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The Spiritual Initiative
The Spiritual Initiative

By Dave Breese

You and I have often been asked the question, “What is the greatest need in the Church in our time?” The answer to that question in our time (and perhaps for all time) is to believe the truth and then exercise the spiritual initiative. Do the truth!

The truth, of course, is the Word of God, and the truth of salvation is especially the Gospel of the grace of God. To be saved by grace is to mount up on wings of assurance and gratefulness to God for His wonderful salvation. Apart from understanding the Gospel of the grace of God, we will drag around with us through life the burden of dead works—and the assurance of salvation will forever escape us. Believing the truth of the Gospel sets us wonderfully free.

Having now believed, I am called to accomplish magnificent things, called “good works” in the Bible. Each of us who believe the Gospel is now a “divine masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10). How do we live up to this calling? It is by taking the spiritual initiative. Indeed, one of the great inhibitions to the ongoing of the Gospel in our time is quiescent Christianity. Who is the quiescent Christian? He is the one who waits for something to happen rather than one who initiates spiritual happenings. He waits for the phone to ring rather than calling someone. He waits for a letter to arrive when he should long ago have taken his pen in hand. He waits for the approval of the committee, the board, the high spiritual authority, before doing what he knows to be the will of God.

There are, in fact, untold millions of Christians in today’s world who are “waiting for God to work” and quietly rocking their lives away in the meantime. In the process of waiting, the eyes close in quiet slumber; should opportunity then knock at the door, that sound would not be heard. Quiescent Christians fill our churches and their immobility (sometimes called spirituality) becomes a great limitation to the working of the Lord. To all who name the name of Christ in our time the Scripture extends the earnest call, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14). An even stronger word is heard from the Bible, saying, “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Prov. 6:9-11). These are earnest words which come from our Lord, words of which we need to take note not once but many times in life. They are at least a reminder that we need to wake up, arouse ourselves, gird our armor on, and seize the spiritual initiative, lest we sink down into a slumber which is very similar to death.

This is the problem that James faced in his epistle. He addressed a unitarian idea of a distant and unassociated God when he said, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19,20). Here James reminds us all that our faith, unless it is characterized by spiritual initiative—works—is dead. Here, James used the word dead in the sense of being unable to reproduce itself. Paul used the dead in the same way when speaking about Abraham’s faith: “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:19,20). Abraham, being beyond the age of fatherhood, was unable to reproduce himself. His body is called “dead.” In the same sense, the Christian who has only faith, but does not work to propagate his faith, has a faith that is “dead,” i.e.: unable to reproduce itself. Just so, that deadening influence can come upon any of us who only believe, but who do not seize the initiative to reproduce our faith in the lives of others.

We can lose the spiritual initiative in many ways.

Christians can lose the initiative out of fear. Too often they ask, “What will people think?” “Will I be thought a fanatic by taking the spiritual initiative?” If they fear the opinions of others because of their overt spirituality, they will soon die–they will lose the initiative.

We can lose the initiative also because of neglect. The things of this world can reduce the thrill of learning new things from the Bible, communicating with God in prayer, and anticipating with joy the opportunity of leading another to Christ.

In these, and a hundred other ways, the initiative has been lost by the ecclesiastical establishment down through the years. Christianity has been in the world for two thousand years and still, more than half the world needs yet to hear the Gospel.

To lose the initiative leads to impotence, boredom, frustration, the sleep of the depressed, spiritual death.

Many individual Christians speak not at all about the Savior, nor seek at all to win others to Him. They give with reluctance, labor little or not at all. The initiative—and along with it the thrill, the joy, the adventure—is gone. Their faith, being without the attempt at spiritual accomplishment, is dead.

Mind you, we are not speaking about salvation, but about living, working, gladiating for Christ in this world. The admonition is “Don’t lose the spiritual initiative!” To do so is to die of boredom, which is the worse way to go.

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