Spiritual Depression – The Spirit Of Bondage – Romans 8.15-17

Lloyd-Jones calls Romans 8.15-17 “…one of the most magnificent statements that is found anywhere in the whole realm and range of the Scriptures…”. However, he says, we so often don’t apply the big truth therein to ourselves and to our lives.

Paul is, he writes, dealing with the problem of practically living out the Christian life and how we deal with our propensity to sin. We still have, in part, a spirit of slavery (v.15). This arises within us when we try to live in a new and different, in a sanctified way. We can then end up turning our newfound Christian faith and life into a list of rules to keep, boxes to check, and a law to uphold. We can fall into the trap, Lloyd-Jones says, of seeing “the Christian life as [a] great task with [we] have to take up…”

Simply, we want to live holy and sanctified lives but struggle. We fear failing and incurring the consequences.

So, what do we do?

“…you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness to  our spirit that we are God’s children.  And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) — if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.”

(Romans 8.15-17, NET)

We shouldn’t have a fear of failing before God anymore. There is no need to have a fear of failure or a fear of ourselves because we are now viewed as children of God (v.15). Upon taking the Christian life as our own we want to live a life that is pleasing to God (2 Timothy 2.4) but we fear failing here because, well, we’re people (Isaiah 64.6). We find ourselves in a bind: we want to live holy lives but fear failing because of our flesh.

Lloyd-Jones writes this, a great thought to take into the day.

“There is nothing that is so calculated to promote holiness as the realization that we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, that our destiny is certain and secure, that nothing can prevent it. Realizing that, we purify ourselves even as He is pure, and we feel that there is no time to waste.”

(Spiritual Depression, P.174)

Spiritual Depression – Looking At The Waves – Matthew 14.22-33

In Matthew 14.22-33 we read the spectacular story of Peter walking on water. Lloyd-Jones writes that, simply, that whatever is going on around us we can be confident and we can be calm as long as we are looking at, and as long as are clear about, Jesus. 

Peter is the perfect example for us here. He is bold, passionate, and ready for action (John 21.7). He isn’t afraid of hard work and he is ready to put his personal qualities to work for the Lord. However, as soon as he took his eyes off Jesus here he started to falter and to fall.

Peter was able to do the miraculous as long as he continually looked to Jesus.

Peter’s passion and energy led him to make a quick decision for Jesus (not a bad thing) but when his focus shifted he fell. Many of us have experienced this: the urge to go further into our faith, go deeper in our understanding, go closer in relationship. We make a decision to do so (Matthew 14.28-29) and then when things become difficult or we experience distraction we feel bad we are not living the brighter future we envisioned for ourselves (v.30). We then doubt ourselves, maybe even our level of faith, and the spiral into spiritual depression is a very real possibility.

If or when this happens for us we need only do what Peter did:

“…starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him,

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?””

(vv.30-31, NET, emphasis added)

The next time we are caught looking at the waves we need only lift our eyes to the Lord (Psalm 121) and cry out, as Peter did, “Lord, save me!“. The response will be the same:

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him…”

It might not be from walking on water, but Jesus stands firm and ready to reach out and catch us when we fall (Hebrews 7.25).

Spiritual Depression – Where Is Your Faith? – Luke 8.22-25

In Luke 8 we see the disciples enduring a trial and a question from Jesus that illustrate how we can all move through the difficulties that life throws at us:

“One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. Now a violent windstorm came down on the lake, and the boat started filling up with water, and they were in danger. They came and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are about to die!” So he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they died down, and it was calm. Then he said to them, “Where is your faith?” But they were afraid and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!””

(vv.22-25, NET)

Lloyd-Jones writes that there are many Christians who get into difficulty and are unhappy from time to time because they clearly have not understood the nature of faith. Again, we’re not expecting a trouble-free, plain-sailing life once we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour (cf. James 1.2-3), but to crumble and to backslide when life gets difficult is something that shouldn’t happen to the believer. Storm and trials are part of life, Lloyd-Jones goes on to say, and to think we will never face trial or tribulation is a terrible fallacy and a delusion. Jesus redirects the disciples’ thoughts and feelings in the midst of difficulty by saying

“Where is your faith?”

So, how do we positively move through trial and tribulation with the faith that His question assumes we have? We’re given a couple of clear points in Spiritual Depression;

1. Refuse to allow ourselves to be controlled by the situation.

This is hard, isn’t it? Some situations do feel like they are controlling you, storms on boats, for example. Things are happening, things are said, things are planned that are just out of our control and the feeling is one of being driven and directed by what’s going on around us rather than having any input or influence. When things get like this, our faith is our refusal to panic. We refuse to be controlled by what’s going on and we refuse to panic because we believe in a God who is bigger and greater that what’s going on and Sovereign over all. 

2. Hold on to what you know is true. 

You know who you are and you know whose you are (John 1.12, Genesis 1.27). When life gets difficult we go back to what we know is true and we go from there, we reason from what [we] know to be fact. We know that God loves us, gave what was most precious to Him to save us, exchanged heaven for here to redeem us, and became poor so we could become rich. When life gets difficult we lean into our faith and go back to what we know to be true. 

3. Bring all you know to be true of your relationship to God to bear upon your trial. 

Similar to #2, in the midst of trial and tribulation we know that God is there, an ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46.1), that He loves you as a prefect Father (1 Chronicles 17.13), and that He will never allow anything to happen to you that is truly harmful (Romans 8.28-29).

Sometimes points like these can leave us feeling even more overwhelmed, maybe like, “How am I going to manage that when I can’t even get through…‘. If you feel like that, don’t worry. Lloyd-Jones closes with this, a great passage to take into our day:

Spiritual Depression – Labourers In The Vineyard – Matthew 20.1-16

As we’ve been working through Spiritual Depression by D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones we’ve established some base truths. Now then, where do we go from here? We have, in his own words, “…arrived at a turning point” and we “must take a step forward”.

When we come to believe in Jesus we are never promised a trouble-free life (1 John 3.13, for example). We should never fall into the trap of thinking that all will be plain sailing now we consider ourselves Christians (Luke 4.13). Lloyd-Jones uses Matthew 20.1-16 and the parable of the labourers in the vineyard to make a point with which we can move forward through times of spiritual difficulty.

First, it fixes our attention on the things to come, not on the transient troubles of the world (cf. Colossians 3.2-3):

“For the kingdom of heaven is like…”

(Matthew 20.1, NET)

Second, Lloyd-Jones writes that what we take from this parable is that in our Christian lives “…all is of grace from the very beginning to the very end”.

Some of the labourers started well but fell into trouble later on (Matthew 20.11). Having been invited into the fold early in the day they resented those that came later but received the same (v.12). They began in the grace of their master but fell into feelings and attitudes of entitlement and expected-ease.

For you and me and our propensity to struggle with spiritual depression the lesson is clear: “It is not enough to start correctly, we must continue in the right way”. Starting off the Christian life full of the joys of grace received is wonderful, but when troubles strike we often revert to factory settings and try to deal with problems ourselves and in the flesh. We consequently become, as Lloyd-Jones writes, miserable Christians, because we feel like we’re fighting alone.

The kingdom of heaven is all about grace. Grace to enter, grace to stay, and grace to grow. It’s when we try to take the reigns and do things our way that things start to go wrong. Let us commit today to “take a step forward” by grace and through faith, away from spiritual depression and away from self.