The first day of school. Not too long ago, it felt really far away. When we took the last sip of last year’s cup, we had fourteen beautiful weeks to fill with fun and exciting things. At the start, feasting on the bountiful buffet we call “Summer” tasted some kind of amazing. But, you know what?
Fourteen weeks is too much summer for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy sleeping in and having the freedom to see the new Jason Bourne movie with my husband at a moment’s notice. I appreciate the fact that I can have spontaneous coffee dates with friends. I definitely bask in the abundant time to read! What I don’t enjoy is my besetting sin that our friend “Summer” likes to point out: I am lazy.
I’ve noticed that this laziness is totally in my head. Rather, it’s totally in my heart. My heart decided to carve itself a little idol out of ease and comfort. Do you know how idols react when threatened with extinction? In my case, this idol knows it will have trouble surviving once the school year starts and every minute of my day is planned. And it is raging against the machine, I tell you.
My flesh is screaming at me to avoid the work I need to do and to enjoy a little more entertainment, instead. It cries, “It’s summer! You have time to watch Netflix! Another episode of Gilmore Girls won’t hurt . . .” Generally, this is true. I do have time to watch Netflix. And one more episode probably won’t hurt. But when one turns into a handful (and an entire afternoon), it’s time to evaluate some things.
In my mind, I know factually that the way to slay an idol is with the Word of God. So I turned there to see what it says about slothfulness. (Irony: For their final composition of last year, I had my students write a chreia/maxim essay on Proverbs 6:6. Perhaps I should have read them more closely.) Let’s start with that verse in context.
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
I probably don’t even need to comment on this, because the application is not veiled, even a little bit. This tiny ant doesn’t need a master to direct her. She does what she needs to do, when she needs to do it. There is reward in her diligence. I feel a little pinch in my conscience.
Next: Speaking of an “excellent wife,” King Lemuel says that
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:27)
I think this one hurts the most, in terms of conviction. My laziness has definitely caused the ways of my household to be neglected because, not surprisingly, I have been eating that bread of idleness. It tastes delicious, doesn’t it, that bread? At least at first. You feel so rested, until you feel exhausted from doing nothing. (That’s a weird conundrum to me. It’s like laziness has an actual, physical weight to it.) You feel so entertained, until you’re bored because your brain has been stagnant for hours on end. If you turn over that bread that looks baked to golden perfection, you’ll find mold growing on the other side. (Yuck.) Let’s agree not to snack on that loaf.
I could carry on with additional passages to prove my point, but I’m already sufficiently convicted and feeling like I need some hope. This idol of ease and comfort is hard to slay. I know, because, so far, I’ve only been able to slay it temporarily. Then, a break from school comes, and it rears its ugly little head again. (Hint: That means it wasn’t actually slain, but lacked prominence.) My favorite apostle, Paul, writes to the Corinthians,
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
It is in Christ that I can conquer this sin of slothfulness. Will there be a battle? Of course. Paul understood this well.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
Again, it is Christ that delivers our flesh from sinning. Thanks be to God, indeed! Check out this measure of grace:
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:13-14)
I am not alone in this battle in two ways. One, I’m not the only person in the world battling laziness. It is common. Two, we can call on the Spirit, the Helper sent by Jesus, to escape temptation and flee idolatry. In Christ, we are enabled to resist sin. Amazing! Will we stumble sometimes? (I may as well ask, “Are we human?”)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
We can conquer sin, and we need not carry around a suitcase full of guilt on the occasion we stumble. A few years ago, I heard R.C. Sproul talk about a refusal to believe that God has forgiven you for a particular sin. I was extremely convicted by this quote:
If the Lord says that we have been forgiven in Jesus our Savior, we have no right to question Him. In fact, it is a sin to doubt God’s promises, including His promise to forgive.
I return to this entire devotional from time to time, especially if I am wrestling a particularly strong sin. Since the forgiveness of God isn’t necessarily a tangible thing, it can be challenging to move forward in the belief that I am, in fact, forgiven. But I am, definitively, and I need to move beyond my pity party and get on with the business of bringing deserved glory to the Lord!
(To be clear: I’m not advocating “grace abuse” here. We certainly can’t live frivolously in all areas of life and presume upon God’s grace. The Spirit empowers us to obey the law that is written on our hearts . . . not ignore it, all the while letting our hearts be hardened.)
To close, I’d like to leave you with this quote by John Piper. I think it is a good counter to what laziness really is: a belief that my satisfaction in the here and now is greater than what we’ll have in eternity with the Lord, and the willingness to ignore godly pursuits to achieve it.
Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity.
