A New Approach to Faith, Fasting, and Spiritual Freedom

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Chapter 1: Awakening

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
—Romans 12:11, NIV

   How close do you feel to God?
   Most of us sense that there’s more to a relationship with God than what we currently are experiencing. But how do we develop a more intimate bond with Him?
   As a devoted follower of Jesus, I have learned some secrets to staying consistently fresh in my relationship with God. This deepening friendship begins with what I call an awakening.
   After an awakening, life is never the same.
   A relationship with God is the most fulfilling thing a person can experience. Yet, I have observed that while the vast majority of believers start out with a lot of passion and zeal in their relationship with God, over time that enthusiasm subsides.
   On a day-to-day basis, their relationship with God eventually becomes passive. There are occasional bursts of excitement, but even that excitement is short-lived. Their walk with God seems to have a few highs, some lows…and a whole lot of mundane in-betweens.
   Why is that?
   Does it strike you, as it has me, that there is something terribly wrong with that picture? Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” ( John 10:10). Aren’t we vaguely unsettled with the idea that somehow a daily relationship with God…the God of the universe…can end up with the flavor of stale bread? The Bible is clear that our passion and “spiritual fervor” should be constant (Romans 12:11). So why have so many Christians accepted a faith experience that is so far below what God intended for them?
   I believe we have an innate sense that serving and worshipping an infinitely powerful God should be anything but mundane. However, many people appear to think that dynamic interactions with God occur only at random times or, for some unknown reason, just are not happening now. And they certainly don’t expect such encounters on a consistent basis. These believers find themselves at a loss as to how to recover the freshness and excitement they once felt. and end up walking through life unaware that a passionate, thriving relationship with God should be the norm, not the exception for every follower of Christ.
   Does any of this sound familiar to you? Maybe at one time you were excited about God, and were full of His life. Maybe you once felt free and were enjoying your relationship with God. But now, if you’re honest, you know other things have grabbed your attention, and your heart has hardened to the joy and freshness you once felt. Or maybe you are far from God and struggling with addictive behavior or other issues? (And, by the way, is there really anyone who doesn’t have issues?)
   How is it that we can become content with a mediocre spiritual life? It’s as if our soul itself grows dull and numb and needs to be shocked back to an awakened state. The good news is that the potential for a lasting, thriving relationship with God really is there. It just has to be awakened!
   When I surrendered my life to Christ, one of the most powerful components of that experience was an awakening to the very presence of God. I still remember the feelings. All of a sudden, my soul woke up! Deep inside, in an area I didn’t even know existed, I felt new emotions and was so alive and full of joy, excitement, and freedom—all at the same time. This feeling was so good, so real, so authentic that I never wanted to lose it.
   Since my awakening more than twenty years ago, I have been in a constant fight to keep that state of newness and freedom in my soul. And to this day nothing is as important to me as keeping my relationship with God fresh and new.
   You may think that is an unrealistic, perhaps even undesirable, goal. After all, aren’t new believers full of emotion and zeal? Eventually we have to calm down and get serious about following God, right? You may have even heard something like this a few times: “You can’t always live on a mountaintop!” or, “You will be an emotional roller coaster if you base your walk with God on feelings.”
   On the contrary, this pursuit of first love or freshness has kept my spiritual walk consistent and thriving all these years. In how I relate to God and how I obey and trust Him, my heart has stayed in a posture of “want to” instead of “have to.” Guarding the fire of devotion in my heart is the most foundational spiritual discipline of my Christian life. When that fire burns brightly, I love worshiping, praying, and obeying God. I hear His voice clearly, and my daily life is an overflow of power and grace. But when that fire dims and smolders, I find that even basic commitments become burdensome, as I try to maintain them in my own strength.
   We can have now, on a daily basis, the same vital connection in Christ that we had on the day He saved us. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6). We are all called to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), and we’re going to have to fight to “never be lacking in zeal” and always “keep [our] spiritual fervor” (Romans 12:11, NIV).
   Maintaining this newness and freshness with God is something we must literally fight to protect. Make no mistake about it—we have a very real enemy who wants nothing more than for our soul to be lulled to sleep, all while we think everything’s okay.

Live on a Mountaintop?

   So how do we continually experience newness in a world where everything ages? How do we experience freshness where everything quickly becomes stale? We have to wake up!
   Awakening to the presence and power of God is both a one-time event and a recurring newness we experience throughout our lives. Some would say that this state of newness is a mountaintop experience, one that is nice to have every once in a while, but unsustainable in real life. But if you will stick with me, I will show you that not only is it possible to live a life fully awakened to God at all times, but it is the desire and will of God that you do so.
   If we are not living that way, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and put this book down and live how you want to live. But if you want an ongoing mountaintop experience, and if you’re ready for your relationship with God to go to the next level, then keep reading and get ready for an incredible journey to your own personal awakening!
   Your entire life really can be one big breakthrough. You can consistently feel God in your emotions and experience joy, even in the most difficult seasons of your life. That’s what this book is about—I promise you that your immediate future can become the best time of your life! And this experience with God can be sustained year after year.
   Don’t allow the pain of this world to push you down into just biding your time here on earth and hoping for a better day in heaven. Yes, let’s hope for a better day when we are all in heaven with Jesus, but until that time, let’s live life as God intended it to be lived—fully awake, fully alive, and walking in a continual state of freshness and newness before God!
   Regardless of where you find yourself today, you can live a life of passion for God. Remember, passionate Christianity is supposed to be normal, not unusual for every believer. The principles of awakening to God and living a sustainable awakened lifestyle are the same principles that can get you free from addictions, bad habits, or anything else that is holding you back from God’s best for your life.
   Okay, I am not saying that every day will be like heaven on earth. I am not saying that you won’t have days and seasons that feel drier than others—I have had my share of those. In my two-plus decades of walking with God I know what it is to suffer, be disappointed, and feel discouraged. Neither am I saying that we should only live according to our feelings or base our relationship with God on experience alone.
   I am saying I believe the Bible is clear about this: experiencing God and feelings are part of the package. The Holy Spirit inside of us brings a whole new set of incredible emotions. God wants us consistently passionate for Him, and passion involves feelings!
   Over the next chapters and in the Awakening 21-Day Plan, I will show you how I keep things fresh and alive in my relationship with God. You, too, can apply these principles of spiritual renewal to your own life, and experience God’s very best.
   In this book I will tell you some of my story and walk you through a process of having your own personal awakening or re-awakening with God and how to keep that awakening experience vital, day after day and year after year. This book is about totally revolutionizing your walk with God so you can have the lasting, exciting relationship with Him you have dreamed about.
   Awakening is an experience, but it must be based on a foundation of biblical truth and principles. There is no formula to this, but I believe there are progressive steps of understanding and decisions that if followed will lead almost everyone to a much deeper spiritual awareness and relationship with God. In the chapters that follow I will share what I call the steps of awakening. They are—
   • experiencing surrender
   • experiencing passion for God
   • experiencing God’s goodness
   • creating space for God to fill
   In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with images, sounds, and counterfeit experiences that demand our attention and threaten to distract us, we can lose our spiritual focus and settle for cheap substitutes. We must discover how to remain awakened to God so that we can feel Him, hear Him, and have clear vision for our lives.
   If you have lost your love, your passion, your want-to attitude in your relationship with God, let’s get those back. It is time to restore your fight, hit the reset button, and experience God in an incredibly fresh, new way.
   Hold on and get ready for an awakening!

Excerpted from Awakening by Stovall Weems Copyright © 2010 by Stovall Weems. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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