Two Essential Practices for Spiritual Vitality
Week 10 in the Word
The Bible contains much wisdom to ensure our spiritual vitality on life’s journey. This wisdom is like a caution light on a highway. One of my favorite caution lights is “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23 ESV). Long before King Solomon collected proverbs like that one, Moses told the Israelites to “keep your soul diligently” (Deuteronomy 4:9). What does it look like to keep your heart or soul with all diligence? Scripture gives two essential practices which we will consider here.
This past week we continued following the story of Israel in the wilderness. They struggled with rebellion, jealousy, complaining, idolatry, and immorality, but God persisted in showing them His unchanging wisdom, patience, and faithfulness. He granted them important victories as they got closer to Canaan. Did you see how many of their problems and failures mirror our own spiritual battles?
In Mark we saw Jesus’ glory revealed on the mount of Transfiguration in stark contrast to the pettiness and unbelief of His disciples. In much the same way as Moses and Solomon, Jesus warned them of how all sin and defilement originates in our hearts. This is a recurring theme in the Scripture and a caution light for us.
This week we will see this same caution light again pointed out by Moses to the Israelites in the wilderness and to the disciples by Jesus on the eve of His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Keep your heart! How many times do we need to hear this? So, it is a fair question to ask: “What does it look like to keep your heart with all diligence?”
There may be a long list of means by which we can keep our hearts, but there are two that will come out in our reading this week. These provide a foundation to spiritual vitality.
1. Maintain gratitude. The Israelites failed to do this over and over. One day they were delivered from Pharaoh’s army and the next they complained about the lack of food and water. When they had food, they got tired of it. Forgetting all their misery in Egyptian slavery, they conspired to abandon Moses and go back. They gossiped and gripped about Moses’ leadership. They doubted God’s power and became paralyzed by fear of giants in the land.
Where does this ungratefulness originate? Certainly, before it came out of their mouths it had to be conceived in their hearts. So, we are back to the problem of our hearts. That is the source of sin.
“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” wrote the Apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Should we give thanks if we don’t feel thankful? Believers know that it is better to do the right thing than the wrong thing no matter what our emotions feel. We walk by faith, not by sight. If that is true, then it is not only permissible to act righteously without feeling completely in sync with that action, but it is good to do the right thing while we wait for our emotions to catch up.
2. Forgive those who sin against you. This means to let go of grudges. Stop plotting to get even. We saw Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:33-35 that the basis for our forgiving others is the awareness of how much we have been forgiven. “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). In the same spirit, we also forgive because He has forgiven us. How can we demand that our debtors repay us when we have been absolved of all our guilt before the Holy God of the universe?
Often the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples instructs us in such things as keeping our hearts with all diligence. The Lord said that when we pray, we should say: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done…forgive us our debts as we forgive out debtors” (Matt. 6: 9,12 KJV). Does not the prayer for God’s name to be hallowed and His kingdom to come imply contentment in His wisdom and providence and gratitude for whatever He sends to us? To keep your heart, maintain gratitude and forgive others.
Tip of the week
God’s word will keep you from sin; or sin will keep you from God’s word.
Anticipate God’s guidance in keeping your heart. His Word will keep you from delusions about the true condition of your heart. The writer to the Hebrews says it clearly:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV). Trust God to use His word to guide you in keeping your heart.
If you do not have a copy of my book you may want to order one here. However, you may also access the daily audio recordings generously provided by my friend and pastor Charlie Evans below.
Week of March 5-11, 2021
March 5 /Day 64 Law and Grace: A Contrast (Numbers 34-36; Mark 10:32-52) Audio here. March 6/Day 65 The Grace of God to All Nations (Deuteronomy 1-2; Mark 11:1-19) Audio here. March 7/Day 66 Keeping Your Soul (Deuteronomy 3-4; Mark 11:20-33) Audio here. March 8/Day 67 Warning! Dangerous Road Ahead (Deuteronomy 5-7; Mark 12:1-27) Audio here. March 9/Day 68 Not Far from the Kingdom of God (Deuteronomy 8-10; Mark 12:28-44) Audio here. March 10/Day 69 Worship: True and Biblical (Deuteronomy 11-13; Mark 13:1-13) Audio here. March 11/Day 70 Watchfulness: Good and Bad (Deuteronomy 14-16; Mark 13:14-37) Audio here.
A Parting Thought: It is hard to complain while you are giving thanks. It is hard to hate after you have forgiven your enemies. Have a thankful, forgiveness-filled week!