Dear Friends,

There is a disease in America that has reached epidemic proportion, affecting
millions of people in all spheres of society – young and old, rich and
poor, in every ethnic group. It is highly contagious and highly insidious, often
disguised and undetectable for years and often discovered too late to be cured.
The name of the disease is SPIRITUAL SLOTH and it is defined as: A spiritual
laziness that stems from a lack of valuing spiritual truth that requires effort
or sacrifice to pursue. It is not physical laziness or idleness but spiritual
sluggishness. In fact, it is often disguised under an admirable cloak of busyness.
Dorothy Sayers, a novelist and Christian apologist and a friend of C.S. Lewis
described sloth in her book The Other Six Deadly Sins this way:

“First, it is one of the favorite tricks of this sin to dissemble itself
under cover of a whiffling activity of body. We think that if we are busily
rushing about doing things, we cannot be suffering from Sloth. And besides,
violent activity seems to offer an escape from the horrors of Sloth. So the
other deadly sins hasten to provide a cloak for Sloth: Gluttony offers a whirl
of dancing, dining, sports, and dashing very fast from place to place to gape
at beauty-spots; which when we get to them, we defile them with vulgarity and
waste. Covetousness rakes us out of the bed at an early hour, in order that
we may put pep and hustle into our business; Envy sets us up to gossip and scandal,
to writing cantankerous letters to the papers and the unearthing of secrets
and the scavenging of dustbins; Wrath provides (very ingeniously) the argument
that the only fitting activity in a world so full of evil doers and evil demons
is to curse loudly and incessantly….”

In the parable of the talents, Jesus called the servant a “wicked and
slothful servant” (Matthew 25:26 KJV) not because he was sitting on his
duff but because he had not invested his time and energy into spiritual and
eternal things. Paul exhorts us to “Never be lacking in spiritual zeal
(or be slothful; KJV), but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord.”
(Romans 12:11) The writer of Hebrews says “We want each of you to show
this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do
not want you to become lazy (slothful; KJV) but to imitate those who through
faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:11-12)

Yet the cure for sloth does not begin with Christian activity. Even that can
cover over the real disease. The cure for sloth is to hunger and thirst for
God, for his righteousness, for his presence, for intimacy with him. We see
this modeled in the lives of David and Mary of Bethany and Paul. David echoes
this heart cry to know the Lord in many of his psalms:

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may
dwell in the house of the Lord (i.e., experience the presence of the Lord) all
the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in
his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O
God.” (Psalm 42:1)

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you..” (Psalm 63:1)

We see this passion in Mary of Bethany also as she sat at the feet of Jesus
and listened to what he said. (See Luke 10:38-42) When her sister Martha complained
to Jesus that she was doing all the work, Jesus told Martha that “only
one thing is needed and Mary has chosen what is better and it will
not be taken away from her.” Here we see a powerful truth spoken by God
himself, the Lord Jesus. That we as people need to sit at the Lord’s
feet in worship and that he considers this time of intimacy with him as a higher
priority than ministry for him. Jesus didn’t say that what Mary did was
a good thing or even the best thing but a needed thing. It is in these times
that the Lord fills our cup up with his love and power and instructions and
then we are enabled to serve him by serving others. Jesus says: “I am
the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will
bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Paul’s two questions after his radical conversion on the road to Damascus
also shows this pattern of intimacy before ministry. (See Acts 22:6-10) The
first question Paul asked Jesus is, “Who are you Lord?” Then he
asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” We see this again in Paul’s
letter to the Philippians. “I consider everything a loss compared to the
surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake
I have lost all things. I want to know Christ and the power of his
resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like
him in his death. But one thing I do…….” (Philippians
3: 8; 10; 13)

Look at the tremendous fruit from the lives of these three saints who all single-mindedly
pursued the Lord (“one thing” people). “For when David had
served God’s purposes in his own generation, he fell asleep.” (Acts
22:36) What a wonderful epitaph the Holy Spirit wrote about the fruit of David’s
ministry for the Lord. How would you like to have this on your tombstone? And
listen to what Jesus says about Mary of Bethany who poured out a pint of pure
nard perfume worth a year’s wages out of her extravagant love for Jesus
(See Mark 14:3-9 and John 12: 1-8): “I tell you the truth, wherever the
gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told, in
memory of her.” (Mark 14:9) And for two thousand years of church history,
all over the world, Mary’s extravagant act of love, which has been written
down by the Holy Spirit, has been told to us and millions of others as the gospels
are read and preached. And, what about Paul? “By the time of his martyrdom
in Rome in AD 67, Paul had helped to create a world-wide church in the space
of a mere thirty-seven years after the crucifixion of Christ.” (Who’s
Who in the Bible) Wow!!!

Jesus promises us something that so many of us are looking for in so many other
ways other than his simple instructions. He promises us satisfaction, fulfillment,
contentment. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled (satisfied; NASB).” (Matthew 5:6) “Hungering
is even easier that faith. Faith is finding but mere seeking overcomes sloth.
For seeking becomes finding, finding becomes joy and joy overcomes sloth.”
(Peter Kreeft) But, the key is to seek God first, not second or third
or when we can work him into our busy lives. “But seek first the kingdom
of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
(Matthew 6:33) It’s more acceptable among Christians to say that we are
simply too busy to seek the Lord with all our heart than it is to admit to our
selves and others that we really aren’t hungry and thirsty for God. If
this is true for you, simply confess it to the Lord and pray for grace to even
want to hunger for him. The book, other than the Bible, that has stirred my
hunger for the Lord and continues to do so (I have read it ten times) is Pursuit
of God
by A.W. Tozer. The prayers after each chapter alone will stir your
passion for God. In fact, the prayer after the first chapter would be a great
one to start with to arouse spiritual hunger and overcome this deadly sloth
and spiritual inertia. Let me close with this and a prayer for all of us to
simply, yet passionately, SEEK GOD FIRST!

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and
made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee;
I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show
me Thy glory, I pray Thee that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new
work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love , my fair one,
and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this
misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus name. Amen.”

In His Love,

Len and Kristen

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