Posts Tagged ‘God’

All of us at inevitably, whether often or infrequently are faced with challenges, crisis’s or stressors. We easily categorise the gravity of that concern because we compare it with what others are going through, because we’ve grown up believing we shouldn’t burden people with our worries and instead should “harden up” or because we think we can deal with it on our own. And when we do that, it can so subtly influence what we take to God. We think he won’t be interested, or he’s sick of our lamenting or that he will only help us if we first help ourselves. Bill McKibben wrote in Harper’s magazine that three out of every four Americans believe that the bible says “God helps those who help themselves”. Even the US press secretary in a follow up to an Obama speech quoted this phrase stating he believed it to be from the bible.

Over the last 6 months I have faced some difficulties and it has been the greatest struggle to talk to God about this for, I see now, all of the above reasons. And in the few times of heartfelt prayer I’ve reverted to being more religious than relational. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe I thought that by appeasing God he would be more likely to listen to me. I’ve spent much of my Christian life striving to be a good little Christian and please God in both the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. It’s a hard pattern to break and the enemy knows that; he’s more than eager to whisper his lies that I so easily believe, so often. But my saviour is persistent, relentless and I’m becoming more accustomed to his voice. There have been moments where I’ve sensed God saying “just share your heart with me” and it’s now time to do what he asks and put ego and self-pity aside. Why? Because his word tells me to. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. Taking into consideration the Greek text it could be interpreted literally as:

Stop being self-reliant and bring yourself under God’s supreme and prevailing hand and in His time he will lift you up. Throw all your worries, cares and anxieties on him because your worry is his interest.

And what does that mean? Firstly it means that getting rid of that big ego that says “I can do it on my own” and realise that I can I NOT! Jeremiah 17:5 says that cursed is the self-reliance person. God alone has all the power and wisdom to fix us, help us, heal us, restore us, guide us and so on. Secondly, I need to humbly surrender my best laid plans to my God and completely trust Him (Proverbs 3:5) despite what I think and against all odds because he really does know best; he’s already in tomorrow and he can bring good out of yesterday! Thirdly, I need to stop categorising my worries into levels of importance thinking that he doesn’t want to know them all, or that some are just too big for him and instead give them ALL to him. Verbs for cast include throw, hurl, pitch, lob and in relation to this verse none of those implies tiptoeing up to the Father and timidly whispering our concerns. Consider the anguished cries in some of the Psalms (6, 22 and 88 for a start) and see how the psalmist poured out his every emotion, fear and turmoil. He didn’t hold back and according to 1 Peter 5:7 nor should we. Finally I need to believe, even if I don’t understand it, that God is a relational Father who deeply and passionately cares about me. Anyone who feels that way about another is concerned for their concerns and God is no different. It’s time for some of us to stop believing the lies (my concern is too small, my problem is too big, God doesn’t want to hear that, it’s not that important, he’s too busy, other people’s problems are of more concern, why would he listen to me, I can take care of myself, I don’t want to give him control, he’s not going to listen – the list is endless) and stand on the truth; two simple verses of truth!

There is a lot that could be written about the grace of God, just look up any bible commentary or dictionary and the descriptions are plentiful. My very simplistic understanding of grace relates to sin and salvation – an act of mercy through the undeserved gift of forgiveness. And yet how I have complicated it! I have not only rejected this beautiful gift but turned it into something I fight against. Why is God’s grace such a difficult concept for so many Christians to understand? We see our sin as far too big for God to forgive and so we walk around bent over with the burden of it, whipping ourselves with words of condemnation. And in doing that do any of us ever get to the point where we take the burden off our back, put down our whip and silence our mouth thinking “there I have done enough to gain God’s forgiveness. I have achieved what Jesus couldn’t on the cross”.

When Jesus hung on the cross and cried out his last words he did not say “it is mostly finished except for such and such whose sin is simply too great to be wiped clean by grace”. Nor did God tear the curtain in the temple most of the way and leave a little bit at the bottom to stop some of us entering His presence because of our huge, great and unforgivable sin. Jesus cried out IT IS FINISHED (John 19:30) and the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38). The word finished comes from the Greek telos meaning to bring to an end, complete, fulfil. Not one of those words implies that there is anything more that has to be done. The very fact that God raised His son from the dead demonstrates that He accepted the sacrifice of Jesus as a once and for all act of liberation for everyone, no matter the sin. From that point forward nothing in all of scripture says anything about us having work for grace. And yet as we come to the foot of the cross we are not willing to allow it to really be finished, we want to work! I have done this so often and still do. And when I do, I am basically inferring that what Jesus did was simply not enough and with all my weaknesses and flaws, somehow I will be able to achieve what he couldn’t. Paul says in Romans 11:6 that as soon as works get involved grace is no longer grace. We are in a sense rejecting God’s gift.

