“Too often we look for the Spirit in the extraordinary when God has promised to be present in the ordinary. We look for God in the fresh and novel, as if his grace were always an ‘event,’ when he has promised that his Spirit faithfully attends the ordinary means of grace—in the Word, at the Table.” –James K.A. Smith in You Are What You Love
In yesterday’s sermon, I asked the question, “What do we do when obedience to God doesn’t work?” Let me explain: It’s easy to pursue and obey God when it produces the desired results: success, happiness, ease and depth of relationships, etc. But what do we do when obedience to God doesn’t improve our situations or feelings?
In practical terms, what do we do when reading the Bible, prayer, practicing self-control, and regularly gathering with our church family doesn’t bring immediate depth, insight, peace, or encouragement? When we’re not seeing any answers to prayer, when engaging with believers tests our patience and grace, when reading the Bible leaves us confused or just bored?
It’s in these moments that our true religion will be exposed: are we pursuing God merely as a means to an end—in order to get what we want and feel good about ourselves—or are we pursuing God as an end in himself? In other words, do we obey because we expect it to result in success and victory, or because we trust that God and his commands are good, right, and true?
If our pursuit of God is merely a means to an end, as soon as results don’t meet expectations, we’ll likely take things into our own hands and look for new means: a new teaching, a new church, new friends, or new rituals and habits.
But if God Himself is the goal of our pursuit, and we trust him no matter what, then we will continue with faithful persistence in the ordinary means that God has given us, the means through which he has promised to accomplish his purposes: his word, prayer, and regularly gathering with fellow believers.
And in the church, there is little more inspiring and powerful than these faithful, persistent believers, who keep loving, serving, hoping, and trusting through the lowest of valleys and the highest of peaks. In a world that is constantly pining after something extraordinary, a new movement, or a quick-fix, it is these steady saints who bear the most fruit and do the most good in the end.