When I am conscious - as opposed to wandering around in a frigid state of semi-hibernation - my more rational side says that I should eat less, exercise more.
Yes, I'd like to lose some of the insulation around my middle. But, if my bank of blubber is to be whittled away, I'm going to have to practice consistent moderation, "habitual temperance" (a phrase I learned last Wednesday night at church).
Instead, I want to find the latest miracle diet pill, blame my genetics, and complain about limited access to the gym. Maybe if I tried that herbal supplement my friend recommended...or if I played motivational CD's at night while I'm sleeping...or if I won a free holiday at The Biggest Loser health spa.
Losing weight is not rocket science: eat less and move more. That sounds so simple, so ordinary, doesn't it? Funny how sometimes it's the simplest things that are the hardest to do. We just want a plan that sounds more sensational, more exciting. Wouldn't we get better results if we wrapped ourselves in cellophane and stood outside on a moonless night waving lit sparklers?!
This reminds me of Naaman, the Syrian army commander mentioned in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a leper. He wanted very much to be cured of his leprosy. A maidservant of Naaman's wife told her mistress about the prophet Elisha, confident that Elisha could indeed cure Naaman.
But when Naaman was instructed by Elisha to go bathe in the Jordan River seven times, he was furious. Insulted. Stormed off in a rage. Had he traveled all this way with his servants and with loads of treasure to be told to do something as ridiculous as bathe in a dirty brown river? Were there not better rivers back in Naaman's homeland? Naaman wanted a sensational cure. He wanted Elisha to wave his hands and say a magic chant. Naaman wanted a bona fide miracle!
Naaman was only healed when he relinquished his desire for an exciting remedy and submitted instead to the very ordinary means Elisha prescribed for his healing. Naaman had to humble himself. In essence, he had to confess: "Not my will, but Thy will be done."
At the NW Tennessee Reformation Conference in Dyersburg a couple of weeks ago, David Strain spoke on the topic of revival. True spiritual revival is solely the work of the Spirit of God, and it is always accomplished on His terms. And God's way of accomplishing revival...well, it just doesn't seem very exciting.
We long for the abundant outpouring of God's Spirit on his people, but we want God to accomplish revival our way, on our terms. We want to have to do something exciting, sensational, extraordinary. Call in a famous evangelist. Revamp our worship music. Work ourselves into an emotional frenzy, like the prophets of Baal atop Mt. Carmel. We reprogram our entire corporate worship to be all about excitement and fun and Zing! Sadly, as Mr. Strain commented, this type of "revival" produces no real revival at all. Our methods produce no true conversions, and over time lead only to a church body that is starved and anemic.
God, on the other hand, calls us to do something very simple if we truly desire revival. God tells us to pray. From the Old Testament kingdom of Israel, to Pentecost, to the Great Awakening, to Charles Haddon Spurgeon's ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, the great mark of preparation for revival has always been persistent, urgent prayer for God's Spirit to bless. Why? Because prayer expresses our complete dependence upon the only One who can affect true revival.
As Mr. Strain stated, "When God intends great mercies for his people, the first thing he does is set them a-praying."
God ordains very ordinary means to accomplish the very extraordinary work of true, spiritual revival: prayer, the faithful preaching of the Word, the faithful administration of the sacraments.
But that's so simple, we protest. So boring! Wouldn't something more exciting be more effective? Like bringing in pro-wrestlers? Or hiring someone to parachute into the church parking lot?
Like Naaman when told to bathe in the Jordan, we are offended by the simplicity of God's commands to pray and to preach. We do not want to have to admit our utter dependence on God by submitting to his ordained means of kindling revival. Lord, we believe - help our unbelief!
Do you indeed desire revival in your own heart? In your local church? In your county? In our nation? Then hang up the phone - you do not need to book a gig with Bikers for Jesus. No, you must do something very ordinary instead.
Get on your knees and pray.
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer... - Acts 1:14a