Our interest in living life in the fast lane does not lend itself to the characteristics we have traditionally attached to godliness. There is an old hymn that I remember being sung when I first started going to church: “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; abide in Him always and feed on His Word... Take time to be holy, the world rushes on.”
We read those words, believe them, and would even defend them…but, we draw a deep breath as we confess that they are more likely to be strange words to us. The idea of taking the kind of time “to be holy” seems a little out of date! Plus it doesn’t always make sense!
Does this mean, then, that it’s not possible to be holy? Does a fast-paced lifestyle force us to forfeit godliness? Do we need to intentionally slow-down and retreat from our busyness in order to be godly? Obviously, the answer to all these questions is “no!” If godliness were linked to a certain culture or era, then most of us would be out of luck! As much as we might enjoy a slower and less pressured lifestyle, God has not called everyone to a place like that.
So that brings us to a bottom-line question I rarely hear asked these days: What exactly does it mean to be holy...to be godly?
Godliness cannot be confused with how a person looks – even though that can be hard for some of us to get beyond! Nor is it to be confused with what a person drives or owns. So, as tough as it is for us to be free of envy and critical thoughts, it is essential that we remind ourselves that “God looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). And so, whatever we may say about godliness, it is not skin deep.
Godliness is something below the surface of a life, deep down in the realm of attitude. It’s an attitude towards God Himself. The longer I think about this, the more I believe that a person who is godly is one whose heart is sensitive toward God...one who takes God seriously. This shows itself up in a very obvious mannerism: The godly person hungers and thirsts after God. In the words of the psalmist, the godly person has a soul that “pants” for the living God (Psalm 42:1-2). What matters is the individual’s inner desire to know God...to listen to Him...and to walk humbly with Him.
Godly people possess an attitude of willing submission to God’s will and ways. Whatever He says, goes. And whatever it takes to carry it out is the very thing the godly person desires to do. The godly soul “pants” and “thirsts” for God. Remember, the godly take God seriously.