by Mike Ratliff
1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. 9 But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; 10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. 11 But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped. (Psalm 63:1-11 ESV)
In yesterday’s post, “The Calves of Jeroboam,” I revealed my besetting sin of despondency, melancholia, and depression as I grew up which continued until God saved me in my mid thirties. Even after He saved me, I fell into despair for short periods of time as I struggled in the fires of sanctification. My depression was an expression of dissatisfaction with my circumstances. The root of bitterness was growing in me and resentment was continually present as I dealt with the ups and downs of life. These are symptoms of a heart in bondage to pride. After I was saved I heard a sermon once where the preacher stated, “Depression is nothing more than an internal temper tantrum.” That really got my attention. Over the first several months after God saved me, I was battling my tendency to express resentment when things were not going to suit me. The difference between then and how I was when I was lost was amazing. Before, I almost relished my right to be depressed or cast down. However, after God touched my heart, I knew it was wrong. After I heard that sermon, the Holy Spirit cemented that knowledge to my consciousness so that when I started going down the path of least resistance into resentment, anger, despondency, depression or melancholia I would realize that I was being self-absorbed and committing a great sin of idolatry of the heart.
I continued to struggle with this until 2004. As the New Year dawned I was given the task of starting a new Sunday School class at our church for young adult couples. This class had never existed before. I had to step out on faith by contacting a large number of couples by mail and phone who I had never met before; inviting them to the new class which started on the second Sunday of January 2004. I started to despair as doubt started growing in my heart. I knew I could teach the class, but I was not in any way convinced that I was capable of starting this from scratch. This drove me to prayer, lots of prayer. A funny thing happened as I spent more and more time with my Lord in prayer. I started getting a taste for just being with Him. As the weeks turned into months the class really took off, but the thing that really impacted me the most was that it seemed to me that my relationship with God became deeper and deeper each week. By May I had quit watching TV as my major pastime. Instead, I was reading good Christian books and listening to Christian music. By August I was not only having a very effectual prayer time in the morning before going to work, I was having a two or three hour devotional time each evening until bedtime. It was as if I could not get enough of being fed at my Lord’s table and drinking from His cup.
It was about the second week of August that God did something remarkable one evening as I was in the midst of writing in my prayer journal. I suddenly could not stop weeping. My Joy overflowed into tears. I was so joyful that I was positive that God Himself had entered my prayer closet to take me home to be with Him. My heart seemed ready to burst. I thought that I had died and was now in the Spirit for eternity. Then He let me back down into reality very softly. I wept for a while, but I did not tell anyone what had happened. I continued to simply seek Him in prayer and His Word. The uncontrollable weeping and extreme Joy happened a few other times, but there was not one thing I could do to make it happen. I learned very quickly that it was something entirely out of my control. Since that time I have had a few more instances of that and always after I was climbing out of a pit of despair as I repented from some sin. As I would fall on my face before my Lord in gratitude I would experience a level of Joy that is really hard to describe.
In late September of 2004 I became convinced that God wanted me to write a book about my incredible year of prayer. As I prayed and researched it, I was sure that that was what I should do. I started the outline on my birthday, October 6. By the second week in November I was ready to start writing. I wrote one very long chapter and quit because it just seemed to be becoming circular. Also, there was all sorts of things I was referencing that I had not written about yet. So I quit writing a few days before Thanksgiving. My daughter came to visit for the holiday. As I drove her to the airport afterwards, we talked about the book. She convinced me to get back to it. I started over. I decided to start with my testimony then present the gospel and why it was necessary. After I had completed those chapters I started writing chapters based on my own revival and restoration experience over the previous 11 months. I finished the manuscript the last week in January 2005. I sent it to one publisher who politely told me that they would get back to me. I knew God wanted me to write the book, but I was also pretty sure that the process of researching and writing it had been so rewarding that even if no one ever read it, it was enough. Then in the first week in March, the publisher told me that they were going to publish my book. The title of that book is Walking the Walk by Faith.
Now, why did I go into all of that? I did not do it to get you to buy my book. No, I did it to show you what happens when we get serious about our relationship with God. When we deny ourselves and what our flesh wants and, instead, seek Him, His presence, His wisdom, His knowledge, His love, His peace, His joy–Him–simply because we love Him, adore Him, and can’t get enough of Him then HE WILL respond. HE WILL draw near to us because we have drawn near to Him. As I look back on that incredible year of 2004 I know I also struggled much of the time with situations or circumstances that were tough, but I was in prayer, worship and devotion so much that all that seemed as nothing. I became convinced that most Christians are selling God far short. They are simply being religious while their God is continually drawing them to become Holy and to seek His face and presence. Most do their own thing instead. I find that tragic.
American Christianity is spiritually anemic at best, while most is apostate religiosity. Our faith is not one that is based on experience, but those who walk close with God will experience Him. Instead, our faith is one of believing God and obeying Him by being Spirit-led. As we seek Him and His will so we can obey Him, we do so from a position of personal holiness. God cleanses us as we repent and walk in belief. As we do this, we are changed. Our unbelief is eradicated and replaced with a supernatural belief. We are walking by faith, not by sight. When we do this do you think that God will simply leave us alone because we don’t need Him anymore? Forget that! The closer we walk with Him the more we need Him. The more we need Him and seek Him, the more we walk by faith. The more we walk by faith the more we hunger and thirst for His righteousness and, more importantly, we hunger for Him simply because He is our Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally. As we do this our love for Him will be all consuming. We will then find ourselves in pure worship, in spirit and truth.
I am convinced that God drew me into this understanding. He was the one drawing me to pray and seek His face as I studied His Word because I wanted to be close to Him and to know Him. Yes, we rejoice in the shadow of His wings, but it is a wonderful thing to realize that our worship is fully accepted by Him and is a pleasing aroma in His nostrils because we have become living sacrifices committed to His Glory Alone.
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