Thursday, January 6, 2011

Despondency: Not an Excuse for Idolatry

Mark Driscoll (lead pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA) has it wrong, kind of. Who am I to dispute the truth according to Driscoll (whom I like, by the way)? Well, no one; just a Christian that reads his Bible and tries to think hard about what he reads. In an otherwise wonderfully helpful message on the Christian and idolatry -- (watch it here Driscoll asserts (this is not a quote) that to turn to anyone or anything other than God the Holy Spirit in an effort to be comforted is idolatrous. As I consider the idea I'm not entirely sure what turning only to the Holy Spirit would look like. I imagine it means serious Bible reading and prayer. Of course then you are looking to other sources than the Holy Spirit -- the aforementioned Bible and prayer. 

Now I realize the Bible is the Word of the Holy Spirit (2 Ti 3:16), and that the Holy Spirit helps us in our praying (Ro 8:26). Still, these are not the Holy Spirit, but two of His manifold means. Indeed, I imagine they are the chief two, with the fellowship of the church thrown in somewhere terribly close to and among them (2 Co 1; He 3, 10). But that they are means and not God is significant. What this means, in part, is that the Holy Spirit, who is God, is not limited to these means. What I have been posting of late is a list of helps in the fight with depression or despondency. I get this list from the Scriptures. They too are the Holy Spirit's means. We have been given all things to enjoy freely (1 Ti 6:17; Ro 8:32).

My point is simply that embracing sleep, or music, or beer, or sex, or exercise, or nature, or books, or food as a good means of refreshment is right, as long as it is done with faith in God as the ultimate source of such things, and as long as the things are not abused or substituted for a hearty seeking of the Lord. This is not an either/or matter. Leaning upon the Holy Spirit is not contradictory to a good night's rest or exhausting exercise. What I suggest is an hour or two in the Word and prayer while sipping a Sam Adam's Winter Lager and listening to Todd Agnew's Christmas album play quietly in the background, for example.

Turn to God the Holy Spirit always? Yes! But the ways we do that are not limited to even the chief spiritual disciplines. God is a generous Father, giving many gifts to His children. And He is a creative Being, making each of us distinct. So then, the gifts are manifold to meet the manifold needs of the many diverse human creatures. I really like the woods. Woods for me are amazingly peaceful. So is a hard rain with thunder and lightning. So is Booker's bourbon. So is a long run. But I don't assume those are the gifts that work a measure of refreshment in all people. So seek God with tenacity by His Word and by prayer. But do not neglect the smaller gifts that He has given for our comfort and joy, the ones He has designed to both comfort and draw us to Himself.

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