46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2.46-47)
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, early Christians were on fire. They worshiped daily, shared meals bountifully, praised God delightfully, and built a reputation for loving each other and others with precious passion and compassion. They were filled with a spiritual fervor that knew no end.
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I have had such spiritual fervor. What has happened to my faith?
I went to church this morning, the first time in a long while. For various reasons, I have been absent from the pews much of the year. I have many excellent explanations, but no good excuses. My faith family has been patient with me. More than this, they persistently care in spite of it. People still stay in touch, frequently send texts or emails not to badger me about coming to church, but to ask how I am doing, let me know that they are praying for me, and offer to help in any way they can. No pressure. No guilt. Just checking in with a brother in Christ to express love and concern. As one sincerely expressed, “We are more concerned with how you are than where you are on Sunday morning.”
As I sat in the pew today, I thought of brothers in Christ who make a difference in my faith.
Some time ago. I asked a brother, Sam S., to serve as my prayer partner. We meet every two weeks to do a Bible study book. We share casual concerns, deep joys, and requests for discernment. I have shared with Sam specific spiritual concerns and he is intent to pray for me, particularly over the weekend, that I might be motivated to come to worship in the fellowship of saints.
Sam is the song leader at our church. His deep melodious sound rings out and surrounds the sanctuary with ancient Psalms, the songs Jesus sang, set to classic church tunes. When my soul is most troubled, I sometimes remain in my pew as people stand and, instead of singing along, streams of tears will flow down my cheeks as I hide my face in my Psalter.
Then there is Gary M, an elder. When I first visited Columbus Reformed Presbyterian (CRPC), Gary was quick to introduce himself and invite me to a weekly fellowship called the Grub-In. We would meet at Gary and his wife Cynthia’s home for food, study, song, and prayer. It meant so much to me when I was going through a separation and divorce to have another faith family I could depend on to pick me up when I was down and set me straight when I veered off course.
Pastor Andy M. is an unassuming man with an abiding faith and a gentle spirit. I have consulted him on a variety of issues, from marriage and divorce, finances, writing. I consistently find him to have an informed Biblical perspective which he shares humbly in the Spirit of truth and love.
Lately, I’ve come to know and appreciate Roger G. for his quiet support and kind encouragement. This morning he shared with me that he enjoyed my recent post on writing. It is such a blessing to know Roger and other men and women of faith are out there, reading things like this, smiling in recognition as if to say, “I get that.”
So, what has become of my faith?
I refuse to believe it is God’s fault. I am not angry at God for letting me down in some way. It is not the fault of the church. By and large, pastors and people in the pews are no more hypocritical than persons in the world who accuse them to be. I can’t blame it on the many distractions or worries; my illness is an inadequate explanation at best; I have no unresolved sin conflict in my life that would prevent me from presenting myself before God with a clear conscience.
What is it? Why have I lost my fervor for fellowship? My drive to worship? My passion for praise? What has become of my faith?
Perhaps the clearest explanation for my listless faith, why I don’t go to church for fellowship, worship, and praise, is the same reason I don’t go to the gym, go on nature walks, and eat what is good for my body. As Paul put it:
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
It isn’t so much that Paul engages in self-flagellation here. He simply recognizes that, try as he might, he isn’t doing what he most wants to do. What is best for him. What ultimately would help him feel the best — physically, emotionally, spiritually. More than this, on his own there is no way he can do what is healthy and holy.
But notice he doesn’t end with the war against his “flesh.” He affirms that there is hope.
Jesus Christ is our hope. Not the sort of hope that satisfies our every desire in this life. Not this kind of hope. But an even better hope. One that keeps us striving, struggling, seeking with unsatisfaction until we all come together, united in fellowship to sing praise to the One who alone is worthy of our worship.