What's wrong with being a comfortable Christian?
At face value, absolutely nothing. I hope we are all comfortable in our faith, in our church and how we live out our faith on a daily basis. At the beginning of the year, the Asbury class did a study titled Revival, by Adam Hamilton. It was extremely enlightening and coincidentally came right in the midst of what I believe was the start of a revival in our church. In his book, he touched on the comfort issue.
He asked some challenging questions that he directed primarily towards people who were between 50 to 80+ years old. The questions weren't easy ones and after asking if we were doing various things, he ended with this: "or are you playing it safe and coasting in the second half of your life?" In other words, are you living the comfortable Christian life?
What is that "second half" of our lives? It could be no more kids in the house, or maybe retirement, or even just scaling back your work load at your job. Whatever that "second half" may be to each of us, the question is a challenging one. Are we playing it safe and coasting? Also, are we steering away from the challenges that are presented to us as Christians? Are we taking it easy, because we've earned it, because we've put our time in, or because we've done our share?
John Wesley described a good death as bearing witness to your faith until the very end. In our class discussion during Revival, we talked about why people wouldn't want to see their church change, or be revived. There were many responses, but the one I want to focus on is related to age. Most of those answers referenced being too old, or getting older. The class went on to elaborate about getting older and it became very self-deprecating. Other responses related to age included, I did my share, I don't want to do too much and I'm just tired. I see those same answers being very relative to living the "comfortable Christian life".
Now I'm sure most of you are familiar with the sayings use it or lose it, or don't leave anything on the table.
So I ask those of us in the 50-80+ age group. Why are we resting? We'll have plenty of time to do that, in fact, an eternity. We need to give it everything we have now. We only have so much time and when our time is done, what will we have left behind?
We as a group have so much to offer and yet the world tells us we should be slowing down. Well in some things that might be true, but when it comes to our faith, it's full speed ahead, or at minimum, a rapid shuffling of the feet.
One of the best lessons I ever gave to the teams I coached for years was this one, whether you play 2 minutes, or 22 minutes, make them the best 2 or 22 you can. If it doesn't work out, it won't be because of lack of effort. The worst thing we as Christians can do is to not give it our all. Complacency, lethargy and listlessness can easily bring down a church and won't do much to increase our faith, or spread the gospel. Jesus speaks to this and refers to it as being lukewarm. "I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth! (Rev 3:15-16). Ouch!! Jesus doesn't pull any punches there, does He?
Now I know we may not move as fast, or think as fast. We probably remember less and lots of things don't work the way they used to, but we all have something to offer when it comes to our faith. So short of a debilitating health issue, let's get out there and make a difference. Get your hands dirty, do the work of the Lord and make a difference right now! And in the end, that difference could last a lifetime. Yes, possibly in yours, but more importantly, in those whose lives you've made a difference.
Up next, the under 50 crowd.
I heard today that this month is the 9th snowiest January of all time in our area and we're "digging out" again. While contemplating more shoveling, (I know, I should get a snow blower, but I like the exercise), I began to think about how we as Christians sometimes feel buried. The list of reasons is endless. Some are much more serious than others, but more often than not, they end up sending us into what's often called a spiritual rut.
What are our options when we get buried in a snowstorm? We can put it off until later, or hope it warms up quickly and melts. Those usually aren't good options in our area and it typically ends up making navigation of our walks and drives more difficult, including an occasional slip on the ice, or a car that drops off into the yard, or worse yet, a ditch. We can hope our neighbor with the snow blower comes over, or better yet, pray that he comes over. We can get out and clear our own drive, which for many, leads us to the drives of our neighbors. We can ask for help from a neighbor or friend, or call a snow removal service. Sometimes we have to know our limits and realize that the best way for us to get out of this snow emergency is by seeking assistance.
I had a hard time coming up with a topic for this entry and then realized that I was in a funk of my own, a real spiritual rut. When I came to that realization, it was obvious what I had to write about. So, how do we get out of these spiritual ruts? Believe it or not, shoveling snow was my inspiration! Here are a few options I came up with.
Option 1. Just ignore it and it will go away, especially when there's hot chocolate available and a warm fire. How about put it off and deal with it later, nothing like a good nap, right? These wouldn't be my recommended options of choice. We could easily end up flat on our back, sort of like slipping on unattended ice and now being engulfed by a problem that we could have rid our self of if we had acted. Worse yet, our procrastination could allow us to fall deeper into that rut, like a car falling off of a heavily snow covered drive.
Option 2. We can pray. Now why don't we think of that more often? Go to God in prayer and ask Him to send us whatever He knows is necessary to blow all that negativity right out of our lives, remove the massive drift of trials and tribulations that surround us and provide us with a clear and safe path.
Option 3. We can pick ourselves up by our snow boot straps, get our hands a little blistered and get to work getting ourselves out of that rut. One of the best ways I have found to do that is in service to others. It's sort of like clearing the drive of your neighbor after you finish yours. In service to another, we become less focused on our own problems and more focused on helping others and before you know it, your stepping out of what was once a deep, cavernous hole. In a world of quick fixes and instant gratification, this is probably the best option. Results are typically immediate!!
Option 4. We can ask for help from others, whether that be a friend, family member, minister or mentor. It's one of the hardest things for us to do as humans, ask for help, but in many instances, it can be the best way for us to clear that blizzard of difficulties holding us back from moving forward. We need others to help us find our way when we're blinded by the trials and tribulations that seem impossible to eradicate. And in many instances, those humbly and selflessly serving us in our time of need often benefit more from it than we do.
For the rest of our lives, there will always be storms, both inside and outside of us. How we deal with them and how we help others to deal with them will speak volumes to our faith, not only in Christ our Lord, but in each other.
Dave is the Discipleship Czar at Girard 1st. His unofficial title was given because of his love for Christ, and his consistent encouragement for people in their spiritual walk.