Renowned preacher Vance Havner once told the story of a writer who knew an elderly lady who loved to give her testimony in church. The lady would always begin by saying, “Forty years ago…” After hearing her do that many times, the writer said, “I felt like asking her, ‘Lady, hasn’t anything happened since?'” Havner then played off the illustration to say:
We thank God for the happy day that fixed our choice on Him our Savior and our God, but there should be more happy days all along. Christian lives sometimes become like some married lives – they get to where there is nothing left but anniversaries.
Let me ask you something: What is your spiritual condition right now? How is your faith in Christ? How is your trust in Him? How is your confidence in Him? Have you recently been overjoyed about the way He is running the universe? Or do you currently find yourself somehow disappointed in Him, perhaps even mad at Him? Have you seen some prayer requests met recently? Or has it been a while? Are you happy serving Christ lately? Or has it become like clocking in for work?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: There have been various times in my life when I could have answered each question on that list with, “Yes.” Sure, I’ve known mountaintop experiences with Jesus, but I’ve also known some valleys. There have been times when serving Him was the greatest passion of my life, but there have been other times when I was hurt at Him, disappointed in Him, and (I’ll admit it) downright ticked off at Him. I’ve seen prayer requests answered the very next day after I made them, but I’ve also seen seasons when my prayer life didn’t seem to have any effect at all upon my daily life. And my guess is, if we would be truthful, all that makes me normal.
One thing I don’t do, though, is dwell on spiritual anniversaries. Even though I remember the day I got saved, I don’t remember the exact date. Even though I remember the evening I got baptized, I don’t know that exact date either. Even though I remember the time of my life when the Lord called me to preach, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I yielded to that call. Rather than dwell on what happened umpteen years ago, I just get up each day and do my best to fully submit myself to Jesus afresh and anew that day.
I once met with the pulpit committee of a church that is located on the North Carolina coast. I saw their pastoral vacancy in an online ad, submitted my resume, and made the cut down to their last three candidates from a stack of resumes. At that point, their pulpit committee asked me to drive down to Denver, NC, and meet with them in the conference room of a hotel.
The interview went fine as those things go, but in the end the committee chose another candidate over me. That stung a little, but it wasn’t the first time I had been turned down by a pulpit committee. However, the one thing I remember the most about that meeting was a question one of those fellows asked me as a part of the interview. He asked, “How would you describe your walk with the Lord these days?”
I’ve gotta tell you, that question struck me like a harpoon that day. It did so because at that particular moment in my life I was still reeling from a time when the Lord had allowed a certain group of men to perpetrate some evil stuff on my oldest son, Ryan, in the realm of athletics. I’m not talking about physical abuse or anything like that; I’m talking about emotional, mental, and psychological abuse. I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice is to say that it had been by far the worst experience of Ryan’s young life. And what had made it all the worse had been the fact that during it all Tonya and I had begged the Lord each day to deal with those men and right their wrongdoing. He simply hadn’t done it, though, and that had really hurt our faith, trust, and confidence in Him. So, I was still trying to process all of that when I drove down to Denver that day and had that man ask me out of the clear blue, “How would you describe your walk with the Lord these days?”
Now, I could have painted some glowing, flowery picture about the awesome times that the Lord and I had recently been having, but that would have been a lie. So, I just gave the man an honest answer. I started out with something like, “Well, right now I am coming out of the hardest time that I’ve ever had in my walk with the Lord.” Then I went from there. Did my answer cost me the opportunity to pastor that church? Possibly. Then again, I’d like to think that a pulpit committee member insightful enough to ask such a probing question was appreciative of an answer that was obviously genuine.
Anyway, my purpose in writing this post is to motivate you to set aside some time to do a thorough spiritual assessment of where you are with Jesus Christ right now. Ask yourself, “What is my spiritual condition at this very moment?” You see, what I’m doing is playing the role in your life that pulpit committee member once played in mine. I’m looking you squarely between the eyes and asking, “How would you describe your walk with the Lord these days?”
Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that if you will drop your guard long enough to be REAL about your answer, you will then be able to talk things over with the Lord in prayer and thus take your prayer life to a much deeper level. Never forget that the Lord doesn’t want anything fake from you, and whatever difficult conversations you need to have with Him, He is more than willing to have them. I’m not saying those prayers will be pleasant and leave you feeling like you’re ready to take on the world, but I am saying they will keep your walk with the Lord authentic and fresh. Most importantly, they will keep you moving with Him, and that’s infinitely better than becoming locked in place concerning some experience (either a good one or a bad one) that happened to you way back there sometime in your past.