Soli Deo gloria,
P.S. — I’m instituting a “no Gilmore Girls” policy until the new episodes come out in November . . .step one in my Lazy Bum Recovery Program. 🙂
March 15. One year ago yesterday we listed our house, not knowing how long it would take to sell it. In two days, we’ll be able to say, “One year ago today, the Lord sold our house!” We had made many preparations to sell the home we’d owned for a decade, but the actual selling of it meant we really were moving across the country. It was the beginning of the end of our time in Texas, but also the beginning of a new adventure.
When I consider that a new family has been doing life in “our” house for almost a year, it twists my mind a bit. But then my alarm clock beeps when the sun has yet to rise, and I remember that it’s not our house any longer. I amble through our apartment, assembling myself for a day with ten students at a private school that meets in an historic church. No, we are definitely not in Texas anymore. That is most obvious to me in that the places I frequent aren’t yet places where “everybody knows my name.” (Not that I would expect this, but I do notice that I am a bit forlorn and desire to spend more time building relationships.)
See, I want the deep authenticity of regular, extended Christian fellowship. I crave it. But for me, the most challenging part of our move has been my own introversion, in part because it directly works against the building of relationships. I didn’t know this, though, until well into February, when the Lord saw fit to shed light what lies beneath it. From my journal on February 15, 2014:
At the surface, my introversion is part of how the Lord designed me; I simply need alone time to regain energy and strength. While this is His perfect intention for me, it is marred by my own sinful nature. Recently the Lord revealed that my introversion (as it currently manifests) is rooted in a desire for control. I profess with my mouth that God is sovereign, but functionally I live quite differently. But to what end? What is being threatened such that I need to approach life (and God?) with a clenched fist? Today, in His grace, the Lord showed me the root of the problem: I serve an idol of comfort, ease, and simplicity. But I am not entitled to any of these things! Lord, slay this idol in my heart!
Because I am a visual learner, the Lord often gives me word pictures or mental images that help me to see what He wants me to learn. This time He chose an iceberg.
Because I had lived in Texas for 30 years, I had settled into relationships that were, for the most part, comfortable, comforting, easy, and simple. Of course we had hiccups along the way, but from my perspective my close friendships were all of these things because we had a history together. I didn’t have to explain why my immune system is compromised. I knew the best way to love each friend in Christ, and I often felt the love of Christ through and from my dear sisters. We spent time — close, heartfelt, honest time — and in that the Lord knit our hearts together in a way that was (and remains) almost tangibly eternal.
As an introvert, the thought of starting from scratch here is really challenging to my heart! And it’s true: My idol of comfort, ease, and simplicity demands slothfulness in every area, but especially in building Christ-centered relationships. This is why it is so crucial that I allow the Lord to eradicate this idol! In just over two months I will be faced with a summer full of free time. How will I use it? Of course I will tend to my home, because a school year never does anything positive for my homemaking skills. I will spend plenty of time with my sweet husband since this semester has felt like a wild amusement park ride. But, in the Lord’s strength, I will lay down the shackles of this idol and spend a lot of time investing in the lives of my new (beautiful, wonderful, amazing!) friends.
Soli Deo gloria!
Since we pulled away from my parents’ home at 6:20 a.m. on July 11, I’ve learned that I have a heart condition. Not the kind that means it doesn’t work correctly, but the kind of condition that was wrought by the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The condition is idolatry.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
I can say with a heavy heart that the last eleven days I have not done this. There have been entire days where I didn’t even acknowledge the Lord in my heart — not His faithfulness toward us, His guiding hand in our lives, nothing. This symptom indicates that my heart has turned to worship something else.
“Idols aren’t just stone statues. No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in place on the one true God . . . if they are the source of our joy . . . if they take top priority in our lives, then they are our gods” (Idols of the Heart, p. 23).
Did I set up a shrine to my idol? No, I did not. But since the boxes moved from the truck to our apartment, but thoughts, desires, and longings have been on one thing: getting organized. I have justified this (now and in the past) by saying, “The Lord is a God of order, not of confusion!” I have been convicted that I rip this verse of Scripture from its context; Paul is talking about corporate worship, not home management. Is it a sin to desire to glorify God with an organized, well-run home? No. But in my case it became the “source of [my] joy” — it became an idol. I struggled through the week with a dark, moody cloud hanging over my head.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
Certainly I have failed to be loving or kind toward my husband, and joy has escaped me at every turn. Patient? Gentle? Self-controlled? Three strikes.
The root of my problem is that I failed to walk in the Spirit, to consult the Lord in all things. I began walking in my own strength and falling at the feet of my idol (organization) every morning. Were it not for the sacrifice of Christ this sinful situation would be hopeless. But praise be to God that this act of idolatry was obliterated at the cross!
What idols do you need to lay at Jesus’ feet this morning? What keeps you from worshiping God fully, and loving Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Lord, empty our hearts of the idols that draw us away from You!
Soli Deo Gloria!