Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
– 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12
“The cross symbolizes a cosmic as well as a historic truth. Love conquers the world, but its victory is not an easy one.”
– Reinhold Neibuhr
“The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering that we see in church circles would end the career of a big league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nations whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men in easy chairs. Success is costly.
– A. W. Tozer, We Travel an Appointed Way
My wife is doing her cardiac rehabilitation. She wants to establish a habit of exercise before the rehab period is complete. We are looking into fitness establishments, but we are also looking into simply walking. We are thinking about walking the mall in winter and summer (when it is too cold or too hot) and walking the trails in the fall and spring. I have the structural issues. She has stamina issues, but as her heart becomes stronger, she’ll be doing laps around me.
It brings back memories of physical education in school and my abusive gym teachers. I had one that saved me from the boredom and abuse for a while. He had me run. He was trying to turn me into a long-distance runner. For a while, I had purpose. Then, while practicing for a marathon, my knees rebelled, then the back. As for the old calisthenics, I have nothing but bad memories.
As for spiritual growth, I read the Bible and pray. I attend Bible studies and worship services. It never gets old. With the Holy Spirit as my teacher, there is no boredom or abuse now or ever in the past. I don’t even think of it as hard work, but I put in the effort.
Maybe that is what is missing in Tozer’s lament that we are not putting in the effort. If I had a loving coach that explained exercise at my intellectual level so that I understood the long range effects, I might not hate it so much. So, maybe we need to find some way of making Bible study, prayer, and worship seem important. Not more exciting or interesting, but important. But we were told by the coaches that if we exercise now, we’ll have less problems when we were older. All that extra effort for spiritual growth should be obvious. We have an eternity of reaping the rewards. But just like the exercise, we think our bodies are immortal when we are young, just as we do not see the reward of Bible study and listening to the Holy Spirit when we are young believers. We think that getting inside the gates of Heaven before they slam shut is good enough.
Obviously, those spiritual exercises are not important to most young believers. Have you ever suggested to someone to end each day on a good note by reading the Bible, possibly only a few verses? Was this their response? “That’s not going to happen.” I have had that response, as if the person thought that was the worst idea ever thought. And this was someone with a wonderfully heart-touching testimony. They had the mountain top experience, but once in the first valley, they found Christian boredom preferable to climbing the next slope.
I’m getting old and tired and my creative juices don’t flow so well. I resist stating that my elevator does not stop on all the floors. It stops, but on some floors, it takes a crow bar to open the door.
So here is a homework assignment. How can we make the most exciting thing in the world, and beyond this world, exciting to believers and a hint of that excitement among those who are seeking?
It is not possible without the Holy Spirit’s help, and it won’t be possible without us putting in the effort.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.