The way up is down

Mark Melluish explains that the way to get to know God better is to ‘get down low.’

This article was published in the January to April 2022 edition of Rapport magazine.

Path on cliffs at West Bay, Dorset, UK

Jesus taught that the rich are often poor and the poor rich, that the first are last and the last are first. It’s a great picture of life because, so often, life is not always as we see it.

Is this true? Here is where you are and there is where you want to be. Maybe a funny statement to start an article with, but it’s true in most of our lives. We are where we are but, so often, we’d like to be somewhere else. We’d like to be fitter and healthier. Perhaps we’d like to be a better friend or to have more friends. We’d like to know more about faith and be a better Jesus follower. Most of us in life are in one place, but would like to be in another. That’s not a negative feeling. It’s a desire to grow, to go deeper. It’s a sign that we’d like to continue developing ourselves in some way.

The race

The question is always, ‘How do I get from where I am now to where I want to be?’ As with all things in life it takes effort. I began training for a cycle ride at the beginning of 2021 as I planned to ride 350km on tracks along what is known as The King Alfred Way. The training was a self-imposed regime of 45km on a Tuesday morning and 115km on a Saturday morning. I knew that my level of fitness mattered. If I wasn’t fit enough, I would have to rely on the rest of the team to support me and they wouldn’t have any spare capacity to support others or cope with any hiccups along the way.

Much of this is true in the Christian life as well. My faith can be a significant help to others if I work on it. Paul suggests in Philippians 3:14–16, ‘I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God through Jesus is calling us …’ that the Christian life is a race, and a race requires focus. We have to train or we won’t last the distance.

Spiritually ready

Being spiritually fit in our faith is something we can all work on. It’s not like doing a ‘couch to 5k’ run. It doesn’t mean just putting on running shorts and trainers. It means pausing before entering the day. Starting the day with God. Not being people who roll out of bed and mumble, ‘Good Lord, it’s morning’. But rather those who rise with an expectation of all that the day holds and who pause to say, ‘Good morning, Lord’.

Why do we need to be fit spiritually? Perhaps because as Christians we aren’t called to be consumers but contributors. We are to be people who give, who sacrifice, and who encourage. We are called to help the hurting and pray for the sick. We are not invited to be passengers but participators.

How do we do this?

James 4:10 says, ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.’ The way up to God is down. Perhaps nothing is as important as pursuing God’s presence and making ourselves available to Him. We read in 2 Chronicles 16:9, ‘The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.’ What a lovely verse and a wonderful invitation to each of us to be fully committed to the race. To stay fit, to work out, to be prepared.

My Nana used to say, ‘A closed mouth doesn’t get fed’. God is looking for those who are hungry for Him so that He can feed us. He wants us to lean on Him. To call on Him. Our Heavenly Father is looking for partners in ministry. Co-creators who are prepared to put their love for God and their love for their neighbour first.

The way to a closer walk with God is first to admit that we need Him. To be humble enough to admit that we can’t make it alone. To pause before entering the day and find some space to be still in the presence of God. I find sitting on a chair near a window a great way to pause with my Lord. The view of the sky, rather than just my room, helps me think bigger thoughts and the wonderful thing about this is that if we do give time then we will hear from God.

Listening to God

Jesus needed to hear from His Father ‘You are my son in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). It gave Him strength for the ministry that day. Jesus often retreated to pray, and I suspect it was because He knew that He needed to hear from His Father before He went out into the day.

If we do this, if we take time to be with Jesus, to prioritise putting Him first in our lives, then what we discover is that we are lifted up, we are fed and encouraged and empowered. We find ourselves being sent out.

Didn’t Jesus say that He had come to give us ‘life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10)? The way to find that satisfying life is not to focus on ourselves, but to offer ourselves to others.

The way to know God is to get down low. To come humbly before Him. The health of your soul is key to fullness of life. Your soul is the doorway to the life that Jesus promises. The deeper we go, the more satisfied we become. The more satisfied we become, the more peace we experience. To focus on our soul is to sharpen our attentiveness to God and to all that God is doing. It allows us to find the deep joy that we are invited to experience as we journey with Jesus.

Up is down

The paradox of the inward journey is that the more we focus inwards, the more we see outwardly. The lower we get, the higher our experiences. To find that deep connection with our soul means not disconnecting with the world around us but rather connecting with it in a more real way.

Jesus says:

‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He only does what he sees the Father doing’

John 5:19

We can’t know what God is doing unless we give time to deepen our relationship with Him. The way up is down. The way to know God more, to discover a more fulfilled life, to live with a peaceful heart is to humble ourselves and come before God with ‘open mouths’.

Serving

If we do this we will find ourselves serving. I have the honour and privilege of leading a small family of churches in West London with my wife Lindsay. Recently, we invited all the leaders to gather together at our home. On this occasion, we talked about ‘Kingdom Vision’ for the churches we lead. We asked what it was that God had called us to do and be in our community.

As we listened, every one of those leaders talked of serving. They shared stories of how they were personally giving of themselves and how the church families they lead are serving the local community. I felt like I was in the presence of giants in the Kingdom. It was like we were being served a feast and it was easy to feel the Holy Spirit’s presence.

As we press into God, He calls us out and the result is beautiful. We put on our serving towel each day and, like Jesus, we look for those whose feet we can wash. We look for those with a broken heart or who are weary from some aspect of life. We look for those who need a hand up or a hand out.

Our Lord is looking for people hungry to know Him more. Let’s come with open mouths each morning and feast with Jesus before we rush into the day.

Rev’d Prebendary Mark Melluish

Senior Pastor
St Paul’s Ealing, St John’s Ealing & St Mellitus, Hanwell


Posted on 4 January 2022