Have you ever heard of “Sea-Monkeys®”? Sea-Monkeys can exist in suspended animation for up to fifty years. Just add water to their crystals and they come to life. In fact, when Harold von Braunhut first marketed Sea-Monkeys, he called the product “Instant Life” because they would immediately respond to water and come to life. Sea-Monkeys can live up to two years and received their name because their behavior (not their appearance) was “monkey” like.
Many Christians expect following Jesus to be “instant life”. They expect that praying a prayer or doing some spiritual exercises should be enough to produce spiritual maturity. Just add water and presto, instant maturity!
But the Christian life doesn’t work like that. While we may experience significant growth when we initially choose to follow Jesus and may have other moments of notable progress at a retreat at specific junctures of life; the reality is that a life following Jesus is lived out day-by-day, moment-by-moment over a lifetime. Not even the Apostle Paul would claim he had gotten it all together. He wrote to the church in Philippi:
12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way…
A few years ago, I was frustrated with the progress – or lack thereof – I’d made in my walk with Jesus. It was discouraging to think that most my struggles were in areas I had struggled with for many years. I couldn’t help but wonder when was God going to transform me more into Jesus’ image? Was it something I had to wait until heaven to see? But Peter wrote that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
I realized that much of why I wasn’t experiencing God’s transforming power was not because it wasn’t available, but I was making choices that prevented me from opening my life to it. Two of the biggest culprits were busyness and tiredness. When I am busy I don’t take the time to notice and wonder at God all around me. I’m so focused on the task at hand that I’m not sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings or to the beauty of God’s creation. When I’m busy, it’s hard to pay attention to the God who is everywhere and is always speaking. In the same way, when I’m tired I miss a lot. I tend to be irritable and cranky. I tend to get impatient or defensive – especially with my wife and children. Instead of seeing the “bumps in the road” as opportunities, I’m much more apt to see them as obstacles.
Another thing that can disrupt my pursuit of God is my friendships. Some friends have such a cynical view of the world that much time spent with them can drag me down. Others complain about everything. A few are sarcastic and cutting. Instead of inspiring me to live passionately for Jesus, they invite me to the status quo; to settle; to not “rock the boat”. If I’m not careful, I find that too much time with friends like this can disrupt my hunger for Jesus.
Electronic media like the television and computer are ok in small doses, but in larger quantities they deaden my soul and cause me to disengage from the world around me. Where a book and people engage me and invite me to imagine and create, electronic media can do the thinking and engaging for me and lull me to sleep. This is not to say they always do that, but that how much and what kind of things I look at is important.
I discovered – and am still discovering – that I need to be intentional about my choices if I want to seriously seek after Jesus. I need to protect my schedule so that I have enough time for prayer and Bible study. I need to slow down, when I can, to pay attention to what God is doing in and around me throughout the day. I need to be intentional to get enough sleep and to make sure I’m resting well.
I need to be intentional about my friendships. I love times with friends having deep, soul-stirring conversations. I need to make more time for people – soul friends – with whom I can engage in deep fellowship. There are times when I need to detach myself from the laptop or turn off the TV or whatever it might be.
What are things that awaken your spirit to God all around you? How do you intentionally choose to open yourself to God so that his Spirit has access to your innermost being and his power can transform you?
It would be great if the spiritual life was like the life of a Sea-Monkey – just add water! But in reality, we must intentionally choose day-in and day-out to seek after God. We need to join with Paul by forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [pressing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!