So how to accept grace? I have come to realise two things this week. First, grace is immeasurable and unstoppable. It does not come in quantities based on our sin nor can any sin stop God from giving me His grace. Grace is grace is grace! Secondly, accepting God’s grace requires humility. It requires us to present ourselves to God, just the way we are, knowing that we can do nothing more or less to receive His grace. Nor do we have to earn it. We simply have to confess, repent and receive His forgiveness. I don’t have to put on a show to impress God, he already loves me (John 3:16). I don’t have to crawl in on my hands and knees beating myself on the back with a whip to prove my repentance because He already knows my heart (Psalm 139:1-4). I don’t have to demonstrate my allegiance to God by making a religion out of scripture reading and prayer; He wants a relationship, after all I am His child and His friend (John 15:14-15, 1 John 3:1).

Grace is a gift. Either I take it and walk in freedom and peace or I continue to deny that the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the power of the Spirit that raised him from the dead are enough to wash me clean of all sin…ALL sin! It is almost arrogant to think I can do more than that. The prophet Isaiah writes of Jesus in the following passage and I now recognise that if I read this, see what Jesus has done and think that somehow by my own effort I can do better…well not only am I deluding myself, I’m in for an unnecessary, long, hard and painful prison term of my own making.

Isaiah 53

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off— and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true. Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him. Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—the best of everything, the highest honors—Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

“Grace” a beautiful song by Michael W Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIWd4vcx7Mk

It’s so easy to breeze over or become blasé about the following passage when we talk about spiritual warfare but if we are facing a battle that we know is not of this world how much of what the apostle Paul talks about are we actually doing? And if we are not doing it then how can we possibly be surprised that we are pushed back and beaten down? In my last post I mentioned that I think there are three keys to fighting  a spiritual warfare battle and they come directly from this verse.

  • Know your God
  • Know your enemy
  • Know your weapons

First, let’s consider the full passage.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:10-18).

  •  Know your God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…” God’s power is something I don’t think we understand very well. It’s some kind of vague concept that we acknowledge but don’t really think we’ll ever see or experience, especially in our own lives. We often hear the word omnipotent (all-powerful) used to describe God’s power. The text this is taken from is Rev 19:6 which actually uses the Greek word pantokratór, meaning unrestricted power exercising absolute dominion, or in English – omnipotent. The power spoken of in this passage comes from the Greek kratos, meaning exerted strength. It occurs ten other times in scripture. It is power God is worthy of (1 peter 5;11, Jude 1:25, Rev 5:13), eternal (1 Tim 6:16) and strengthens us (Col 1:11, 1 Peter 4;11). Paul says in Ephesians 1:19 that God’s power is incomparably great! If it is incomparable that means that nothing in all heaven or earth, not even the devils power can be weighed against, measured up to or matched with God’s. Paul goes on to say “that power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when He raised Christ from the dead” (Eph 1:20). Jesus lay dead and buried in a tomb for three days and God raised him to life! His power can also be seen in creation. God spoke and light appeared. He SPOKE. Four mere words and light filled the expanse into which He created the universe. It wasn’t the words that were power but the God behind the words. And the same for the rest of creation; can you fathom that kind of power? Nothing is impossible for God (Matt 19:26), nothing is too hard for Him (Jer 32:27). And unbelievably this power is available to us. Ephesians 6:10 says be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. In it! IN it! IN! Are we really going to let that power sit idle like a bomb whose fuse has been cut?

The second point we can glean about God from this passage is that He is a provider. In fact a name given to God is Jehovah Jireh meaning God provides (Gen 22:14). He does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves (Mat 28:20b, Heb 13:5) and this passage in Ephesians shows us that He has provided us with the armour of God. If we are told to put on the full armour it must mean that all of it is available to all of us all of the time.

So we have both the power of God and offensive and defensive weapons with which to fight the kingdom of darkness. No wonder we can say we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:31-37).

