First of all, it is encouraging to know that God is pleased by the prayers of the righteous, and He hears the prayers of the righteous:
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
9 The LORD detests the way of the wicked
but he loves those who pursue righteousness. ...
26 The LORD detests the thoughts of the wicked,
but those of the pure are pleasing to him. ...
29 The LORD is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
So, the natural question is: How do I become righteous? Of course, it begins with faith in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation and giving Him complete control of your life. It's the daily process of seeking Him, finding Him, learning Him, and applying Him through which He produces righteousness in your life and makes you righteous. I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (verse 21 is one of the most astounding verses in the whole Bible!):
Second, I am really blessed to have family and friends that pray for me and encourage me. I was so encouraged by the comments from my wife, mom and dad, Nate, Mike, Houser, and others in response to my expression of frustration in my blog yesterday. There were several relevant points that addressed my frustration, but I thing the most fundamental point was this: I am the limiting factor on my growth.
Q: What is the point of life?
A: To glorify God.
Q: How is God glorified?
A: By expressing Himself through His creation. In particular, He made humans in a semi-infinite way that we can have a relationship with Him; He can live in us and accomplish His will through us.
Q: Why doesn't God do that faster?
A: Because there is still a lot of junk in my life (most of which I am not even aware of) that, to be honest, my self desires more than God. He is patiently revealing those "idols" to me and leading me to forsake each one so that I can love and enjoy Him more. He could just smash all of the "idols" in my life so that He is the only thing left in my life that I desire, but He is gentle and patient - He does not operate that way.
Mike gave the analogy that this time on earth is Christ's "courtship" with the Church, and one day we will be "married" and celebrate the marriage feast forever. We are in a process of learning Him and learning to love and obey Him.
Houser gave an interesting analogy along the same lines. He said, "I could start teaching my son how to drive, and when He is three years old, he might possibly be able to drive a vehicle. But, you know, it might be better for Him to play in the sandbox." Now, Houser was not suggesting that we shouldn't pursue learning and growing in Christ, he was simply saying that we should enjoy where God has us and seek His will above our own. It's not about doing a bunch of stuff so that we can "help God out", it is about cooperating with God according to His agenda and timetable. It is about enjoying Christ in the midst of our life experiences.
To refer back to the chemistry example, I realize that sanctification really is more like redox reactions than acid-base reactions. It's like my mind is a chunk of solid iron, and God is rusting away the hardness of wickedness (i.e., iron) that is in me. It is such a slow process that it takes decades for Him to accomplish.
Another way of looking at it is the mass-transport of contaminants out of air (which represents me, because Scripture says we are like a breath, a vapor) by bubbling it through clean water (that is Christ, the Living Water). In this example, the mass-transport is clearly limited by the gas-phase transport - how fast I will give up the contaminants in my life. There are several factors that might aid the transport: gas temperature (which is why God allows us to go through the hot crucible of trials and testing), gas/liquid contact time (how much time I spend reading the Scriptures, praying, and worshiping Him), and bubble size (smaller bubbles have a greater surface area to volume ratio, which is analogous to how much I open myself up to be "treated" by the Living Water as I'm reading my Bible and fellowshipping with other Believers).
So, here's my plan:
- Enjoy Christ now, in every aspect of my life. I will enjoy Christ with my wife, enjoy Christ as I study my Bible, enjoy Christ as I teach Bible Study, enjoy Christ as I work at school, and enjoy Christ as I spend time with friends.
- Ask Him to show me what "idol" I need to get rid of next.
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for speaking to me through your Word and through fellow Believers. Thank you for answering my sincere prayer yesterday and humbling me by revealing to me that I need to change,.that I am the rate-limiting step, and that you have a plan and a schedule for my life. Father, I realize that I don't really even know what it means to pursue you or to love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I realize that I don't really even know what it means when I ask you to grow me, but I do know that I want it. I want to want you more. I want to pursue righteousness. Father, I confess that I am shallow and fickle, and that as soon as you lead me into a trial or test to grow me, I will probably begin to complain, but God would you do it anyway. Please be patient with me. I am so immature, and I have such a long way to go - an infinite distance to travel - to "become your righteousness". Father, please show me what idol I need to get rid of next. Father, I know that you will accomplish your plan in me. Thank you. Please lead me to be satisfied with you only. Please teach me to be satisfied in you. May I enjoy you always. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.