Will You Still Be Standing at Sunrise?

Truth be told, I lack discipline.

Or, I have for most of my life.

At the bend of my learning curve are the duel virtues of discipline and self-control. The wheels of my spiritual life are just coming up on this corner and, believe me, I’m running late.

Perhaps because I’m a child of the sixties, the Me generation that threw off the shackles of routine and societal restraints, the stiff boredom of “stand-up-sit-down-suits-and-Sunday-hats” Christianity, perhaps because of the context of my upbringing, I have been slow to embrace spiritual discipline.

But, I’m all over it now.

An ancient story, retold in Joan Chittister’s book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, goes like this:

“Once upon a time a disciple asked the elder, ‘Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?’ And the Holy One answered, ‘As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.’

‘Then of what use,’ the surprised disciple asked, ‘are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?’ ‘To make sure,’ the elder said, ‘that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.’”

See, in the context of “saved by grace,” a deliverance paid for completely by Jesus Christ and bestowed on me freely by a loving Father who assures me there is nothing I can add to my salvation, I long failed to understand the difference between “spiritual disciplines designed to earn my way to heaven” and “spiritual disciplines designed to prepare my heart and mind for the work of the Holy Spirit.”

I get it now.

The morning headlines these days are straight out of Matthew 24: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

I’m all about Jesus’ return, let me tell you, I live for the day but there are a few hair-raising steps in between those rumors and His appearance.

The very next verses in Matthew 24 say this: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be save.”

He who stands. She who stands. To be found standing at the end of the trouble to come is a worthwhile goal but it requires that we make ourselves available to God.

None of us will remain standing on our own power. But Romans 14:4 says that our Lord is able to make us stand “4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

And Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God “13 Therefore put on the full armor 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.”

We are being warned of a time that is so full of evil, our triumph is not in making forward progress but in just being able to stand our ground.

The disciplines of reading the Bible, studying the Bible, prayer, meditation, fasting, scripture memory, living simply and sacrificially, confession, repentance, and service are examples of exercises that keep us awake for the Son-rise. These are not ways to earn God’s favor or further secure our seat in heaven but they are tools to keep the doors of our hearts open to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Believers in America currently enjoy unparalleled freedom but it won’t last. We are not yet persecuted but it will come. We are favorite subjects for mocking and ridicule by the media but, while some see that as persecution now, I believe we will one day look back on that as a laughable warm-up to what we will experience.

This morning’s coverage of Joel Osteen’s statements about homosexuality on Piers Morgan’s interview show will set off a new round of public backlash against Bible believing Christians but, even that, will one day seem tame compared with what is to come.

Just as all of America is discussing the need for physical fitness, so I believe American Christians need to reinvigorate the need to lay aside spiritual laziness and apathy for a more rigorous approach to daily faith. Not only for our own sake’s but for the sake of those who may believe because of our stand.

This is way more serious than I had planned to be this morning but, there it is. I’m terrible at scripture memorization – terrible. And I am obviously not naturally inclined toward fasting but these are two disciplines I hope to incorporate into my life in 2011.

How about you? There are many places to start to develop your spiritual muscle – daily time in God’s word, daily prayer, hourly prayer, etc. The important thing is not to delay but to choose a starting place.

Take a stand and learn how to be available for God to enable you to hold your ground in the coming storm.

It will come.

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    The Conversation

  1. HisFireFly says:

    In my journaling time with Jesus this morning He was asking for surrender and radical obedience – “not that it will make Me love you more, but that it will make you love Me more”

    What a brilliant revelation and fits well with your call to discipline.

  2. Karin says:

    Thank you for the challenge!!

  3. Carmen says:

    I’m a little shocked at your message today. It’s exactly what I’ve been reading and thinking about. Today I told my husband that I have to be true to myself. He asked who I was. I told him that I am a christian first of all. He’s been studying science and hasn’t read his Bible or gone to church in years and has provided quite a challenge to me in that area.

  4. Tamara says:

    Great post Lori; challenging, but great! Discipline is definitely something I am working on this year.

  5. Your blog is such a blessing, always so full and rich. It has blessed me so much that I had to give you an award. Please check out my latest blog post and you’ll find it there! Blessings!