Bob’s study just keeps getting better and better! Writing about spiritual violence late at night was not my best idea. *giggle* It’s going to take me some time to wind down before I can get to sleep because this is some powerful stuff! We’ve spent the last week (re-)committing to a serious pursuit of revitalizing our relationship with God through spending the first 15 minutes of our day in our secret place with Him. Today, we are kicking it up a notch. It’s time to get violent!
If you missed any of the earlier posts, take this time to catch up before continuing:
NOTE: I’m basing this challenge on my friend Bob Sorge’s book “Secrets of the Secret Place,” if you’d like to follow along. I bought this book the first night I met and heard Bob speak, and it was a real blessing at a time I was struggling to get back into a daily morning prayer and Bible-reading time. I highly encourage you to buy your own copy today. I promise it will be one of the best investments you make. (Buy it here now. It’s on sale!)
I believe we live in the times of “birthing pains;” precursors to the end of the age (Matthew 24:3-8). And while we can never take today for granted, I don’t think we live in full understanding of how short our time is here before Jesus’ return (the Rapture). If we did, we would be pursuing God – and sharing our faith – with a “spiritual violence” not seen since the early Church!
The notion of spiritual violence is not new. Jesus talked about it approximately 1 year after His baptism.
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. – Matthew 11:12 NIV, c.1973
From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it. – Matthew 11:12 NET
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. – Matthew 11:12 NKJV
Whichever version you look at, Jesus was clear that Kingdom work is violent stuff….and He requires forceful men to do it. After all, it’s a matter of life or death; eternal Life or death, to be precise!
God Rewards Intensity
In addition to the urgency of the gospel message in light of end times, there’s another motivation for spiritual violence: heavenly reward. Genuine believers are intense in their pursuit of God….and He rewards that spirit. How we go after God is evidence of where we are in our faith walk. If we aren’t running into our secret place every morning, anxious to meet God, we’re just mediocre Christians, plain and simple. Mediocrity is never worthy of reward.Mediocrity is never worthy of reward. - Kimberly Sutor Click To Tweet
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6 NIV, c.1973
Note the word “earnestly” there? It’s in there because our level of intensity matters to God. And no, there is nothing wrong with storing up heavenly rewards for ourselves. The apostle Paul even encouraged it:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24 NKJV
In fact, he encouraged us to compare ourselves against the runners who went before us, and to one another.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. – 2 Corinthians 8:8 NKJV
The Battle For Our Time
One of the most violent spiritual battles we’ll face is the battle for our time. If we don’t set aside the first part of our day for our secret place, we’re losing the battle. If you’re feeling stalled-out in your walk with God, I’m betting it’s because you haven’t been giving God the highest priority on your calendar. You can change that. 😉
God pays attention to how we apply ourselves to our secret place: worshiping, reading, studying, meditating, listening, absorbing, fasting. All these things work together in demonstrating to Him our level of spiritual violence; how badly we want to be nearer to Him.
I get it: We all have busy lives. It doesn’t matter what season you’re in, life always finds a way to fill up. But we choose what we do….and what we don’t. We are constantly hearing competing voices. It’s our choice which voice we follow: the voice of God, calling us to time in our secret place….or the voice of the enemy, telling us we’re too busy for God; we need to deal with kids, and work, and school, and coffee dates, and errands, and the gym first. And what does it get us, constantly chasing those things first? Not peace. Not fulfillment. Not direction. And not rewards.
No! If we want the things of God, we must violently pursue God! A woman of violence is unapologetic when it comes to her secret place. She goes after God with ferocity! Not only does she need a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit each morning in order to tackle her day….she wants to reap the rewards of those minutes alone with God for all eternity! Now that’s worth getting up a little earlier for! 😉
If we want to quick the pace of our pursuit, there’s one spiritual discipline that can certainly do the job: the discipline of fasting. When combined with prayer, fasting can revitalize our spirit and intensify our awareness of God. There’s nothing magical about it; it’s simply an act of self-denial that places our focus on God, rather than say food or activities.
If the idea of accelerating your pace isn’t enough incentive, perhaps the fact that Jesus commanded us to do it will be. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t say “if you fast,” He said “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16). By mentioning fasting (in addition to praying and giving; Matthew 6:5, 14), Jesus clearly indicated that these spiritual disciplines are expected of every believer….because they are critical to our spiritual walk.
They’re Better Christians
Earlier we talked about comparison….in a positive light. But what about comparison that is negative; the kind that only serves to sideline you from your race? You know what I’m talking about. You look at someone else at church and think, “They’re such a better Christian than I am. They know so much more than me.” And then you feel defeated and sulk a little, right? Well, stop it! 😉 Do you know why they know more about the Bible than you? Because they violently seek it out in their secret place! You can, too!
Seek [wisdom] as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures…. – Proverbs 2:4 NKJV
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright… – Provers 2:7
…He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things… – Daniel 2:21b
Jesus Treats Us Differently
Another incentive for spiritual violence is that Jesus doesn’t treat everyone the same. Nope….He responds differently to His followers who pursue Him more fervently. Take the apostles, for instance. Peter, James, and John were invited by Jesus to witness some of His most intimate moments. (Think The Transfiguration, Matthew 17:1-9).The others were left behind.
I think the other disciples had the same struggles we do today: they held back or just plain doubted. And because of that, they missed out on some pretty incredible moments with their Savior! Jesus brought those who pursued Him the hardest closer and into a more intimate relationship with Him. To put it succinctly: “He favored them because they favored Him.”He favored them because they favored Him. - Bob Sorge, Secrets of the Secret Place Click To Tweet
Don’t miss out on more just because you don’t ask. Make your secret place your first priority every day and run after God with a spiritual violence! Ask for Him to give you the desire and drive and discipline to run your race with everything you’ve got! He promises to reward your loyalty.
For the eyes of the LORD run to and from throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. – 2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV
We’re Not All Equal
God rewards us based on how fervently we pursue Him. If He gave the same reward to someone who only pursued Him with minimal effort as He does to someone who runs after Him with a fiery passion, that would be discounting the faith of the latter.
I remind myself every morning when I pray over this Grace and Sass ministry God’s given me: It doesn’t matter how many people read what I write, and it doesn’t matter how many Facebook followers I have. If all of my work is to reach the heart of just one woman for Christ, she is enough reason to do my work with a violence I’ve never invested in anything else. Above all, I want to glorify God with my life and my work, because He is watching my race. And He’s watching yours. And He’s not alone; Heaven is full of runners who have already finished their race and are cheering us on!
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… – Hebrews 12:1 NKJV
So, as one of my favorite and sorely-missed pastors (Pastor Kirk Kendall) used to say, “Get after it!” Live with a spiritual violence! Run to win the prize! And remember….