As the young woman drove her car into the bay in the shop where I was getting the Jeep’s oil changed last week, its engine tapped noisily. The man working on my car looked up and said, “Oh no, that engine is shot!” When she turned it off, he raised the hood and discovered, as suspected, an engine with next to no oil in it. Her neglect of regular maintenance, a $35 item, had likely destroyed that engine, and replacement was a huge expense. I felt great compassion as they told her the news and I saw tears well up in her eyes.
That, dear friend, is a parable for so many things in life. Millions of us continue with life-styles that destroy our bodies, knowing full well that a little exercise, a little discipline about the amount and quality of food we eat, will lengthen and improve the quality of our lives; yet we go on eating those donuts and chips. We know that tightening the screws on the door will keep it on the hinges, but we ignore it until it falls off. We know that taking time for our spouse, to really listen, to care, to serve, will make our marriage so much better, but we keep on staring at the TV or working too many hours and act surprised when the threat of divorce is made.
Our Christianity needs preventative maintenance, too. To be sure, we cannot earn God’s favor by ‘being good,’ but there are daily choices that create opportunities for the Holy Spirit to make us fruitful, effective, joyful disciples. Smile, if you want, but consistent choices matter in shaping us. I have heard so many people dismiss church attendance with a flip phrase, “going church does not make me a Christian, any more than standing in the garage makes me a car.” Funny? Yes. True? Sort of. Actually, God created the “church” to be His Body, a place to find strength, to join in worship, to experience the Spirit’s gifts, and to hear the Word. The strongest Christians I know are people who obey His call into His Body in an active faithful way.
You can make Sunday into a play day: golfing, fishing, and visiting with family. Truthfully, you won’t see much impact on your spiritual life, short-term. However, a subtle erosion of spiritual health will start immediately when you neglect the fellowship of the Church. With time, the edge will go out of your faith. Without teaching that helps you to apply the unchanging Word to an ever-changing world your spiritual understanding will stagnate. If you are a parent, know this: your kids will conclude that church is just one of life’s options, and as young adults, they will discard church attendance all together, along with saving faith.
There are other daily choices that enhance our engagement with God, the Holy Spirit. We take the Word and read it, much as we eat dinner each evening. If we fail to take in the Scripture on a daily basis, will we fall into gross sin in a few days time? No. But, we will miss out on hearing from God and wander farther from Him over time. In much the same way, failure to pray won’t turn a person into an atheist overnight, but without that daily conversation, distance will develop as the Spirit becomes a stranger. We are invited to serve. When we do that faithfully, month after month, giving ourselves away it is like exercise of the body. Benefit accrues in basic spiritual health.
I love a phrase I learned from author and pastor, Eugene Peterson, who describes our Christian walk as a “a long obedience in the same direction!’
Perhaps you read these words and struggle with the dutifulness of it all. That is because we have been sold a romantic notion that we can always ‘feel’ like worship, prayer, giving, service, and such disciplines. I will burst that bubble. Some days there is real delight in loving Christ and some we just do the right thing because we know in our heart and mind it is the right thing to do. Ask any married person if they always feel deep delight and affection for their spouse. Of course they do not, nobody does. But, marriage are made by fidelity- ‘for better, for worse.’
Here is wisdom from the Word. “Jesus said, “The first (commandment) in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” (Mark 12:29-31, The Message)
“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” (Proverbs 6:6-11, NLT) The principle is spiritual, too.
By the way, is your car due for an oil change?
Take My Life
Take my life and let it be consecrated
Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee\
Take my voice and let me sing\
Always only for my King\
Take my lips and let them be\
Filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use\
Ev’ry power as You choose
Here am I all of me
Take my life it’s all for Thee
Chris Tomlin | Frances Ridley Havergal | Henri Abraham Cesar Malan | Louie Giglio
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