In the quiet places

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

(2 Peter 1.3&4)

In a way, it is so very simple – a walk in the park, as some might say! As believers in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, growing in knowledge of him, we receive from God the power to live godly lives, participating in the very nature of God himself. It sounds so easy, and straightforward, and gloriously complete – we receive ‘everything we need’. So why does my life not speak more clearly of God’s love and glory, why do I fall into despair, doubt, self-pity and resentment so readily? I have been a follower of Jesus for over 3 decades and was raised in a christian home, surely by now I should not be falling into these traps!

There are two things to be wary of here. The first is the temptation to fall into sin by comparing myself to others, or to some imagined standard which I ought by now to have obtained. I believe this is indeed a sin, and the work of the devil in effectively turning my attention firmly back to myself and away from Jesus. I refuse to trust my own assessment of the state of my soul, and when I find myself falling into this trap, I return to such glorious promises as Paul gave the church in Philippi , where he affirms his confidence that God “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The only important thing to cling to is that one day, God will be finished, and it is His business to know when that is!

The other trap is to be so preoccupied by my shortcomings and sins, that I fail to recognise the sensitivity of my spirit as a healthy sign! It is only as we grow in knowledge of the beauty and perfection of Jesus as God is revealed to us through him, that we become increasingly aware of the blight and poison of sin. So although I am saddened by my sins, yet I can also give thanks to God that I am more aware of them and more than ever dependent on his forgiveness and mercy.

In this sense, it is our knowledge of Jesus which does indeed give us all we need for life and godliness. Through understanding what he accomplished for us on the cross, we learn that sin truly has no more power over us, and we are free from its dominion. It can mar, but not destroy, and while we will strive against it as long as we dwell in these bodies, yet in Christ we are victorious over it. Our knowledge of the riches which we have in Christ, as beloved children of the God of heaven, sets us free from coveting the things of this world and this life, free to give and not count the cost, to spend our lives in loving and serving.

But what does this transforming knowledge look like in the mess and noise of daily life? There is no opportunity in the middle of a crisis, or a manic day at the office, to go and find it, no time to sit and meditate on a psalm to bring about a calm frame of mind! I believe very strongly that we must take the opportunities of the quiet times and places to build up our knowledge of and relationship with Jesus, so that our thoughts and reactions begin to mirror him instinctively. Do I make full use of the ‘means of grace’ as they are sometimes called – of the teaching of the word at my church; of bible study with friends; of prayer (alone and with others); of the sacrament of communion? Do I chose to use my free time for God, putting myself in his presence and meditating on his word? To fail to do so, is like an athlete who enrols for a marathon and then fails to do the training and wonders why she fails to complete the race.

I am certainly not saying that we can ever be sufficiently prepared so that every trial and test finds us unshakeable! But I do need to challenge myself to fully embrace my quiet places and times as opportunities to pursue deeper knowledge of Christ and sweeter fellowship with him. May our gracious God grant me the hunger and the discipline I need!

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