When are you most satisfied with God?
I asked this question to one of the girls I am discipling over these next two months. It is a tough question to ask yourself, especially when you’re not sure how to maintain the relationship with Christ during a day filled with distractions. The students I am working with spend almost all day at ministry sites, evangelizing on the streets of Chicago, or listening to workshops and interviews with ministry workers; their focus is clear. But this kind of situation is not as common for the majority of us.
It’s like going to a retreat or a mission trip and feeling absolutely on fire for God while we’re there, only to come back feeling empty and lukewarm. God doesn’t seem as present as He was when we were in the midst of all the ministry and worship and prayer and people.
Why though? Is one true and the other false? And if so, which sensation is false– the “on fire” passion we felt momentarily, or this halfheartedness that consumes us when we get caught in our daily lives?
There is a true and present danger that can and will cause us terrible loss and pain if we are not deliberately fighting against it.
The danger is our own selves.
We come from a fallen family of sinners, and if we trust out own efforts and strength to live our Christian lives, we are guaranteed to experience failure and frustration rather than intimacy and satisfaction in God.
This is not a completely modern predicament, as Paul was writing to the Galations about this very same thing: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galations 3:3)
The truth is, human beings have been trying to go it on their own since Eden. We’re all just like the first humans, doing our own thing, thinking that we’ve got it totally under control.
We cannot enjoy all God desires for us if we live by our own self-centered desires.
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galations 5:17).
Perhaps we felt “on fire” for God because, unlike our usual life, we were putting our own selfishness on pause for a retreat or a mission trip or even a church service. Perhaps we don’t feel a connection to Christ afterwards because our own desires are replacing the desires that His Holy Spirit has for us.
Ah ha! The answer is yet again tied to the Holy Spirit. The third member in God’s Holy Trinity.
When we become a Christian, we receive the Holy Spirit, and we commit to walk an intimate journey which we can only walk successfully in the Spirit of Christ. When we walk with Him, we increasingly experience intimacy with God and enjoy all He has for us. When we walk in the Spirit, we have the ability to live a life that is pleasing to our God.
But… how do we live by the Spirit?
Although it may seem as though answering this question might be difficult, it actually is quite simple. Just about as simple as…. well, as simple as breathing!
Spiritual Breathing is a powerful picture that helps us experience moment-by-moment dependence upon God’s Holy Spirit.
Exhale: Confessing sins in the moment you become aware of it, agreeing with God concerning it, and thanking Him for His forgiveness. John 1:9 and Hebrews 10:1-25 explain that confession requires repentance, or a change in attitude and action, so this is a very real and yet symbolic way that we can acknowledge our own need for grace.
Inhale: Surrender control of your life to Christ, and rely upon the Holy Spirit to fill you with His presence and power. Allow God to put His plan for you above your own plan for yourself. Let your faith be bigger than any earthly desire you might have.
The act of simply breathing in the Holy Spirit can bring us back (if we let it) to God’s presence and power within us. For it is by the Spirit that we live the fullest life.