I think you’d agree that in the Fall of 2020 in America, we could all use more love. We could use more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (especially on social media). Wouldn’t more of all of these be beneficial to all of us? These adjectives hopefully sound familiar since they are the fruits of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23.
As Canon for Congregational Health (another way to say “church revitalization”) for the Gulf Atlantic Diocese and Director for Church Revitalization at the American Anglican Council, I have been a part of discussions preparing for our annual synod. The Synod theme verse is, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation” (Ps. 85:4 ESV). As I reflect on this verse, it seems obvious that much in our society and in our churches needs to be restored, but both restorations start first with the restoration of our own hearts and souls. If we want to see those fruits of the Spirit experienced around us, we must first make sure we are experiencing them in us. In Galatians 5:25, we are told how to experience the fruits of the Spirit more. It says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (ESV). Another way of saying that would be, if you are a born-again follower of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirt, then do life with Him. Do life with God.
Many are appropriately pointing others to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-29 during these troubled times. Most of us are weary and burdened and long to have our souls restored. In that passage, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (NIV). Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Come to church,” or “Come to a Bible Study,” or “Come to financial security,” or “Come to life’s circumstances being back to normal” in order to find rest for your souls. These things, especially church, can bring us rest and are not bad things, but our rest finds its home primarily in him. It’s in and with him that we restore our souls. It’s in being yoked to him that we learn to live life with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in this wearisome world.
To take up Jesus’ yoke is yet another way of saying to keep in step with him, or to do life with God. I once heard Dallas Willard describe his experience of growing up on a farm and watching horses being yoked together. He described how a young horse would be yoked to an older horse. The young horse would pull ahead with all its energy and the older horse would resist and just keep its steady pace. The young horse, becoming weary, would start to drag behind, but again, the older horse would resist and just keep its own steady pace. Finally, Willard said, the young horse would figure out that if it just kept in step with the older horse, it would go well for him. In this way, when we try to do life apart from God, even as a believer, we find our souls out of sorts. But if we keep in step with Jesus, learn from him, and do life with him, we will find rest for our souls.
How is your soul this Fall 2020? Could it use some restoring? Let me suggest you do your life with God. Do everything you do with God. Jesus didn’t come, die, rise again, and ascend into Heaven just to leave you to do life on our own until you die, or he returns. He sent the promised Holy Spirit so he can dwell within you. He wants to do life with you. The one who said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV), is the same one who wants to do every aspect of life with you through the Holy Spirit. Praise be to God! What a treasure! Whata refuge!
The real question is, do you want to take the time to invite him into every aspect of your life to do life with him? He stands at the door and knocks wanting to come in. If doing life more with God sounds appealing to you at this time, may I commend to you as a spiritual disciple the reading of Colossians 3:1-17 every day for the next month (or maybe through the election)? And as you read that passage, pray and put into practice verse 17 which says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (ESV).
That’s doing life with God.