Why does it seem sometimes that we hear God speak to us all the time about all sorts of amazing things, and, at other times, the heavens seem to be as silent as a tomb?
Or, asking a similar question, why does it seem sometimes that obeying, glorifying and loving God is so easy and so joyous (we bear so much fruit that it pops the tires on the truck ... provided you are one of those people who put their fruit on a truck, rather than, for example, a rail car) and, at other times, it seems like the only thing you can do is give into temptation, fail, sin and spend lots of time in self-flagellation? Followed by the speculation of why. Sin? Out of sync? Not following the right formula of spiritual discipline? Followed by the solutions, which usually involve resolutions to pray more, read more, obey more and sin less. In other words, we are going to "try harder."
"Try harder" is not a bad thing. Often, discipline, diligence, perseverance and patience are what is needed for success. (Much better than simply quitting.) But is it always the case? Sometmes, we need to work smarter, not harder.
Often, people become motivated to seek a right relationship with God. They say, "I need to stop doing bad things. I need to start doing good things. Then, God will be pleased with me, and I will have peace with him." If you are a follower of Jesus, you call that foolish. We already know that no one can do enough to ransom his soul. Jesus died to provide forgiveness, justification, redemption, and a new life of abundance. To receive those things, we need to trust God and accept his gift. But to live the new life, we need to try harder.
We are undergoing a process of transformation. The process begins in our hearts. God works to change our motivations, values and perspectives. Some of us can barely change our eating habits. How do we even begin to get at our motivations?
We have been talking recently about focusing our hearts on God, God focusing his heart on us, and starting a flow of grace into our hearts, which transforms our spiritual DNA. We are saved by grace. Maybe we grow by grace.
This may make it sound like I think obedience is not important. I do think the heart is first. One, because we can sin or obey God in our hearts without doing or saying anything. Two, it is our words and actions that reveal what is in our hearts. Three, they are our entry point into the world. They are the way we bring the God, who is in our hearts, to the world to demonstrate his love and character.