The Necessity of Rigor and Follow-Through
I regret that I cannot give the source for the following explanation of the motivation of the proto-methodists for the rigorous and sytematic way that they approached their acts of Christian charity and personal devotions: they did what they did methodically to ensure their accountability to God. While there is always a danger of slipping from a spirit of Rigor (good) to a spirit of Legalism (bad), I very much agree with the spirit of those earnest men who realized that their core problem was not that God did not answer prayer, but that they would not properly respond when He did answer. Here is Ecclesiastes 5:1-7:
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. 4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake; why should God be angry at your voice, and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase, empty words grow many: but do you fear God.
Although this has to do with the making of vows to God, the warning given there on the necessity of follow-through is pertinent here: if by the processes outlined here the Holy Spirit God makes known to you things you should be doing, you should not expect progress if you foolishly believe that Divine Grace will make up for disobedience to that revelation. To be sure, you will be led to information, facts, and promises that you will need to believe, but believing is not a substitute for doing when doing is what is required (James 1:22-25, Matthew 7:21-27). In fact, it is often the case that doing is not only a logical follow-up to believing, but actually strengthens it when the key to victory is faith: While Gideon's experience with the fleece was able to give him enough faith to call out the Israelites and cull them down to a dedicated 300, it did not really give him the faith necessary to expect victory if he did attack. It took less faith, and gumption, to put out a fleece than to put himself (and an optional companion) into the camp of the Midianites at God's command. Yet doing so got him outside of the tent where he heard a conversation that transformed a little man of little faith into a great warrior with great faith (Judges 7:9-15).
I speak thus from personal experience: if there is something God wants you to do or to believe, rest fully assured you will not make any progress until you do what God wants you to do or believe what God wants you to believe. In cases like this, I find God an immovable object, and the sooner you learn that you are not an irresistable force, the sooner you will stop wasting your valuable time and energy trying to get around His requirements. During such periods of time, you will be tempted to doubt God's love, grace, and care (I certainly did). However, when I reflect back on those periods and the lessons that I learned from them, I inevitably conclude that sparing me from them would have demonstrated a lack of true love on His part.
While material blessings require time to appear (which is consistent with their nature), I have found that the times of difficulty have become considerably shorter and less intense when I adopted the general principle that, if there seem to be any delays or difficulties, then there is either a demon to be rebuked or a lesson to be learned. While demons are quickly and easily flushed, the learning of the lessons proved considerably more resistant until I stumbled across the methodologies that I outline in this essay. Indeed, I suspect that many such periods of difficulty may never have happened because I "pre-emptively" believed or obeyed the scriptures that these methodologies brought to my attention.
A final warning: do not believe that the goodness of Divine Grace will waive the above requirements to believe or to obey. Grace is like an umbrella that has a fixed and delimited "area of coverage," outside of which one must exert some effort, employing one's strength, knowledge, wisdom, and abilities. Rather than expend effort in devising biblically dubious arguments to support the fantasy of costless, obedience-less Grace, I recommend that you will more profitably spend your time and energy figuring out how to leverage grace within its "area of coverage" to lead one to believe and to obey. Forget about "gaming the system", for God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7-9). You have been warned!
With those necessary cauthions out of the way, I will now outline the various levels of the Scripture communication protocol.
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