Our Lord had no need to undertake the bearing of the cross except to attest and prove his obedience to the Father. But as for us, there are many reasons why we must pass our lives under a continual cross… We readily esteem our virtue above its due measure. And we do not doubt, whatever happens, that against all difficulties it will remain unbroken and unconquered. Hence we are lifted up to stupid and empty confidence in the flesh; and relying on it, we are then insolently proud against God himself, as if our own powers were sufficient without his grace.
He can best restrain this arrogance when he proves to us by experience not only that great incapacity but also the frailty under which we labor. Therefore, he afflicts us either with disgrace or poverty, or bereavement, or disease, or other calamities. Utterly unequal to bearing these, in so far as they touch us, we soon succumb to them. Thus humbled, we learn to call upon His power, which alone makes us stand fast under the weight of afflictions.
-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion-
And while [Lot] lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. -Genesis. 19:16
If what we love keeps us from growing in Christ, He will take our loves from us. In the verse above, we find Lot in the final moments before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The warnings had been clear, and Lot had not doubted the truthfulness of the threats. Yet in the final moments before the destruction, as Lot is told to escape with his life, he lingers as if unable to move. John Calvin says this regarding Lot’s lingering, “His tardiness is truly wonderful, since, though he was certainly persuaded that the angels did not threaten in vain, he could yet be moved by no force of words until he is dragged by their hands out of the city.”
What caused him to linger? Matthew Poole estimates that “He lingered, either through an aversion to part with all his estate, or to lose his sons-in-law; or through astonishment and distraction of mind, which made him both listless and impotent.” Whatever it was, Lot was powerless to move on his own, and this seems to be the experience of us all from time to time when the Lord, through his Word, has told us to move. Whether it is a sin with which we hate to part, or a comfortable career the Lord has told us to leave behind, many times we are spiritually sluggish.
God has told us in His word to press on and be conformed to his image. He has told us to do all He has commanded us. The thunderous warnings of the destruction of everything contrary to Him and His ways have rung in our ears; He warns us to flee the wrath to come. Along with the thundering of destruction that pressures us from behind, we also have the beauty of Christ and our promised joy in Him before us, bidding us come. Yet, even with all of this, we often sit motionless in a steadfast stupor.
As Matthew Henry so aptly put it, “Thus many that are under some convictions about the misery of their spiritual state, and the necessity of a change, yet defer that needful work, and foolishly linger.” Praise God Lot’s story does not end there, and neither does ours. God was merciful to him, and the angels grabbed him by the hand and pulled him out of the city to safety.
Are there areas in your life that hinder your growth in the things of the God? Do you know the Lord has called you to remedy a certain aspect of your life, yet you sit idle, making no progress in spiritual things? If so, be prepared, for if you are a true child of God who is unmoved even though you have heard His word, He will use other means to get you to advance. Whatever inordinate loves keep you motionless may be forcefully removed, requiring you to make steps onward in your journey to the Celestial City. Calvin makes the point clear when he says,
“For so it is often necessary for us to be forcibly drawn away from scenes which we do not willingly leave. If riches, or honors, or any other things of that kind, prove an obstacle to anyone, to render him less free and disengaged from the service of God, when it happens that he is abridged of his fortune, or reduced to a lower rank, let him know that the Lord has laid hold of his hand; because words and exhortations had not sufficiently profited him.”
Let us never forget that when the Lord takes what we love, it is His love for us that is at work. It is His mercy in action because it would have been no injustice on His part if He had left us in our impotent state to partake in the destruction that we refused to flee.
Has the Lord been calling you to surrender some sin? Has he been prompting you by His Holy Spirit to live a life in greater service to Him than the worldly pleasure you now serve? Or is he simply calling you to spend more time in the prayerful study of His Word, which we so often neglect? Whatever it may be, we all have enough sluggishness in us that we should, with all earnestness, strive against it. May the words of this devotion be the means God uses to move us on, for if mere words are not enough, in His mercy and love, He will lay his hands on His child.