I will be traveling to South Africa next week with our mission team. We have spent some 20 hours of training to prepare for this trip. When we started, I had no idea what could possibly take so much time to prepare for. I thought the trip would entail hard work for 8 days serving other people who are certainly not as blessed as I with health and creature comforts.
Boy, was I wrong. Our training instead started to prepare us to be stewards of God, to actively listen for His instruction so that we will truly be His hands and feet in George. We have been learning to do exactly what Paul calls us to do in today's reading - to live by the Spirit. I say "started to prepare us" because it was, frankly, hard to do. We would read scripture for guidance in how to follow God's word. We prayed a lot, not just for things like a safe journey, but also for God's help and direction so that we can take specific actions that He would have us take. I found myself trying so hard to do what the work book told me to do, that I had to try even harder to listen for God's voice.
Paul tells us not to live according to the sinful nature. But, I would submit that "sin" has a broader meaning here. There are many sins that are obvious - murder, lying, cheating, etc. You may easily be able to say that you don't sin in those ways. However, not taking the time to truly listen to God, I believe, is also a sin. And that is a sin I've been committing my whole life. This training has taught me how little I know about truly communicating with God and how important that communication is. It is not merely praying here and there. It is putting yourself in a position to truly listen because it is only when you allow yourself to be in that position that you may hear God giving you the answers that you seek and the direction you should take.
I would ask that you pray for all of us going on mission trips this year, that we will hear the voice of God and that we will do His will.