Header Graphic

Since Psalm 131 is a Song of Degrees—psalms that teach us we grow closer to God over time—we may assume that the lesson it teaches us is learned over time as well. The majesty of calmness is not a short hop, skip, and jump away. Instead, it should be viewed as a sort of spiritual Mount Everest that only spiritual Edmund Hillarys will ever scale. Few Christians will ever aspire to ascend this lofty spiritual peak, and of those few who do, most will never reach the summit. Some will simply turn back; others will die while still climbing. Whereas there is no shame in the latter (Hebrews 11:36-39), the former would have been better off to have never set foot on this steep slope (Luke 14:27-33).

You and I live in the day of the quick fix. Everyone demands a quick fix to their every problem. Unfortunately, this demand for the quick fix has slipped into our churches. Today’s churchgoers want nothing to do with mining the deep truths of the Word of God, with long hours spent in their prayer closets wrestling with God, or with bearing heavy crosses in their self-sacrificial service of Christ. Instead, they demand a quick fix for their every problem and a magic formula for everyday euphoria, despite the fact that this seemingly elusive formula is actually nonexistent.

In Hebrews 5:12-6:3, the author of Hebrews speaks of this formula's phenomenon among Christians. According to him, many elderly saints are still formula babies, in spite of the fact that they should have matured past the need for formulas a long time ago. Rather than being spiritually mature and ministering to the spiritually immature, they still require being spiritually bottle-fed themselves. They can’t digest sound doctrine, but are still in need of spiritual Pabulum.

I must admit that formulas may serve a useful purpose during the fledgling days of the life of faith, providing spiritual sustenance to the bottle-fed babe in Christ. They help new converts to establish their spiritual disciplines. Yet, just as natural newborns should not remain on formula past the first few months of their natural lives, neither should spiritual newborns remain on formulas past the first few months of their spiritual lives. To do so is to stunt one’s spiritual growth, with the resulting consequences of one becoming spiritually malnourished, weak, and sickly.

Over time formulas begin robbing the Christian life of heart. They turn the disciplines of the Christian life into habits, which inevitably end up in ruts void of spontaneity and the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Learning that the Christian symphony cannot be played by rote, but only by ear, is not only one of the most invaluable lessons the Christian will ever learn, but it is also essential to the Christian’s spiritual development.

Every great composer or virtuoso must begin by learning the musical scale. Likewise, all great authors and poets must begin by learning the alphabet. Afterward, the great composers, virtuosos, writers, and poets go on to use the basics as wings with which to soar, not as a cage within which to confine themselves for the rest of their lives. If you ask me, there are too many caged Christians in the contemporary church. Are you one of them, a spiritual captive in a formula-lined cage?

There is no magic formula for the majesty of calmness. There is only a long, steep, and arduous path laid out for us in Scripture. It is up to you whether or not you ever step foot on it, as well as whether or not you stay on it with God’s help until you eventually reach its lofty spiritual summit.

Don Walton