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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lessons Repeated

13-14"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
(Matthew 7:13-14)

As I sit at my computer this morning, I am reminded of the many "shortcuts" I can use to accomplish simple things like making a word underlined, launching a program, or conducting a spell-check to ensure accuracy in my writing.  As I traverse the hospital campus today, I will take "shortcuts" many times to get from point A to point B - the quickest route possible with the fewest steps in between.  As I consider the dinner menu tonight, I will likely want an easier meal since my hours will be long today - so I want the meal that can be made in as quickly as possible.  

We all want to avail ourselves of the "shortcuts" in life.  It is human nature to want to take the easy way over the one that requires the most work for us.  Why else would someone have invented the microwave, the convection oven, or the meals in a bag?  They all serve the purpose of getting to an end result quicker.  Now, bring that same mental focus into our daily walk with Christ and we wonder why we aren't immediately transformed!  After all, we asked God to make our faith perfect, we asked for peace, and we asked for patience - so where is it?

Sorry guys, it is not that easy.  It is a vigorous road that requires our total attention.  First, let's consider the idea that it is vigorous.  The idea here is that it is growing - moving from one stage of development to another.  It is active in all senses of the word.  Jesus has just finished telling his disciples that they need to ask themselves what other people want and then grab the initiative and DO it for them!  We call this the "golden rule" - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Look at what he says - spend time evaluating what you have need of and how you want others to meet that need - then go out to meet that need in others FIRST.  

Then Jesus launches into the idea that this walk will not be easy - there are no instant Christianity, immediate faith, or super-fast patience developers that we find in the kingdom of God.  In fact, we are told elsewhere in scripture that Christian character is developed line upon line, precept upon precept.  I remember being in school as a child and being introduced into the concepts of multiplication.  My teacher did not give me the entire multiplication table to learn the first week!  She gave me my "ones" - 1X1, 1X2, 1X3, etc.  Once the class got that down, we moved on to our "twos".  If she had of given us the whole multiplication table at one time, we'd have been defeated!

So, the next time you want to ask God why you aren't growing faster, becoming a more patient person, etc. - you might want to consider how you are approaching your spiritual development.  If the focus is "I want it now", you will likely be disappointed most of the time.  Our growth is fragmented, just like that of the human body's.  If we "grew up" all at one time, our bodies would not be able to keep up with the growth in a way that provided "health" to our bones, brain, or internal organs.  We'd be a mess.  

That is how it is when we ask God to grow us up, then expect that we will be "all grown up" spiritually in an instant.  We would not be ready to face the spiritual challenges ahead of us because we'd look all grown up, but the real roots of growth we needed to make us vigorous (strong) would be missing.

Spiritual development is as "time and attention consuming" as were our multiplication tables or learning our spelling words.  We have to repeat the lessons that ensure the growth several times in order to get the development "right".  Don't be afraid of "facing the lessons" again and again.  If you are facing the lesson again, ask God what new way he wants you to see the lesson this time - he probably has a plan that is specifically designed to set down another set of roots in your life.  In turn, he infuses "spiritual health" into our being.  Growth requires attention - both ours and his.  So, bring on the lessons, God!