Last Sunday I made a statement that we we are in a phase of rebuilding our church. But, sometimes we get the feeling that many members are not on the same page. Granted, not everyone can be a leader – the church needs followers too.
But there are many who seem to be in a “quitting time” kind of mode. It may be because of the stage in life that they are in, or who knows what life circumstances are making them think that we are in the last minutes of the game.
I remember many years back when I was working in a factory – for the last half hour at the end of the shift, the workers (including myself) would be dusting themselves off, keeping constant watch if perchance the supervisor would come around the corner. They would keep themselves just barely busy enough so as not to be fired for wasting time – but they weren’t really producing anything anymore.
I don’t know if you knew this, but in Paraguay they actually have a law for this. It’s called the “law of the least effort”. You do the absolute minimum that you can get away with.
Before we get too down on ourselves for this lets place at least some of the blame on our society. We have raised a society of people who expect, even demand something for nothing. We believe ourselves to be “entitled” to all the goodies – without having to pay a price for it. We want something for nothing.
Mediocrity is the standard against which many people measure their achievements. I don’t know about you, but I find very few things as insulting and as repulsive as a person who has the potential to achieve great things and chooses to do a lousy job – employ the law of least possible effort. I think John also made reference to that in Revelation, “Oh, that you would be hot or cold, but because you are luke warm, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
I’ve recently joined a group of men who play indoor soccer at the school gym. It’s a lot of fun, and its good for the circulation – it hasn’t done much for my weight yet, but with time we might get there.
Last time we played I was amused by one of the other players who said, “It should be against the rules for the Pastor to kick the ball so hard.” You see, when I play soccer – as in almost everything I do in life – I play to win. Sure, I’m there for the fun, for the fellowship, a few good laughs, whining about kreeking bones and aching muscles, but ultimately winning is what its all about. Now, don’t get me wrong: if the other team wins, I’m glad for them, but they have to earn the victory.
What I’m describing to you is a passion that I have for life. I want to live life to the fullest – enjoy every moment – work hard – give 110% all the time. I have learnt that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well or not at all.
But this passion for life is not something that just grows on you out of nowhere. You have to want it! You have to want to be on the winning team and make the team that your on a winning team. I’m using this rather self-centered example to illustrate a profound spiritual truth.
The Biblical writers knew something about this passion this when they spoke about the longing of the heart for God. There are many references to a personal spiritual longing for God.
Isaiah 26 9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
Isaiah notices the destruction that goes on all around – Israel is divided and political chaos is unfolding. He cries out for God’s people, his soul yearns for God.
The Psalms have a wonderful way of bringing out the passion for spiritual nurture. Psalm 42 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Here we have the picture of a deer that has been on the run from the hunter and is out of breath and totally out of strength. Heart racing and totally confused it comes across a stream of water and finds safety and security.
In the Beatitudes we hear Jesus speaking words of comfort: Luke 6:21 21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied. These words are indeed words of hope even today for little children whose belly hurts for pain for the lack of food .
The Apostle Paul speaks about his passion for Christ in slightly different terms, but the message is the same. Phil. 3:7-11 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul is willing to give up the whole world for the benefit of knowing Christ. He wants to know Christ and the power of the resurrection. He expresses a passionate desire, a longing of the heart, not only to know Christ, but also to have a share in his suffering.
The first part is a little easier to follow than the second. Yes, who wouldn’t want to know Christ? But… to desire… to long for… a share in his suffering? That goes against the grain, doesn’t it. However, Paul has a reason for this. The suffering is necessary to also attain to the resurection of the dead. And so the suffering is not really an enemy, even though it comes disguised in pain and devastation. In fact the suffering in Paul’s view is a privilege – something to strive for, and to be counted fortunate when God gives us that privilege.
1 Peter 2:2 has a beautiful image of an innocent little child longing for the nutritional milk of its mother. Peter compares the passion that Christians should have, with the craving of a newborn. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Notice the themes in that passage: the purpose of that childlike craving is to grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. When was the last time you craved for spiritual nurture with the intensity that a baby has for the mother’s milk. The child will start with a little “mecker”, if the mother doesn’t respond, it will soon turn into a persistent cry until it finally receives the nourishing food that it needs to grow and develop.
Col. 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
In the passage from Colossians we perceive the Apostle’s longing to see the spiritual passion of the community of faith. He is concerned that the whole life of the church would be transformed by spiritual passion of each one of its members.
I share Paul’s prayer and vision: I have not stopped praying for you that God will fill you with the knowledge of his will. Friends, I desire nothing more than that each one of you would find the will that God has for your life, and that you would give your blood and sweat to pursue that calling.
A passionate spiritual life also leads to a burning desire to fly closer to the flame. That is, to live a life worthy of the Lord and to bear fruit in our spiritual lives. This vision is quite a bit different from doing only what we absolutely have to do, that is to perform our duty and nothing more. Let us keep in mind that spiritual passion leads to an increasing desire to live by the power of the spirit.
But how do we get spiritual passion? How do you fly closer to the flame? How do you crave the spiritual milk, and pant for the fresh waters of God’s fullness?
First of all, it’s a choice! God has given us the free will to choose for or against a relationship with him. The basic rule of thumb is that you’re going to get out of your spiritual life what you expect to get out of it. If you don’t expect to win any spiritual battles – chances are its going to be an uphill battle all the way. But if you choose to deepen your relationship with Christ, and be intentional and intense about it, you will grow by leaps and bounds.
The life of Jesus is a good example to us. He lived his relationship with his heavenly father. He communed with him, walked with him and allowed his passion for God’s truth to direct every inch of his life. That would not have been the case if he had not made a concious choice to follow God in obedience, to seek his will in prayer and study of the scriptures and by acting on the convictions of his heart.
An old man was reading his Bible and a young man who observed him asked what he was reading. The old man responded, “I’m reading Revelation.” “That’s such a difficult book. Do you understand what it says?” asked the young man. “Oh sure!, answered the old man, “It says that God is going to win.”
Friends, God is going to win. In fact, we are on the winning team. In Christ God has already claimed the victory. So, lets act like it and put some heart into our life of discipleship. Mediocrity is repulsive to God. Lukewarm Christians do not wash with God. Life is an exciting roller coaster ride. We don’t always know what’s behind the next corner. But, if we trust God, we know its going to be a wild ride.
God wants us to be passionate about our relationship with him. God wants us to carry a passionate burden for those who are still far away from him… to reach out to them and embrace them with the saving message of the Gospel.
Perhaps you are here today because your spiritual life lacks passion and you just want to fill up to make it through the next week. This message is not meant to make us feel guilty for our past failures, but rather, its meant to inspire us to fly closer to the flame. To be motivated to crave the pure spiritual milk that we find in God’s Word, in Prayer and in Fellowship with other Christians.
More than anything else, if you want to experience the growth and taste the fruit that are a result of a fulfilled Spiritual life, you will have to want it – and not count the cost.