March 31, 2008

Take your Medicine

Do you ever have to take pills? Maybe you’re on regular, daily schedule of them; or maybe you’ve been prescribed a brief regimen of antibiotics, water pills, prenatal vitamins, etc. If it is really important to you to get (or stay) well, you make sure you don’t miss a dose. Maybe you have one of those pillboxes with a little compartment for each day of the week; maybe you leave yourself a note on the bathroom mirror; maybe you set the alarm at six hour intervals to remind yourself it’s medicine time. We all know how important it is to follow the regimen faithfully, don’t we?

Well, it occurs to me that God has given us some spiritual ‘pills’ too; some daily means by which He offers us His healing power; some medicine that we ought to take regularly if we want to become (or stay) spiritually healthy. We would all agree that the spiritual disciplines—the daily pills that God prescribes for us—are far more important than any antibiotic, or heart medicine, or multi-vitamin will ever be. But some of us, myself included, aren’t as diligent as we should be to take our daily medicine; to take advantage of the means by which God offers us daily (or weekly) help and encouragement. Have you been skipping any of your meds lately?

My purpose, in this little article, is not to give you a list of the doses you may have forgotten to take. If it were, I might include things like personal scripture reading and prayer, attendance at worship and prayer meeting, family devotions. But, of course I’m not making a list! Rather, I want to show you a couple of pill bottles that I tend to neglect—thanksgiving and confession. These two disciplines ought to be in the spiritual pillbox every day. Not because they (or any other spiritual disciplines) earn credit points with God; but because these two disciplines are like medicine to our souls. They (like prayer, reading, and public worship) help us to grow spiritually!

Yet I find that I can sometimes go days on end, perhaps feeling somewhat thankful, talking about God’s goodness, but never really pausing to tell Him about it; never really giving specific thanks directly to Him. Of course, what is most important is that we actually be thankful—not just what we say. But it seems to me that if I am really thankful, I will take the time to tell God about it. I will be like the leper in Luke 17 who stopped in the middle of his journey to Jerusalem and “turned back, glorifying God in a loud voice.” His stopping to give thanks was, obviously, honoring to God. But it was also healthy for his own soul. Any time we pause to verbalize our thanksgiving to Jesus, we are re-teaching ourselves the lesson of grace—that my successes (and ultimately, my salvation) are not the works of my hands, but His. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD” (Psalm 92.1)—good to God, and good for us! Thanksgiving—that’s a pill (and not even a bitter one!) worth pausing to swallow every single day!

I also find that it is easy for me to skip the needed doses of confession. By God’s grace, I often feel really bad about my sin. And by God’s grace, I often confess my sin to others—both to those I may have hurt, and to those who will pray for me. But, as with thanksgiving, I don’t always stop to talk these things through with the One who matters most! How foolish! It isn’t God’s loss, but mine if I don’t take my medicine. And confession is good, though hard to swallow, medicine! For “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9). That is not to say that we will be left unforgiven, and ultimately go to hell, if we don’t remember and confess every single sin. No, our forgiveness rests, ultimately, on what Christ did, not on what we do. But our experience of forgiveness; the fresh cleansing of conscience that God desires to give us does depend on our bringing it to Jesus, confessing it, and washing ourselves again and again in the medicinal waters of Jesus’ blood. What a fool I am to skip out on that healing power. A few weeks ago, if you’d offered me a pill, or a medicine bath that could have immediately rid me of the lethargy and pain of the flu I had a few weeks back, I’d have taken it! How much more should I daily swallow the pill of confession and experience the healed conscience that it brings!

So would you pray with me that I wouldn’t miss my regimen? And would you pray for yourself in the same way?

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