Thursday, June 19, 2008

Watch out for slippage

I have been on a through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan since my seminary days, and it has benefitted me immensely. Most of the time, my daily Bible reading is like taking goes down easily, and I don't feel any immediate effects, event though I know it's doing me good over time. But sometimes, the Spirit reaches out to me through the pages of His Word and grabs me by the throat. I had one of those moments last night. I thought I'd share it with you.

I am in 2 Chronicles right now, and last night I read the story of a King of Judah named Asa, found in chapters 14-16. Asa was a good king (so good, he gets three chapters worth of ink!). He reversed the idolatry of his predecessors and brought spiritual revival to the land. He also led the Jews to resounding victory over an invading force of a million Ethiopian and Libyan soldiers, armed only with the power of God.

When Asa had been king for 36 years, the king of Israel invaded Judah. Asa responded by making a treaty with the king of Aram (Syria) to fight on his side. This did the trick--Israel retreated back to their place, and all was well. But a prophet approached king Asa and asked him, "Why didn't you trust God to help you this time? He gave you victory over a much bigger force when you were younger. Why now do you feel you need to turn to a pagan king?" Asa was so enraged at this impertinence, he had the prophet thrown into prison. His health later declined, and along with it, his faith in God. The Scripture tells us that in his last days, he refused even to pray about the pain he was experiencing.

This story hit me hard because I have a tendency to think that my own spiritual growth is a given at this point. I am old enough that the raging hormones and vain personal ambitions of my youth seem silly. I am aware of a new maturity and wisdom that I didn't previously possess. And so it would be very natural for me to relax in the area of spiritual discipline. But I must realize that the same thing that happened to Asa can happen to me. He did far more in his youth than I have, exercised far greater faith than I have ever been called to use. But later in life, his faith was weak.

I suppose the old preachers were right: Faith is like a muscle that grows weak with disuse. Let's not forget to exercise!

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