Can’t I Just Take a Pill for That?
Luke 11:9 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you…. How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
When I was in junior high, I watched a certain boxing movie in which the star-spangled underdog was soundly thumped by his monstrous Russian opponent. The plucky hero did not give up however. He went into training overdrive and in the end, earned a rematch with the evil behemoth, not only knocking him out but single-handedly winning the cold war.
I was inspired. I planned to train day and night to become an Olympic wrestling champion. First, I needed to win the high school state tournament. Before that though, I needed a bowl of ice cream. Unfortunately, that was about how deep my commitment to hard work was. I did not win state or go on to the Olympics.
As an adult, I have probably not matured much. I still want to be in good shape a little less intensely than I want a donut. I join a gym, hoping that it will make me an athlete. I like working out, honestly. I just like eating more. Frankly, hard work is hard work. If there was a pill to make me an athlete, I would be interested.
Likewise, my addiction was nothing more than a short cut to instant gratification instead of pursuing the appropriate (but more difficult) route to joy and pleasure. When I went to treatment, I tried, at first, to pick the easiest/shortest one. I did not want to get better as much as I wanted to avoid misery and hard work. If someone had tried to sell me a pill to get sober, I would have bought it.
This kind of thinking has crept into our theology. We do not want to pursue God. We just want God to magically transform us into saints with no effort on our part. We say we want to know God but instead, we pursue self.
No one gets close to God by doing nothing. Spiritual growth is not a spectator sport. It requires effort on our part. Jesus does not leave us alone to grow but neither does He do it all for us. He sacrificed himself on the cross to save us for the father who longs desperately to fill us with himself. We can know life, love, mercy and grace, but He does not force himself on us. He gives to those who pursue him.
Ask, seek, knock. These are all action words. Spiritual growth is not a passive process in which I sit back and allow nature to take its course. My nature always pursues that which is destructive. Life is an escalator constantly moving down towards my flesh. God longs for me to live life at the top with him but I do not get there by doing nothing. He has done and will always do his part. He draws near to those who draw near to him.
Just as I cannot complain about being overweight while sitting on the couch eating donuts, I cannot complain about my lack of intimacy with God while ignoring him. I gain the most important thing in life by treating it as if it is the most important thing in life. God fills me with himself only when I spend time and effort asking, seeking and knocking.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.