Here in Philadelphia, even in mid-March, everything is as dead as the Phillies’ chances at a postseason run. The good news is that you – at least spiritually – don’t have to be. (That was a joke; work with me, OK?). It’s in that spirit that we offer this last post on ways to assess (and hopefully improve) your spiritual health from the Book of Malachi.
To recap our series so far, we talked about 4 other signs that you may be in a slump. You may be struggling spiritually if you:
- get defensive and find yourself arguing with what God says (Malachi 1:2-3)
- want to do Christianity your way, making compromises and taking ‘the easy way out’ (1:6-12, 14-15)
- find God’s way burdensome and boring (1:13),
- miss the clear signs of God’s love in your life (1:2-5)
As we conclude the series, we add one final symptom of spiritual lethargy:
5. You don’t see God as great or awesome.
I get this from Malachi 1:8-9 – 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.
You can look here for more of the background, but in a nutshell Israel was offering God inferior sacrifices. They were giving him the animals defective animals they couldn’t sell on the open market at full price.
But it’s not really about the animals; that’s just the surface issue. The Lord puts his finger on one of the underlying problems by asking a pointed question: ‘Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?’ The answer to this rhetorical question is, of course, ‘no!’ Offering a defective animal (or, to modernize it, any kind of flawed gift) to a political figure would never be tolerated, so why offer that to Someone much greater (God)?
Let’s make a quick application. If we’re honest, we give God second-best (or worse) because we don’t really think he’s worthy of more. And like Israel, it’s usually because we want to save the best for ourselves. We would never say this, but in essence, we’ve made ourselves great.
I can remember a time when I used to hate giving money to the church. I felt like we were poor (we weren’t) and all I could seem to see were all the things we couldn’t have, partly because of the money we were giving away. God was so patient, but I needed to see that a great and awesome God kindly permitted me to keep almost all of what I earn. He’s worth it.
How are you doing with this ‘vital sign’? Where do you specifically struggle to see that God is great and awesome? One starting point may be to identify those areas where you feel selfish or resentful and work from there. Common examples could include demanding ‘me time’, your attitude toward serving others or money, or, your willingness to connect deeply to others. This is where God wants to work in your (and my) life.
In any event, I hope this series has, in some small way, been useful to you in honest self-assessment. We all have a long ways to go, but God’s grace is more than a match for us on the journey.