admit it-I often read this scripture with that “blah, blah, blah” feeling in my brain because the list of evils listed is so long, but this morning, it wasn’t the list that grabbed my thoughts, but the last part.
2 Timothy 3:2-5 “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of god, holding to the form of religion but denying its power. . .”
Usually when I read this, I think of it as those forms of religion that are very sanctimonious and take pleasure in putting on a show. The kind that’s all about ritual and right, not about relationship. Today, I saw it in a different light, and I saw where I am often guilty of just this type of “form.”
Example? How often am I guilty of calling myself a Christian, but failing to show compassion to those around me. How often do I judge the motives and actions of others without truly knowing their hearts? More often than I’d like to admit. Even in my own life and thoughts, I find myself saying the right things, like “I’m just trusting God to work it out,” or “Well, He’s in control,” but do I really believe it? Am I actively trusting Him by working out my salvation and my problems with Him, or am I just copping out by saying it’s in His hands, all the while continuing on as I am, worrying or pretending everything will work itself out, while ignoring His pleas that I examine my heart and take action? I’m afraid I’m guilty of the latter all too often. Trust is an active thing with Jesus. It doesn’t mean throwing up my hands in “surrender” and then sitting on them while I wait for Him to “fix” everything. More often, it means crying out to Him through the sweat, tears, and pain of seeking His purposes.
A more tangible example is childbirth. I’m currently nine months pregnant so I’ll admit it’s an example that sits at the forefront of my mind. What if a woman in labor decided not to participate in the birthing process at all? God did design our bodies for it after all, and to a certain point, the body does what it needs to on its own-I know that is true. But what if the woman instead decided to lie there writhing in pain, but refused to tell anyone what was happening, refused to push, and refused to allow anyone to help her if something went wrong? How would a birth like that turn out? The baby might eventually come out and sometimes all might be well, but if she chooses to cooperate with God’s design, how much better the experience!
When we hold to our “form of religion” but deny it’s power, we often get these results. We tell ourselves that God is in charge and will somehow work it out, but He’s asking us to push. Sometimes pushing means nothing more than allowing Him to examine our hearts and asking us to admit our weakness to Him, but sometimes He’s giving us interim instructions on how to survive the trial and we’re ignoring Him because it’s just too hard. Maybe He wants us to give something up, or sacrifice for the sake of someone else, but we’re so focused on our own pain and our own status as the “victim” that we aren’t listening. And sometimes it’s an even more serious heart issue. Sometimes we should be on our faces before Him, not just on our knees, repenting for our complacency and our self-pity. It’s hard to look up when we’re beat down, but it’s essential for survival. The bottom line is, are we listening for His instructions, no matter how simple? Or are we claiming our form of religion, all the while denying His power to move us through the changes in life and walk us through the trials and pain we’re going through. For me, it’s definitely food for thought.