Have you even had one of those days, weeks, months or even years where you feel like satan is coming against you with relentless persistence. It’s like being in a boxing ring; your struck down and you bounce back up, struck down and you stagger to your feet, struck down and you loll on your knees for a bit while your head stops spinning, struck down again and you lie there moaning for a bit but then once again, stagger to your feet. It’s no wonder the apostle Peter speaks of the devil as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). As you feel yourself becoming weaker, the choice you face is whether to stay on the ground and give up or to get back up on your feet and stand your ground. It is painful, tiresome and often you feel like you’re in that ring on your own. The bible says that “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood , but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). That seems like an unbalanced fight but the devil does not play fair, he is cunning, a liar and deceitful (Gen 3:1, John 8:44b, 2 Cor 11:14). The good news is that for those who are followers of Jesus, we are not alone (Matt 28:20b)! Nor do we have to stay knocked to the ground. And yet quite often we act as if the fight is our own and once struck down we stay there and wallow a while.

I’ve heard it said that if God has won the victory why then are we still fighting a battle? When one army advances upon and defeats another army claiming territory, they don’t then suddenly turn around and go home. Instead they stay there and protect the land and the people from further attack until the war is over. It’s the same in our spiritual battle. Jesus by his death and resurrection has won victory over sin and death, but we are called to stand in that victory protecting ourselves and those in our army, leading others to safety and fighting for the Kingdom of God until the war is over and he returns. What we need to realise in this battle is that satan is strategic (Eph 6:13). God has given us plenty of information in His word about the enemy and how he works but do we really understand it? He has also given us weapons and armour, it’s just that unfortunately more often the not, we’ve left them lying at our feet while we lament the battle in front of us. ANd we all have done it at one stage or another but why do we do it? I think maybe we easily forget how cunning satan is; we don’t see that based on how we’ve lived our life and reacted to situations in the past he may know our weaknesses. Or perhaps we become complacent and too comfortable instead of being “alert” as we’re commanded (1 Peter 5:8). As I stand in this battle I am starting to realise why I so often get injured and where I go wrong and I know that I need a greater understanding of spiritual warfare to be an effective soldier with the right protection. I believe there are three key points to spiritual warfare and over the next few posts as I’ll share what I’m learning.

CS Lewis writes “An ‘impersonal God’-well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads-better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap-best of all. But God himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, King, husband – that is quite another matter . . . There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?” (CS Lewis, Miracles).

How often do we limit God to our own understanding, and worse still keep Him at a safe distance! We ourselves make Him that “allusive deity” we accuse Him of being. For some the notion of God doesn’t fit into our logical and rational thinking or into some pre-conceived ideas we have about the existence of life on earth. If you can’t perform scientific experiments on it or dissect it it’s barely worth considering. It’s a fanciful fairytale for the weak and deluded. For others there might be a questioning within them about the purpose of life and the possibility of something else out there. The idea of God sounds like a nice concept but a little too complicated – “it’s ok for someone else just not for me”. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. It’s certainly hard to conceive when the Christians they know are either hypocrites (like I was for many years), seemingly un-impacted by God or completely bonkers about Him. How can people who all profess to know the same God have such different experiences? For many Christians God has been turned into a religion and a ritual and to them the idea of a personal God is ludicrous and unholy. Instead a relationship is built on a misunderstanding of His character and consists of fear, duty and striving. There is no significant connection and it’s better or easier to just keep Him at arm’s length. Yes they believe in God and practice their faith but to have an intimate, powerful and dynamic relationship with the God of the universe is far beyond their comprehension. It has been far beyond my comprehension too and this is the journey I am coming out of!

Since February 2010 I have had a comfortable relationship with God, kind of like one you’d have with a close friend but a friend who lives some distance away. A friend you mostly chat with regularly by phone and maybe have a great weekend catch up a couple of times a year. Striving and fear have slowly faded and have been replaced with a fresh revelation of His character and a more personal walk. However in the last seven or so months I have discovered God’s desire to be intimately involved in my life. I have become hungrier for Him. As I seek Him, he reveals more of Himself to me just as He promises (Jer 29:13) and as I draw near to Him, He draws near to me (James 4:8). He is surprising me with His presence, His voice and the facets of the Trinity. The more I know the more I want to know and I am becoming desperately and deeply in love with my God! When I read the above CS Lewis paragraph I identified with the Hunter-King-Husband that he describes, that is the God I am coming to know. Any understanding I had of Him is being shattered by what I’m learning and the exquisite thing is I know there is so much more. Why do more people then not want to pursue this kind of relationship with Him? Because it doesn’t fit with our idea of a comfortable God-person relationship; admit it, I sound like I’m stark raving mad, just another Jesus freak! Ha, I haven’t even started, I want to go deeper and I’m stepping outside my box of pre-conceived “God notions” to let Him do the unexpected. What about you?

