All of us have felt the tug of an old habit or former way of life. And I’m sure you’ve known the frustration it creates as you long for the familiar, even though it may be destructive or may lead you outside God’s will. At times, the challenge may seem too hard. Your old life beckons, tempting you with familiar sources of comfort.
Did you know that many Jewish Christians of the first century thought about returning to the Jewish faith? Some of Jesus’ teachings didn’t seem to line up with the teachings of the Jewish rabbis. Was Jesus really the Messiah? Did following him mean they had to give up their old, familiar forms of worship? Would it be wrong to go back to their old beliefs and traditions? Did it make sense to follow this new way when it led to harsh persecution?
The writer of the book of Hebrews addressed these concerns of the Jewish Christians. In this book, they are encouraged to hold onto their faith, to encourage one another and to look forward to Jesus’ return.
What old habits are haunting you? Addiction? Lust? Anger? Spiritual renewal requires that you seek God, surrender your life to Jesus Christ, and follow his ways. From time to time, you will almost certainly feel a temptation to return to your former ways of life. But God is more than able to help you overcome and empower you to grow.
One of the subtlest enemies of spiritual life and growth is the influence of other’s expectations of you. The world expects you to continually seek possessions and prestige. It expects you to fill your time with busy activity, whether meaningful or not.
Are you allowing the world’s expectations to dictate your life? How often do you act in order to please others rather than because you want to please God? Sometimes pleasing God may actually require that you disappoint others because you can’t fulfill their demands on you.
What do people expect of you? What do you do when the world’s demands are pressing in on you? Solitude can help you break free from other’s expectations. When you spend some time quietly alone you can see more clearly what the world is asking of you. In solitude you’re more able to evaluate these expectations in relation to God’s desires for you and to decide which demands should or should not be fulfilled.
Following one of the busiest days’and nights’of his ministry, the book of Mark tells us that Jesus ‘awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.’ Is your life busy? Are you feeling pressure from your work, your wife, your friends, or your kids? Follow the example of Jesus. Make solitude a priority in your life today. You’ll be better for it.
‘I really don’t know what’s wrong with me,’ said forty-two-year-old Tyrone to his counselor. ‘I’ve attained many of my personal and business goals. But I’m still breeding ulcers, trying to climb up the ladder. With all my success, I’m still bummed when someone else beats me to a big sale or a new account. I have a wonderful wife and two great kids, but I kind of feel like an outsider when I’m with them. I’m often around people and have lots of friends. But I don’t enjoy it, and I don’t think they’re really enjoying me. I’m afraid my dark moods are distancing me from the ones I love. But I don’t know what to do about it.’
Tyrone looks and acts like the American Dream personified. By all outward appearances he’s succeeded in the areas of life that really matter in our society: family, friends, career, and finance. But like so many men, Tyrone’s warm smile and confident exterior mask a deep sadness and uncertainty. He often wonders what’s really worthwhile in life. Despite all the trophies he’s accumulated indicating he’s a winner, he always feels defeated.
Can you relate to Tyrone? The pursuit of the American Dream has left many feeling alone and angry, because prosperity can’t be measured by money or even family. Who does the Bible teach is prosperous or blessed? Only when you seek to find joy in your Creator and not in His creation, will your soul begin to find significance and true happiness. Stop and assess where you seek your joy.