Another oldie resurrected
I have always regarded John Wesley as a sort of historical mentor. His example has been a real inspiration and his writings have played an important part in shaping my thinking. Of everything that I have read from Wesley there has been one quotes which has lived in my consciousness. Its a warning. Wesley warns of expecting ”
. . . the end without the means; expecting knowledge, for instance, without searching the Scriptures, and consulting the children of God; expecting spiritual strength without constant prayer and steady watchfulness; expecting any blessing without hearing the word of God at every opportunity.”
I would characterise what Wesley is warning against as having a “Microwave Mentality” when it comes to spirituality. You know, you bung the food in the microwave hit the button, it gets zapped and it’s ready. It seems obvious to me that Wesley must have met a few Christians who had a similar understanding of spiritual growth. Christians who wanted a “zap” from the Holy Spirit and for everything to be put right or put in place in their lives almost instantaneously. They wanted to know God and His ways without having to put up with effort of reading his word and struggling with its meaning and implications. They wanted a deep relationship with Christ without having to bother with time consuming prayer. I know as a pastor I have met believers with this kind of “microwave mentality” when it comes to spirituality. They just want the right kind “move of the Spirit” to bring about the desired affect in their lives without having to contribute any effort themselves. I fear there are times when I have been one of their number. Christian tv is full of ministries built on a microwave mentality when it comes to spirituality. People are encouraged to believe that a touch from God’s anointed, greased by an appropriate “gift” to the aforementioned anointed, will put everything right. The problem is that being “slain in the Spirit” doesn’t have any lasting impact unless the person gets off the floor and learns to “walk in step with the Spirit” Galatians 5:25
Wesley very wisely said that there were “appointed means,” ways in which God had in His wisdom given us, to help us grow spirituality. Today we call them “spiritual disciplines” or “means of grace”. So, for instance, He has given us His Word and prayer as the primary but not exclusive way we are to hear His Voice. He has connected us in Christian fellowship as the normal way for us to receive support, care, encouragement and accountability. The problem is that these “appointed means” require time and effort and they don’t necessarily give quick results never mind guarantee instantaneous results. God’s ways when it comes to spiritual growth just doesn’t suit us today very well. Even more so than in Wesley’s days we want the “end without the means” We are the pot noodle generation and we want quick results with little or no effort required on our part. We want microwave spirituality, a zap from God and for it all to be done for us.
We need to be be clear that its not that Wesley was against powerful and personal touches from the Holy Spirit. In fact he often spoke of his own “heart warming” experience of God and theologians have recognised that one the characteristics of his theology was an emphasis on experience. The Methodists he led were derided as being “enthusiasts” which back then meant people who were over emotional. John Wesley recognised that God does some time touch our lives in a powerful way and that such moves of the Holy Spirit are helpful and even at times necessary. Nevertheless he understood that they were not replacements for but supplements to the normal spiritual disciplines and means for grace through which God shapes us and deepens our relationship with Him.
My own opinion is that I think God has more of a “slow cooker spirituality” in mind for us. Ann, my wife, quite often bungs some meat and veg in our slow cooker and over the hours it slowly cooks becomes tender and releases its flavour. I know that I prefer a meal from the slow cooker rather than something from the mirco-wave. Similarly, “slow-cooker” spirituality might take time and effort buts its results are worth the time and effort. So let’s not avoid those moments when God comes and touches, we should accept those precious moments as gifts from God but at the same time let’s not spend our lives chasing after them as effortless substitutes that allow us to bypass the adventure of getting to know God through the ways He has provided for us.