“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
Lewis is describing the human condition. We always tend to settle for what we think is best rather than embracing what God knows is best. Perhaps our half-heartedness is found more in our trust of God, and that is the reason we are typically satisfied with a lesser existence. We’re just not sure he truly does have our best interests in mind.
When the Israelites were going into Canaan, the Promised Land, they were told to rid the land of all the pagan peoples living there. At first, they faithfully did that, but, as the years went by, they began allowing certain peoples to remain. First, it was the Jebusites, and then it was the Canaanites. The Scriptures say that they “could not” and “would not” dislodge these nations. It wasn’t long before these decisions led to the Israelites’ faith being compromised by the worship of other gods, the very gods of the peoples they did not remove.
Our half-heartedness shows itself in the “can’ts” and “won’ts” of our lives. Though the Word of God calls on us to pray, many of us believe we can’t pray because we don’t know how, or we just won’t make the time to do so. The Scriptures call on us to be generous with our money toward the church and others in need, but many of us believe we can’t be generous because of our lack of resources, or we just aren’t willing because of other fiscal priorities. We’re called to forgive others, but many of us say we can’t because we have just been hurt too deeply, or we won’t because it is unjust and the person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.
These can’ts and won’ts reveal our distrust in God’s commands. We settle for less because we have no experience with what is better and we trust our own wisdom more than we do God’s. The end result is, like the Israelites, we end up experiencing far less than what the Lord has promised us.
Jesus told a story about a great banquet. A man sent his servant out to invite people to a great banquet he had planned; however, the servant came back unsuccessful in his endeavor. Each person he invited had an excuse for why he could not attend. One had just bought a field and had to attend to it. Another had just purchased five oxen which he was anxious to try out. Yet another informed the servant that he had recently married and would be unable to attend. All were polite; there was no rudeness. They just had things they would rather do.
Isn’t that how we often are? It is not like we are angry or obstinate in declining God’s blessings for us. Rather, we are more indifferent. It’s as if we have two equal choices and we merely choose the one over the other. We’re half-hearted.
I have been that way, choosing my own desires over the Lord’s, not because I was necessarily passionate about them, but rather because I was more comfortable with them. They were familiar and appeared less risky because they were known, like continuing to play in the mud because I know nothing about holidays at the beach. More than a year ago, the Lord impressed upon me his desire for me to go sit on campus with a sign reading, “Free Prayer.” It was to me an odd request and far out of my comfort zone; thus, I resisted it. Actually, I politely declined his invitation.
Then, last August, while listening to a message by Francis Chan about taking up our cross, the Lord once again impressed upon me his desire for me to go onto campus and offer free prayer to anyone willing to ask for it. So, I bought one of those signs that stick in the ground; my wife drew the letters spelling “FREE PRAYER,” and I headed up to campus. I was quite anxious, but excited at the same time to be doing what I knew the Lord wanted me to do. I sat with my sign saying nothing and merely making eye contact with students as they walked by. That first time, I had three stop and ask for prayer. The next week, only one. But after that, I had an average of three to four students stop during my two hours there. Others didn’t stop but gave me a thumbs-up or a smile as they walked by. Some would shout words of appreciation. I even had one student bring me a cup of coffee to help me keep warm on a cold day!
I have continued to do this every Monday for two hours and I can tell you it is the highlight of my week. Recently, I had ten students come by asking me to pray for them! My obedience to the Lord’s leading has led me from being half-hearted towards the idea to being wholly enthusiastic about the blessings I have received from doing it.
I believe that is where a lot of us are. We have grown comfortable with choosing what is known to us, and politely decline what greater things the Lord has for us because of their unfamiliarity. And we miss out on great blessings. His invitations to join him may be unfamiliar to us, but that is no reason to decline them. We can trust that whatever it is he wants us to do will end up being so much more fulfilling than we could imagine. When we are obedient, people see our faithfulness—our friends, our children, and our grandchildren—and it’s contagious. But so is our half-heartedness. We can pass that along as well to those around us.
I believe that is why so often our Christian lives have little impact on those around us. We follow Jesus half-heartedly. He is inviting us to partake in so much more than we can imagine, things in which we will be blessed and through which we will be transformed. Yet, we politely decline, and we miss out. If we will trust the Lord, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of playing in the mud, we can enjoy life by the sea.
© Jim Musser 2020