Love is such a simple word isn’t it? And yet it is fraught with meaning. Every one of us will have a different understanding of love and for many it will be related only to the love shared between one person and another – husband and wife, friends, children and parents and so on. It is so much more than that though. 1 John 4:8 says that “…God is love…” (italics mine). It doesn’t say God loves a lot, or God has much love or do the right thing and God will love you but God IS love! This love that John is speaking of is not love as the world understands but agape love which is an all-encompassing, unconditional and totally selfless love! It’s love that sees us for who were are and loves us anyway. He loves us with a righteous jealousy in much the same way a husband would be jealous for his wife’s affections to be for him alone and no other man (Ex 34:14, Deut 31:16). What greater hope can there be than hope in God’s perfect love. And what does His perfect love do? Provides salvation and freedom (John 3:16), casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), quiets us (Zeph 3:17), is generous and abundant, unfailing and endures forever (1 John 3:1, Joel 2:13, Ps 13:5, Ps 100:5), is better than life (Ps 63:3) and is wildly beyond our comprehension (Eph 3:17-19). Just imagine knowing a God that loves you that much! Well I have come to realise that we don’t always see knowing God and knowing His love as mutually inclusive. Until recently I thought I had a pretty good understanding and acceptance of God’s love, how wrong I was!

For many of us we know God loves us and we accept it as fact because “that’s what the bible says” but we have never really experienced the fullness of His love. Why is that? I think there are a few reasons.

1)            We don’t understand exactly how God sees sin and what we’ve been saved from.

I’ve mentioned before that my pastor once said that we can’t fully understand the love of God until we understand the wrath of God. God is pure (Hab 1:13) and Holy (Rev 4:8) and as a result cannot tolerate sin, not even a little bit. Sin is disobedience to God and whether there are degrees of sin or not, the consequence is the same; condemnation and death (Rom 6:23). I’m not going to get into the theological argument about whether the law from the Old Testament crosses to the New Testament; I simply believe that the 2 greatest commandments pretty much sum up God’s law. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them  (Matt 22:27-40). If what we do does not show God love, it is sin. If what we do does not show others love, it is sin. Once we understand that we realise that not one of us are exempt from having sinned. If sin is abhorrent to a Holy God, how much greater must His love be that He would sacrifice Jesus as a once and for all penalty for our sin!

2)            We don’t understand grace.

If we don’t understand the concept of grace how can we truly receive God’s love? “Grace says you have nothing to give, nothing to earn, nothing to pay. You couldn’t if you tried! Salvation is a free gift. You simply lay hold of what Christ has provided. Period. And yet the heretical doctrine of works goes on all around the world and always will. It is effective because the pride of men and women is so strong. We simply have to do something in order to feel right about it. It just doesn’t make good humanistic sense to get something valuable for nothing. (Chuck Swindoll  – The Grace awakening). 

As long as we’re determined to earn God’s love in whatever form that takes, we are not only to a certain degree rejecting His grace, but trying to take the glory from Him and put in on ourselves. I am realising that I’ve seen my failings as far too big for God to forgive, my obstacles too large for Him to move and think that instead I need to carry the load. Suddenly it’s about me and not all that God has done and is doing for me. I’m not talking about striving to be better – I am fully aware that is just not going to make a difference, I’m talking about not accepting what God has done for me; it is pride pure and simple! Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Unless we can come to the foot of the cross and truly understand grace then I don’t think we can even begin to comprehend His love.

3)            We are burdened with condemnation.

We are very good at self-flagellation, getting that metaphorical whip out and beating ourselves until we feel we have earned a little bit of God’s love. I suppose it’s a little like self-mutilation. People that cut themselves do it for many reasons and some do it with the belief that they deserve it. We are deluded into believing that we deserve the pain of self-condemnation and that if we do it enough or often enough then maybe God will realise how sorry we are and forgive us. But Jesus has already paid the debt and the bible very clearly says that “with the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death (Rom 8:1-2). If we believe in Jesus, if we have confessed our sins and repented there is no need for that whip. And we don’t put it away, we toss it out completely.

The greatest struggle then is how to accept these truths in our heart and that is something I don’t yet fully understand. Only Jesus can help us with that because he is the truth (John 14:6). My prayer for myself and for you is that we will realise in our mind and our heart, the true extent of God’s love as much as we are able here on earth, for I think that as we begin understand His love the greater our love for others will be.

This song sums up God’s love beautifully. “He loves me” – David Crowder Band

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzfPHnoT0-0&feature=related

In considering our spiritual marathon I believe it is important to prepare ourselves for the run, pace the journey and have times of refreshment.

