Week Eleven-Day One: Motivation
Someone asked me recently, “Why does it feel like work to spend time with God, Ed? I know I ought to, but it’s like I have to make myself. Why doesn’t it feel easier? Why don’t I want to?”
Can you relate? I can.
In our times together over the last weeks, we’ve taken a couple of passes at answering why that might be how we feel. We will answer it again for ourselves in future weeks; we need the reminders. But even having some idea about why this may be true for us doesn’t seem to help that much. It helps a little … but it doesn’t completely solve the dilemma. It doesn’t make it always feel easy to spend time pursuing a relationship with God. It still feels like work many times. It still doesn’t feel like the thing I want to do oftentimes.
So, sometime in the week after I was asked that question, I stumbled into a passage that really helped me. I hope it helps you. Let’s begin week eleven by jump-starting our devotional engines with a look at a psalm of praise written by the prophet Isaiah.
1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts.
2 Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. 3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. 5 He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust. 6 Feet trample it down—the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.
7 The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. 8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you;
your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.
10 But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the LORD. 11 LORD, your hand is lifted high, but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame; let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.
Let me walk you through my thoughts here and ask some questions to help us turn this song over in our minds and hearts.
- Verse two is a call to get everyone into that city!In the same way, you and I have been invited to live in that city.Let’s invite everyone we know.Throw those gates open!The word “righteous” usually means something like “rightly connected to God.”We get to live in a place of being rightly connected to God.Let’s invite everyone to join us!
- Verse three is the first high point for me.This is a verse worth memorizing.It reminds us of a great and comforting truth.This promise makes the work of relating to God worthwhile.Okay, so it’s not a good thing that you and I can sometimes feel like being with God is an obligation when it should feel like a joy and a privilege.But remembering that in the long run He offers peace like nothing else can … well, that motivates us to move toward Him!It really does help.
- Verse four is a call to live in a way that acknowledges the great promise proclaimed in verse three.And verses five and six give us the alternative.Over the long term, one way of living allows for peace; another way of living ends up getting us trampled down.
- Verse seven … more motivation!God’s way is ultimately easier; it is smoother.Admittedly, we will have troubles regardless of which way we choose.Jesus told us plainly that following him would not eliminate trouble and in fact there are ways in which following him will exacerbate our troubles.But being in relationship with God because of what Jesus Christ has done … well, it offers a smoother path over the long run.Given that pronouncement, I realize I have a choice to make: I can believe that and build a life based it, or I can doubt it and build a life based on my own best effort and my own best plan.Given the first choice, I will nurture my relationship with God even when I sometimes don’t feel like it.Given the second choice, probably not.
- In verse eight, don’t you get the sense that Isaiah is kinda reminding himself of what he just said in verse seven?Guaranteed he didn’t always feel that way.But at his best, he really did feel like that, and even at his worst he operated out of that reality (if not by feeling then by faith) because he knew that one way of living offered a kind of smoothness and peace.Do you need to slow down and “wait” on God in some way today?
- Yes!Thanks Isaiah!In verse nine he offers an endorsement of the Daily Office Project.Awesome!He builds a circle around his day – morning and night!What do you suppose the second part of verse nine means?
- Verse ten and eleven scare me.Aren’t we sometimes those people?Aren’t we sometimes the people who do not learn it and do not see it?Could that be why our hearts are often so stubborn?Could that be why relating to God feels like work and obligation?God help us.
BEFORE YOU START YOUR DAY
- Spend some time turning over Isaiah 26:3 in your mind.Let’s commit this to memory today.
- Spend some time in prayer and give you day to God.Offer the significant activities of today and ask Him to be very present with you in those activities.
- Let God know that your desire really is to pursue Him.
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