Well the Christmas break is over for me and I’m back at work. It is always fantastic to have some time off and recharge the batteries. The funny thing is that having some time off from our regular routine can often lead to us missing out on the very disciplines that keep us spiritually healthy throughout the year.
When I’m at work I have a standard weekly schedule that I fit my word time, my prayer time and my writing time into. Yet when I suddenly have all this extra time on my hand I find myself getting to the end of the day and realising that I haven’t done any of my regular disciplines.
To be fair, my wife, my five month old daughter and I have been traveling and staying with friends over the break so it’s not like we were twiddling our thumbs but I still had a lot more time than on a typical work day.
Typically, my first response to an off-day is to try and squeeze in some Word or prayer time before bed trying to connect with God. Sometimes this is really rewarding in the still of the night. Other times I’m just too zonked and after a few minutes I give up and go to bed only to wake feeling guilty the next morning. I feel uneasy about where I’m at with God and am compelled to get back into His Word or prayer to make the uneasiness go away.
But this isn’t a particularly healthy way to respond.
This may surprise some of you. ‘Surely,’ you say, ‘getting back into the Word and prayer will remove your guilt?’ And it might. But what I would essentially be doing is trusting in my own works to define my peace with God, not His grace.
I’m not saying that after you’ve had some inconsistency with worshipping the Lord through spiritual disciplines that you shouldn’t get back into healthy activities like reading the Scriptures, praying or attending church. You absolutely should do those things. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t do these out of a desire to please God, or to reconcile yourself to him.
We are reconciled to Christ through His grace alone, yet even those of us who know this and cherish this will at times be tempted to earn our way back into His favour when we have stumbled or neglected Jesus.
This morning as I felt my guilt grow over my lack-lustre spiritual performance over the holidays I caught myself planning what extra work I could do to regain God’s favour and I was checked by the Holy Spirit. I realised the sinfulness of my self-righteousness and had to repent to God for thinking that my righteous works, which are like filthy rags, could possibly gain me favour with the Lord.
I asked God to forgive me for stumbling and not having made the most of my opportunity to spend some extra time with Him. I thanked Him for the sacrifice he made for me when he sent His only Son to earth to take my place on the cross and pay the price that I never could have paid for myself. I praised Him for redeeming me and justifying me before Him.
As I did that, my desire for His Word and prayer once more became a desire to worship the One who is worthy and not simply a guilt-driven self-righteousness act.
When you’ve stumbled, no matter in what area of your life, remember that it is by God’s grace and mercy that we have been redeemed. God loves you no less for falling. He loves you no more when you do well.
He simply loves you and He is most glorified in this.