James Emery White has picked up on some similarities between a believer’s relationship with God and the relationship between a husband and wife – there are bound to be ups and downs, highs and lows, romantic nights and mundane days.
It’s a reality that can hit newlyweds hard once the honeymoon’s over.
“Thirty-minute kisses in the rain become morning breath,” said White.
Much like a married couple walking together through highs and lows, a Christian must also face the reality that following Jesus isn’t always a walk in the park.
“You’re going to have ups and downs no matter how well you’re doing spiritually,” said White. “I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christ follower; your life is a series of peaks and valleys spiritually and emotionally. That’s the way we are as humans.”
But even in the valleys, there can be a constant. During a three-day seminar at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C., White hopes to show believers how to get–and stay–on spiritual track by returning to God in fullness.
At the end of the month, White hopes to share some lessons he’s learned by delving into I and II Kings. Together, the Old Testament books tell a dramatic story of God interacting with a wide range of personalities.
“The headline for my time spent in that section of Scripture is that it really is primarily a story of God wanting to help his people get back on spiritual track,” said White.
The prophet Elijah illustrated that point when he cried out to the Lord on Mount Carmel during a particularly dark time, when the Israelites had turned to idolatry.
“Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” –I Kings 18:37 (NIV)
God’s people had veered off track, worshiping false gods at high places.
“We all have our high places,” said White. “Sometimes we’re not even aware of them.”
That’s one of five areas White will address during the seminar, showing believers what God has to say about navigating those peaks and valleys of spiritual life.
“What tends to get people off track is in those lows of life, in those times when we feel apart from God, we tend to go with our feelings and let our feelings take us wherever they will,” said White. “We bought into the idea that feelings lead to actions, but that’s not true. Actions are what lead to feelings and reality. You act your way into being.”
The example of marriage comes to mind once again. What should a couple do when the romance seems to be fading?
“A lot of people think the way to solve it is to work up romantic feelings,” said White. “But that’s not how you have a lasting, meaningful marriage. You don’t feel your way along. You act your way along.”
In the end, White believes the same is true in a relationship with God.
“What you’re really after isn’t one big, long high, but an intimacy with God–a life with God that carries you through the ups and downs.”
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and president of the ministry Serious Times, which hosts churchandculture.org. He is also an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and author of over a dozen books including Serious Times, Christ Among the Dragons, and A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom. Click here to learn more about James Emery White’s seminar at The Cove, “Getting Back on Spiritual Track.”