Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Month: January 2023

In the Moment

“The thing is to rely on God. The time will come when you will regard all this misery as a small price to pay for having been brought to that dependence. Meanwhile, the trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing has yet been done.”  

C. S. Lewis

Lewis was warning against the tendency to rely on God only when we’re in trouble, only when some urgent need arises. As he noted, relying on God is a daily discipline that we exercise moment-by-moment.

I don’t know about anybody else, but it’s hard for me to live in the moment. Some days I spend too much time looking backward with regret at something I wish I’d done better. Other days I spend too much time looking forward with anxiety about what needs to be done this week or next. The reality is that all I have is today, this very moment. I need to learn the art of living in the moment.

What should help me in this daily reliance upon God is to remember his daily provisions. Jeremiah said, 

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3.23-24

Jeremiah wrote these words while surveying the ruins of Jerusalem after King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the city. Looking backward only served to remind him of the nation’s past failures. Looking forward only frustrated him because there were no resources with which to rebuild. Jeremiah could only look at each day as gift from God, a reminder that God hadn’t abandoned his people.

The challenge for us is to see each day’s situation as a gift from God. In each day do we see God’s provisions? Do we see God’s help in temptation? Do we see God’s forgiveness? Do we see his mercy and grace? Do we see his comfort and hope? We see them only to the extent that we look for them. THAT is how we learn to rely upon God.

It would be too much to say that we should never look backward, because we should always be ready to learn from past mistakes. It would be equally foolish to say that we should never look forward, because we should always be aware of where our past and present decisions point us. However, properly evaluating the past and the future depend upon how we look at God in the present, in the moment.

Rusty Rails

“It is better to wear out than to rust out.”

Richard Cumberland. English philosopher, Bishop of Petersborough

I grew up near a railroad track and witnessed the truth of this quotation firsthand. When I was a child, trains ran along these tracks daily. Consequently, the rails were shiny on top and looked like polished steel. Through the years, however, the trains were rerouted and that stretch of track was no longer used. Over time the rails turned dull and then rusty. 

Many things in this world deteriorate faster through neglect than overuse like empty houses, barns, and abandoned cars. The same principle applies to less tangible things like marriages, mental abilities, health, spirituality, church life. Letting these things sit idly, without ever exercising or using them, is a sure path to rust and degradation.

The classic biblical illustration is the sluggard’s vineyard described in Proverbs 24.30-34. The writer says, 

I passed by the field of the sluggard
And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
Its surface was covered with nettles,
And its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw, I reflected upon it;
I looked, and received instruction.
“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,”
Then your poverty will come as a robber
And your want like an armed man.

Through neglect this vineyard is overgrown, its walls are crumbling, and there’s little hope of restoration. The sluggard’s epitaph? “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest” (v 33). His mantra becomes his demise.

Especially in your spiritual life and in your relationships, if things aren’t going well, the most obvious question is, “Am I neglecting some aspect of this?” In your spiritual life, are you praying as you should? Are you worshipping? Are you studying your Bible? Are you cultivating fellowship and service with others? In your relationships, are you communicating? Are you spending time together? Are you helping and encouraging one another? 

Better to be weary from work than to be numbed by neglect.

For today and every day, get busy and polish those rails!