Discipleship: No Freebies
Most of the significant things done in the world were done by persons who were either too busy or too sick! There are few ideal and leisurely settings for the disciplines of growth. ~Robert Thornton Henderson~
Swing The Bat
It is ingrained in humanity to want something for nothing. We always seek bargains and deals. Even in our spiritual lives, there’s a latent expectation that we can obtain vitality at cut rates.
However, like anything else there’s a direct relationship between input and output—we will receive benefits of spiritual strength, growth, and change equal to our diligence.
When I coached Little League, there was a young fella who’d get called out on strikes without ever taking the bat off his shoulder. No matter how much encouragement he’d get, the bat never even flinched in his hands as the pitches sailed past him.
After every strike out I’d get eyeball to eyeball with him and say, “You know, your chances of hitting the ball increase significantly when you actually swing the bat.”
Too many of us say we want to hit a homerun in our spiritual lives or at least we want to put the ball into play, yet we stand and watch as pitch after pitch flies past us.
We say we want to develop character and spiritual resiliency, and then stand by and do nothing as opportunity after opportunity after opportunity comes along to challenge and stretch us.
More often than not we employ a combination of the gimme, gimme, gimme, fastfood, and get rich quick mentalities to our spiritual lives—we expect instant results with zero effort.
We want patience, and we want it right now, thank you very much. We haven’t got time for meditation or self-examination or digging out the weeds and briars in our lives.
We desire to fix lifelong issues immediately, and get spiritually rich quick. The basic premise of all get-rich quick schemes is to make a whole pile of money with very little cost. . .fast!
We all know that is bogus—deep down we comprehend that we do not get something of value for nothing, but that knowledge never seems to prevent us from wishing to do so. When we peel away kneejerk denial of that fact, it’s clear that every one of us is on the lookout for a freebie.
Reality slams up against the notion of getting something for nothing because in the stuff that matters there are no freebies. Perseverance isn’t picked up at the drive-through window.
We cannot grow beautiful gardens without hoeing, raking, working the soil, and getting our hands dirty weeding—we cannot hit a homerun or even put the ball into play without swinging the bat.
Why do we think we can grow spiritually strong without investing sweat? The words spiritual discipline can make people get antsy and squirm around—there’s something almost grim about them.
Yet discipline has the same root as disciple, which certainly implies that discipleship and discipline are yoked together. Perhaps it even demands that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means to be disciplined.
When we seriously apply the spiritual disciplines we discover them to be an indispensable and joyful means of grace.
Isaiah 30:15-18 - NIV
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.' Therefore you will flee! You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.' Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.”
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Faithless & Feckless
The prophet Isaiah penned those words roughly 2700 years ago, yet they are directly relevant to our 21st century mindset.
God speaks across the ages to us: “Repent. Rest in me for I am your salvation. Be quiet, relax, trust me.”
We respond by rushing to and fro—filling our lives with activity on top of activity on top of activity. We try fast-talking shortcuts and easy sounding gimmicks rather than sticking to basics.
The Israelites response to trouble and difficulties was to flee on horses rather than trust God. We are no different. The modern horses we hop on instead of trusting and drawing close to God are the Get Busy Horse, the Fill Our Schedule Horse, or the Shop, Shop, Shop Horse.
In times of urgency we jump on these metaphorical horses attempting to find answers, comfort, direction, or security everywhere and anywhere except by exercising faith in God.
Events press in and swirl around us—we have to do this, we have to do that, we have to go here or there. If we’re not careful, if we do not put intentional safeguards in place, the stresses will consume us, leaving us emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted.
We’ll see it in our closest relationships, which will be strained. Husbands and wives who love each other deeply will snip and snap at each other because of the pressures of an overloaded schedule.
The most momentous relationship of all will suffer when we get caught up in a preoccupation with the urgent. God will get short shrift—even though we realize that he is the source of our vigor and intensity.
We know God is our shield and protector—that understanding is woven into our heads, yet it so easily unravels. We lose it, and in our faithless and feckless manner, we consistently flee on one horse or another.
Even so, God keeps calling us, always pouring out grace: “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. ~Mark 1:35~ The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried. ~G. K. Chesterton~
Does scheduling time with God create tension in your life?
What Do We Value?
When we read the gospels, we discover that Jesus of Nazareth regularly carved time out of his strenuous itinerary to be alone with God, to spend time with his Heavenly Father.
Multitudes followed and clamored for him. Religious leaders yammered at him and tried to trip him up with trick theological questions. His disciples were constantly making mistakes and monopolizing his time.
Yet in the midst of all the push and shove of happenings, Jesus made it a priority to spend precious time alone with God. We are to do likewise.
Our inclination is to make excuses, throw our hands up, and say that our calendars are just too crazy and hectic. We’ve got so many plates spinning that it requires all our attention—we have to keep up pretenses as we try to satisfy every obligation.
What we need to discern is that everything flows out of our daily personal quite time with our Heavenly Father. Who we are when we’re alone with God, is who we are—all the various masks we wear to impress or please others are stripped away.
If we are not routinely cultivating time with God, then we will be out of alignment, and all those spinning plates will frustrate and discourage us, and probably come crashing down.
When we’re balanced—when we’re spiritually aligned because of time alone with God, then the spinning plates will be invigorating. It comes down to a single question: We have to decide what is important to us—what exactly do we value?
People, even hustling people with over-filled agendas always manage to find time for those things essential to them. So, what does our lifestyle choices tell us about what we see as crucial for our well being?
Family, job, hobby? Where does our relationship with God come on that list? Yes, it really is that simple. If we view a tight connection to God as essential, then time alone with him will be given significant emphasis.
We’ll fail at it more often than we succeed—we’ll miss the mark and have to reapply ourselves. A yearning to run away or give up will beckon us, and in those heart-check times, we must determinedly keep at it.
Remember this: No matter where we are or what horse we choose to flee on, our Heavenly Father says to us, “Repent. Rest in me for I am your salvation. Be quiet, relax, trust me.”
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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