This summer my family will be going to the North American Baptist Triennial Conference in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. It's a journey of more than 1,200 miles, and we're beginning to look into transportation options and costs. Like most people, I find the process of shopping for and booking travel accommodations to be a tedious and frustrating process. It's a pain to have to shop airlines, schedule departure and arrival dates, arrange rental cars, and everything else. In light of this frustration, I've decided that my family will travel to Canada this summer by bike. After all, each of us has a bike hanging on the wall in the garage. We won't have to navigate airline websites and arrange for rental cars if we all ride our bikes. All we have to do is take them off the wall and get going.
Obviously the above isn't true. We aren't going to ride our bikes to Canada this summer. But this is a great analogy for how Christians often treat their walk with Jesus: we neglect a source of immense power (an airplane) because it takes a little work to use it (booking travel), in favor of a more readily available, albeit much less powerful, way of doing things (a bike).
God has guaranteed that all those who belong to him will live in the power he provides through his Holy Spirit. The Bible says that the one who is in us is greater than the one that is in the world, and that by his power, we can overcome (1 John 4.4). Paul says that we are "more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8.37). The power of Christ has overcome the world (John 16.33), and Christians have access to that very same power.
If all of that is true, then why do I so often feel like a spiritual loser? Why do I so often feel spiritually beaten down, like a failure? Why do I find it so hard to forgive? Why is it such a challenge for me to love and honor my spouse? Why do I so easily lose my patience with my children? Shouldn't the power of God help me gain victory in those areas?
Yes, it can and it should. But it doesn't.
Why not? One of the primary reasons is that we are spiritually lazy. There is an ocean of divine power at our fingertips that Christians are able to access, but most of the time we don't put in the necessary time and effort to access it and gain the victory that we desire. We would rather just take the bike off the wall than go through the hassle of booking a flight on an airplane, even though we know full well that the airplane is more efficient and effective at meeting our needs.
In Mark 9, Jesus' disciples find themselves in an embarrassing situation: a father approaches them and asks them to heal his son who has been possessed by an unclean spirit. But try as they might, they are not able to exorcize the demon. This is awkward, because just a short time ago Jesus had given them authority over all demons (Luke 9.1). So then, why couldn't they drive out this demon? That's the question they want answered, so they ask Jesus, and his response is revealing: "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer" (Mark 9.29).
The disciples did have the power and authority to drive out this demon, but they failed to access the power. They opted for the bike instead of the airplane. Jesus says that this kind of demon could only be drive out by prayer, the implication being that the disciples weren't praying. Well, why weren't they praying? I'm suggesting to you it's because they were spiritually lazy. Prayer takes time, effort, and intentionality, and for some reason the disciples didn't put that time and effort and intentionality into their dealing with this demon.
Access to God's power takes time. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. Do you have a besetting sin that you struggle with, and you just can't seem to gain victory over it? Do you find it difficult to forgive? Do you find it hard to love and honor your spouse, or to be patient with your children? How much time have you spent in prayer about it? How much time have you spent studying the Bible about it? How much time have you spent talking to others about it and asking them for support and accountability?
If you haven't done any of these things, then don't expect to tap into divine power to help your areas of weakness. Spiritual laziness inhibits our access to God's power to transform our hearts, minds, and lives. Just like the disciples power over demons was directly connected to their willingness to spend intentional time in prayer, so is our power to see transformation in our lives connected to our willingness to spend intentional time in prayer, study, fellowship, and host of other resources God has given us to tap into his power.
And if you don't feel up to the task, that's alright. Neither did the disciples, and neither did most of the people Jesus came into contact with. Jesus is eager to help those who want to experience the power of God in their lives. He is eager to lend a hand to those who are spiritually lazy.