Too often, we present faith as the acceptance of theological distinctives, rather than the embrace of an eternal relationship. Sometimes we are more concerned with right thinking than right abiding. With this in mind, I’d like you to consider the condition of your relationship with Jesus. More specifically, what does your spiritual house look like? That home God has provided for you, that place of abiding with your creator, what does it look like?
Early on as a pastor, I often found myself frustrated with my effectiveness. I frequently felt like I was failing in my calling to be a fruitful minister of the gospel. Certain times felt worse than others, such as when I attended my denomination’s yearly gatherings. Although the events were meant to strengthen my faith and calling, I frequently became discouraged comparing my meager fruit to the superstars of faith that invariably inhabited the conference schedule.
At one conference, I felt particularly desperate for a word of encouragement. In fact, I came to the three day gathering determined that I would hear something from God that would help me with my current ministry assignment. By the final meeting of the final day, I realized I had not encountered one speaker strong enough to lift me out of my ministry pit. As the final closing prayer of the conference was finished, I sat alone three rows from the back of the auditorium, with my head down. As I sat there with my eyes closed, I resolved that I was not going to get up or open my eyes until God gave me a word.
It was at this moment God gave me a clear picture that changed much of my ministry motivation. While my eyes were closed, I saw myself running down a long, straight dirt road in the middle of what seemed to be an abandoned field and farm. There was an old run down, two story farm house about a quarter mile in front of me. As far as I could see, there was nothing surrounding the house but barren fields. There were no other houses or neighbors in sight. As I ran down this straight road toward the dilapidated farm house, the sun was slowly setting and the sky was beginning to darken.
I was frantic in my pace, desperate to get home before night fall. As I reached the house, I ran up onto the porch, opened the screen door and headed directly upstairs without looking to my right or left. At the top of the stairs, I opened the door to the first room on the right. In the corner of that room sat a small, spring bed with a tiny white mattress. I jumped in the bed, pulled the covers over my eyes, and immediately went to sleep. At that point, the vision ended.
After receiving the vision, I remained at my seat in the back of the conference room, with my eyes closed. I asked God to explain what I had just seen. His words were clear and direct. “That is your Spiritual house, Doug. Your Spiritual house is in ruins and you are afraid to be home. You spend all day working in other people’s houses and fields, only to end the day in your own house confused and afraid. I don’t want you to waste your time hiding in other people’s houses. I want you to spend time with me, in the home I prepared for you. The home where you and I can only abide.”
As I prayed, I began to see how so much of my religious life was rooted in avoiding intimacy with God. I loved to preach in front of people or talk with friends and family about God, but I was genuinely afraid to be alone with God. I didn’t know how to abide with Him in the depths of my heart. I didn’t know how to bring Him into the broken areas of my existence. So instead of working on my own Spiritual house, I had developed a spiritual life, full of religious activity. It was good activity, worthy activity, but none of it could take the place of intimacy with God.
Finally, after confronting the reality of my Spiritual house, I asked God what I needed to do. His words were simple, “Come downstairs and find me.” My mind went back to the vision. I saw myself get up out of the bed and slowly walk downstairs toward the front door. I opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. The sun had not yet set. In fact, it seemed rather bright. I looked to my right, and there I saw my Savior sitting on the porch swing. Jesus was sitting there waiting for me. I immediately knew that He had been waiting for me every single day of my life.
I walked over and reached out my hand. He grabbed my hand and I led Him through my front door. I asked Him where we should start, it all seemed so run down. He looked to the left, at the first room in the house and said, “Why not start here.”
God was gracious enough to remind me of my inheritance. He let me know that my faith was more than a journey, more than a testimony and far more than a calling. Rather, through the cross, God has given me eternal, abiding relationship with Him. In Jesus, I am more than just saved, I am home! I abide with God and God abides with me.
As a pastor, I certainly have theological principles that guide my behavior and practices. However, ultimately I am keenly aware of my theological limitations. Everyone has an opinion, some seem wiser than others. No matter how pristine my theology, it is still unable to embrace and love a troubled soul. This is why I keep coming back to the power of God’s presence. Ultimately, it is my sincere belief that people will only change when they encounter the resurrected presence of Christ. It is my sincere goal to live a life that somehow reflects, emanates and makes room for the abiding presence of God. As best I know how, I am trying to live a life that makes room for the presence of God. In other words, I’m learning how to abide in my Father’s house.