Pace

The goal of a marathon is to compete against other runners to get to the finish line. Spiritually, while we are running for the finish line we are not competing against one another but against everything the world throws at us. A marathon is a long run, it is about endurance over a long distance. They are run on various terrains and can take hours to complete, compared with a sprint which is generally on flat ground over a short distance where the runner goes all out from start to finish. In order to complete a marathon good pacing is required and pacing is not just about “slow and steady wins the race” but about knowing when to speed up, slow down, walk or even take a break (although professional runners may beg to differ). If the aim is to complete the race there may be occasions where stopping is required or sheer exhaustion will set in. During my school years, my best friend and I used to run five kilometres during our lunch break over ridiculously steep hills. We learnt that going up the hill requires a slow, steady jog or even a walk and going down was a lot easier. However going down is not necessarily about making up for lost time. If you go to fast it would be easy to fall and hurt yourself. This also applies to the type of ground you are running on.

Spiritually speaking we need to pace ourselves. It’s easy to “go all out for Jesus” by getting involved in every activity the church offers and serving in multiple ministry areas. However time and again I’ve seen people burn out and resent the church or worse still, resent God, because of exactly this type of unhealthy zeal. It can also effect our personal relationship with Jesus. If we are so busy running as fast as we can that everything becomes a blur, how focused can we be on him? I am certainly not against service, I think it’s vital for the growth and functioning of the Church but it’s important to be prayerful and wise in how and where we serve. It’s not about the sneakers we wear (what others think) or being adrenaline pumped (how we feel)!

I said earlier that running on a narrow path is not easy and we will face challenges that we wouldn’t on a broad and easy path. It’s so important to pace ourselves and watch our footing; to be aware of where there are hills, valleys, rocky areas and cliffs. Astonishingly we can rely on God for help and guidance, he will not let us run this narrow path alone. He promises to give us the feet of a mountain deer (Hab 3:19) so that we will be able to run across any mountain we face on our marathon. He promises to watch over us and “…not let our foot slip…” (Psalm 121). But He also leads us into times of rest. God wants us to be still and think about Him (Ps 46:10). We can’t be still and run at the same time and perhaps there are things we are not going to learn about God while running. He also promises to give us rest when we’re weary (Matt 11:28-30) and this leads me to the last point. 

Refresh

Perhaps the most important aspect of running any marathon is ensuring we are refreshed. When a person runs, they lose fluid through sweating as the body tries to maintain a normal temperature. If it’s a warm day they will lose even more. Our bodies contain 70% water and so it is vital we replace what we lose otherwise we may become dehydrated. On top of this when marathon runners don’t keep adequately hydrated, especially on hot days, they are at risk of developing rhabdomyolysis (muscle meltdown) a condition that can be serious. The simplest way of preventing these conditions is with enough fluids. How true this is for us spiritually. It is easy to become spiritually dehydrated or worse still develop unhealthy spiritual conditions that can cause many unwanted and preventable problems in our Christian run. How do we then prevent this, we drink in the Spirit of God.

Jesus said “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive” (John 7:37b-39). When a person is born again through repentance of sin, belief in Jesus and acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord of our life, the Holy Spirit comes into them (John 3:1-21, Acts 2:38-39). The filling of the Spirit, I believe, is different and refers to an ongoing process. In the above verse Jesus uses the word “rivers” in regards to the Holy Spirit. A river is not still, it is continuously moving.  In Ephesians 5:18 we are told to “…be filled with the Holy Spirit …”. The original Greek structure of this sentence indicates that this is a continual process and not a once off and this was seen happening to those in the early church (Acts 2:4, 4:31). The Holy Spirit has many functions, one being to comfort (John 14:8). This implies refreshment! God knows where to lead us to get that refreshment as “…He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides still waters, He refreshes my soul…” (Psalm 23:2-3a). In the same way a runner uses a sports drink to refresh themselves with the electrolytes needed, the Spirit of God empowers us to run the race, doing along the way, what God has called us to do. If we are not being filled with the Holy Spirit how do we expect to run? We are more likely to plod along, exhausted and frustrated.

We don’t have to fear this race nor do we look to the mountains as impossible to cross or the valleys as to terrifying to pass through. We are not alone in this marathon; we follow Jesus and are led by the Spirit. We prepare ourselves and it doesn’t matter if we’ve been running a while or just starting out, it’s never too late to prepare for what’s in front of us. We pace ourselves knowing that there will be challenges ahead and we refresh ourselves with the Holy Spirit again and again and again. And how jubilant we’ll be when we run up to the throne of God to receive our crown of righteousness and like the apostle Paul, say “…I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (2 Tim 4:7-8).