I had two encounters last week with people of separate backgrounds that got me thinking about growth in the Lord. One is a Christian worker that I have known for a long time; the other is someone I just met who is not yet a Christian. One was a practical conversation; the other was theoretical. However both played together in my mind to formulate a response to the question: how to restore the joy of your salvation.
How Do I Regain That Sweet Spot with the Lord?
In the first conversation my friend shared how he went on a mission trip many years ago. There was one morning on this trip where he spent some time alone with God and felt an overwhelming awareness of being right with God. He felt he was doing what God called him to do, he was seeing God come through for him, and he sense he was in the “sweet spot” with God.
The years following he went into full-time Christian service, he got married and had kids, but he no longer felt that same “sweet spot.” He was not in sin, he was doing good work, but he knew it was not the same joy as earlier in his walk with Jesus. Was it because Christianity had now become more of a job? Was it because there were more expectations of him getting it right? Was it because he had more responsibilities to consider? Why was it different now? He was asking, “how do I get back to the ‘sweet spot?’ How do I restore the joy of my salvation?”
Is it Really Faith if God Gives You Proof?
In the second conversation this new friend had heard that Christians promoted an importance of faith, but he didn’t understand faith. He thought you couldn’t have true faith if you have proof, but if faith were to work and God came through, wouldn’t that be proof and then take away from your faith?
While I’m sure that some of you may have great, simple answers to this, God caught my attention. I find in times like this it is best to try to listen to the Holy Spirit about what the person is really trying to communicate, or hear what God may be trying to say to me. This particular conversation led me to hear what God was saying to me.
My Recent Experience of God Coming Through for Me
My answer to him was based on a recent experience. Since being in China my wife and I felt God wanted us to start a family for teenage orphan girls who have aged out of the orphanage system. We felt that God wanted us to do this by having a farm as it gave a lot of space to house more girls. After being here eight months, our oldest daughter had a dream that a foreigner would give us a farm. While we felt this was from God, we didn’t know how to go about finding such a person, or how to ask him/her to give us their farm.
This past March our intern was telling a man about our dream and what we were starting, and this man immediately offered us his farm. Over the last few months we have been getting the place ready to receive the teenage orphan girls to live and to train them in job skills. (To be encouraged by more stories like this, please sign up for our monthly updates about what we are doing in China on JosiahsCovenant.com.)
When I shared this story with this new friend, I shared that while God came through so to speak, we still needed faith to believe that it was Him that provided for us. This story would probably not convince you about God, but it does strengthen our faith that He rewards those that come to Him (Hebrews 11:6). This example was not supposed to be the last word of my faith, but to encourage me to keep pressing on.
What Did God Speak to Me Through This?
I mentioned that this second conversation was more of something God wanted to say to me. He did, and it relates to the first conversation. God “rewards” our faith at one level, but once we experience that reward, the level of faith for God to do that again is not the same. My new friend asked me whether “God coming through” reduces the impact of the faith. While I don’t think it reduces the impact of the faith up to that point, I do think God wants us to stretch ourselves to new levels of faith afterwards. “God coming through” is an invitation for believing God for more.
Most of us at some point in our walk with God had a nervous experience first trusting God with giving our tithes and offerings. We are just taking God at His word to believe He will provide in a new ways as we give our money nervously waiting to see if God will “coming through.” Having gone through this experience, tithing now doesn’t offer the same kind of faith.
God Wants Us to Grow in Our Faith
God is infinite. There is no limit to His provisions and kindness for us. He wants us to continue to grow in our levels of faith. One season’s breakthrough is the next season’s starting place. Faith is pleasing to God, so He continues to woe us to deeper levels of us trusting in His goodness because He wants us to know He is infinitely good.
Our natural tendency is to look for comfortable places. Living by faith stretches us and can tire us out. But, if we stop growing in our faith, we will stop putting ourselves in places for God to come through. And then, we live our lives as if we don’t need God. This lifestyle leads us to become formulaic with our faith to take out risk – plus formulas are much easier to teach.
How Do I Restore the Joy of My Salvation?
If formulas are not the answer, how do we restore the joy of our salvation? The best answer I can give you is what my friend got when he prayed about it: abide in Jesus. I know this sounds cliché or simple, but it is easier said than done. If Jesus goes into some new and unexplored territories, you will need to follow Him to abide in Him. In the Gospels, He walked on water, He paid taxes with money found in fish, He walked through people trying to throw Him off a cliff, He touched people’s sickness that was highly contagious, He allowed Himself to be tortured and killed in order to bring us to God. Are we willing to follow Him into these areas?
Do we want the joy of our salvation? Then we need to give up the formulas that we feel earn us the right to God’s pleasure. There is one thing God wants of us, and that is to be close to Him. And, there is one way God knows for us to be close to Him, and that is abiding in Jesus. As we experience more of Jesus, let us take those moments to thrust us into even more of Jesus. That is how we can restore the joy of our salvation.