I can’t remember how many times I’ve been in a small group and when prayer requests come up, somebody’s request (a lot of times, mine) is,
“Pray that God would help me be more consistent.”
Different people mean it in different contexts, but usually the main idea is the main idea: I want to more regularly be a noticeable disciple of Jesus Christ.
For new Christians, this often means “I want to read my Bible more often and develop a prayer life.”
In different situations it manifests itself differently–sometimes we ask God to help us love a difficult person. Sometimes we ask God to help us work harder in school or at work. For guys this sometimes means that we want to change what we look at on a regular basis (yes, I’m talking about pornography.) Perhaps we have a way of coping with stress, or a fallback way to kill our time (for a lot of people, this is how watching TV becomes a regular occurrance.)
And at some point or another, most if not all believers come to the end of their rope.
“God, I want to be more consistent.”
I found myself saying this the other day, because something had happened at work that made me upset, and I said, “God, I want to be more consistent about not complaining.” That’s when I realized my number one problem with the word “consistency”…
As a sports fan, “consistency” implies performance. (and yes, it’s easy for me to think of life in the context of sports which you may know if you read my blog about Jesus and competition.) It means that every time that you hit the diamond, basketball court, or football field, you’re giving 100%, bringing your A-game. So when I think about it that way, I am frequently asking God to help me bring my A-game to life. Now, to an extent, this is a good desire. But my thesis here, and my segue into a grace-filled perspective is that if my A-game is why I don’t complain that I don’t get to change jobs at work, or if my A-game is why I’m able to treat people with respect and love, then at some point I’m bound to regress to the “mean,” which as a man in a physical body, is a mean of complaining, coping with stress in unhealthy ways, and doing my own thing.
But the gospel, as it usually does, provides another way of dealing with all of this. The gospel invites us to death.
A suitable alternative to the phrase, “I want to be more consistent” is the prayer, “I want to die.” I’m not talking about being suicidal, I’m talking about surrendering areas in our life to God. But if it helps you to think of it this way, your new nature as a believer in Jesus Christ is inclined to do God-things, and that’s why sin is so very bothersome. So the stuff that you so badly want to die to are the things that drive you so crazy that you want to die.
The nice thing about death is that Jesus died a death to sin once and for all. in being hidden in Christ we are able to not sin. Yes, you’re able to not sin. You still have to choose not to, but you’re able to not sin. (see a pattern here?)
my encouragement both to myself as well as to anyone reading this is to ask God to help you/me/us to die to certain things. If you want to read the Bible more, ask God to help you die to your desire to kill your time other ways. If you want to work harder at your job, ask God to help you die to your own “rights” or whatever it is that makes you not want to work hard as it is. in Jesus’ death to sin you can find your own death to sin. That’s my encouragement to you.