At church on Sunday, our pastor talked about King Josiah’s reign in Jerusalem — that was one man who was not “lukewarm for the Lord”! On the contrary, King Josiah was on fire for God. I don’t know if zeal consumed him like it consumed Jesus in John 2 when He cleared the temple courts, but Josiah’s eyes were definitely fixed on the Lord throughout his reign in Jerusalem.
Our pastor encouraged us to become zealous for God, to be more passionate and spirit-filled followers of Jesus. He encouraged us to learn from how King Josiah sought God. He may not have said much about feeling the presence of God, but I was inspired to learn more about communicating with the Holy Spirit.
Driving home I had a million different ideas on how to be more zealous for God. I imagined writing a blog post about contemplative prayer and a newsletter article about imaginative ways to bring King Josiah’s reign alive in 2 Chronicles 34. I thought about encouraging Echoing Jesus readers to explore what they’re already passionate about (gardening? accounting? painting? surfing? praying? playing?) and weave that into specific activities for God. I even fantasized about encouraging my fellow Christians to read dense theology books like Christ the Key and wrestle with the ideas of the early church theologians (or just read my Christ the Key book review!).
But then something occurred to me. “What if people don’t really care about being more zealous for God?” I asked. “What if most Christians in church on Sunday are lukewarm for the Lord?”
You are not alone if your faith is dry, your worship flat, your prayers boring. Maybe you’re more concerned about your son’s divorce, your daughter’s drug habit, your last credit card bill, your husband’s death or your own cancer diagnosis — not to mention the political, social, environmental and local problems we’re facing.
3 Things to Remember When You’re “Lukewarm for the Lord”
You’re dealing with the trials and troubles of daily life…and your problems are not trivial. They’re important, and they require your time and attention! But if you feel lukewarm for the Lord and wish you felt His presence more, perhaps you’re giving the problems of daily life more attention than they deserve.
1. You have a choice
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he [Josiah] began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.” – 2 Chronicles 34:1-3.
Some circumstances are given; some are chosen. Josiah was given the kingship when he was a child. He grew up as a king — and even before he became king, Josiah was probably being prepared, taught and trained to reign in Jerusalem. He accepted his kingship, and he chose to do what was right in the eyes of God. Josiah also chose to follow the ways of his father David — and he chose not to turn aside. Josiah chose not the be lukewarm for the Lord…perhaps just like Jesus chose to allow zeal overcome Him in the temple courts. Both Josiah and Jesus were kings chosen by God; both men chose obedience, sacrifice, and passion as they followed God’s purpose for their lives.
2. You can see, and you can scatter
“Under his [Josiah’s] direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles and the idols. These he broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem. In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them, he tore down the altars and the Asherah poles and crushed the idols to powder and cut to pieces all the incense altars throughout Israel.” – 2 Chronicles 34:4-7.
Some chains need to be broken — physically and spiritually. Josiah saw what was making the Israelites lukewarm for the Lord: the idols, altars and Asherah poles of their pagan neighbors. So he scattered everything holding the Israelites back from following God. This was a physical cleansing of the temples and towns…but what about the hearts and spirits of the Israelites? Josiah couldn’t soften their hearts. He was the king, but he couldn’t change their spirits. They had to choose to return to God, to seek His presence, and to fix their eyes on the covenant He made with them long ago. For us today — especially when we’re feeling lukewarm for the Lord — this means Jesus.
3. You can return to the Lord
“Then he [Josiah] went back to Jerusalem.” – 2 Chronicles 34:7.
The Lord’s love for you is never lukewarm! After Josiah destroyed everything holding the Israelites back from worshiping the true God, he went home. Josiah returned to Jerusalem and got to work. Perhaps it was hard to go home after crushing the idols and tearing down the altars (I wonder if Josiah overturned the tables, like Jesus in the temple?). When Josiah went home he didn’t know how he’d be received, or what people were saying, or how his future would unfold. But he went home anyway. I like to think Josiah knew God was eagerly waiting to start a fresh new life together.
Maybe you know you’re “lukewarm for the Lord” but you don’t know how to get back to God, much less be zealous and passionate for Jesus! I get it. It’s hard to return to God after you’ve been ignoring the Holy Spirit for months or running away from God for years. It’s like trying to start a fire when the wood is green, damp, or even soaking wet. But, no matter how far away you feel, remember that Jesus is waiting with His arms open wide. God knows everything about you and loves you anyway. He is zealous for you even when you’re lukewarm for Him.
Go for a walk with God. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead the way. Trust Jesus Christ to fire up the conversation and melt your heart. You don’t need to do anything…just tell Him you don’t want to be lukewarm anymore. Let God speak, listen for nudges, and step out in faith.
In peace and passion,
P.S. Do you struggle with lack of focus when you’re talking to God? Read 3 Easy Ways to Stay Focused When You Pray.