Martin Luther said he had only two days on his calendar: Today, and the day he stands before Jesus Christ. That reminds me of a number of things that Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, in particular that it would only be a few more days, and he would step into eternity. Also, that when he looks out on those he is preaching to, would some of them go to hell? This mission would then spur him on to pray and seek God. It was merely enough for him to step up into the pulpit, and many in the church would already be weeping with conviction.
If a preacher spent their time considering all the dangers of the profession, it would be very hard to get anything done. Preaching requires not simply a few hours’ preparation, but a whole life. I was reading John Piper’s church’s questionnaire about accountability, and it makes for sobering reading. Not only do ministers need to protect the time they spend on their knees before God, but they also need to protect family time. They also need to set a guard over what they say, but also over what they see. Once you have seen something, you cannot unsee it. Recently the Holy Spirit has been prompting me at times: No, don’t look up there – don’t look across there. ‘Be careful little eyes what you see.’
One of the questions on the Piper questionnaire is ‘How is your family joy and harmony’? Well, that could always use work. Also, ‘Have I been with a man or a woman in the past week in a way that could be viewed as compromising’? Rather than being answerable to a church committee (although that may be the case) I have to allow myself to be answerable to God on a daily basis. When I became a leader in our church I was made aware that even if I am not at a church service, my behaviour and my spiritual situation will affect the church. I always pray for a meeting even if I am not there.
But I am even more aware, that where I have not gone in prayer, others in the church may find it harder to go. Where I have no room for faith, it is going to be a real battle for others to step out. If I have hang-ups in any area of my life, be they financial, sexual, family, physical – I will not be in a position to help others unless I am walking in victory towards them.
Here is where regular journal-keeping comes in. When I re-read my journal, the Holy Spirit prompts me to address certain areas of my life. He knows the times that I need to focus on certain things. Like a good teacher, He will not spread before me all my shortcomings and failings, and lead me to conclude: There is no hope. Instead, He will say to me: Now is the time to work on your thought-life. You need to stop judging others. Remember that the measure you use will be measured out to you. Or, he might be saying to you as you are reading this post: Now is the time to stop blaming your leaders and start praying for them. Start following them. Start bearing with all their faults, believing God has appointed them, and hoping that He is going to move.
I read a good comment the other day: the one question that kills discipleship. What about me? It throws the spotlight off Jesus and onto ourselves. I hope that I haven’t done that in this post. The danger of reflecting on where you are is that you start to get introspective.
Read a great book on holiday – Victorious Christian Living: studies in the book of Joshua. It made me reflect that you are only so close to God as your last prayer time. You are only so effective as the last time you led someone to the Lord. It is vital to realise, just as Israel realised after their Jericho victory, that you do not suddenly attain some kind of supernatural power that you then have command over. One victory most likely will be followed by a bigger defeat. Read about it in Joshua 7 as the Israelites fled from Ai. This is how the Christian life works: pray, seek His face, get His help for the day. Live the day, seeking His help and strength as often as you dare. Reflect on the day in the evening; and call on the Father to forgive whenever you displeased him. Tomorrow, start off the same. Never get up and think that you can live in the strength of the previous day’s prayer life. Yesterday’s manna. It stinks. This is the way to walk into an ambush.
So our accountability is to the Holy Spirit. There is nothing hidden before Him. It is all wide open. Keeping accountable is painful, and yet it is a joyful business. It is also a good thing to keep accountable one to another. You cannot do that on your own. We need to hold each other up, whether in a small group, in a brief chat after a meeting, on the phone, through IM, through your local Christian bookshop – because when one falls, they drag the rest down with them. A sin in your church will affect you. It will weaken your prayer life and dull the possibility of victory . And when that victory was always there for you, was always yours, in Jesus – don’t you get angry that it is being stolen from you? Keeping accountable means keeping short accounts. Means sleep at night. Means being teachable and broken, being a listener and hearing the still small voice through the thunder and storm of our preposterous old sin nature. We’re not to lean on ourselves (leaning on others is okay), but we can using writing and private prayer to keep in the victory.