As a kid, I always looked for the shortcuts in life. Why? Arriving just a fraction of a second before my friends or being the first one at the head of the line on the way to the cafeteria made all the difference in my mind. How come? First choice of the food, perhaps gaining the respect of those who see me as the winner, or just maybe because "first" is touted as always better than "second" in this society we live in. It wasn't until recent days that team sports started to celebrate each and every player, giving trophies or ribbons to all the team players instead of the "most improved", "team captain", or "star hitter". The kids just need to show up these days - performance really isn't the focus. Back in the day, that was not the case. Either you performed well, or you never were selected to be on the "winning" team! You remember, the kids who lined up and the two team captains got to select each member of their team, each in turn. What was left at the end were the players who could not hit the softball, those who could field the ball, or those too slow to run the bases with any gusto. I could "talk the talk" when it came to many sports, but in reality, I had a harder time "walking the talk" when it came to performing on the field! I was a good runner, hit decently, and could field pretty well, but there were others who did it much, much better. I was indeed "average" because I didn't have the desire to put forth the effort to be anything but average. I wonder if many of us settle for "average" in our walk with Jesus simply because we don't put for the "effort" it requires to really be our best for him?
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 MSG)
Notice I asked if we were putting for the effort on our part to BE our best for him, not to DO our best for him. There is a vast difference between the two. Being implies we are remaining in something we have already attained and in that position we are consistent. Doing implies we perform in order to accomplish something. In Jesus, the best we put forth is often interpreted by some as needing to perform rather than needing to persist. Many pursue shortcuts in their relationship with Jesus simply because they see the "effort" put forth in "persisting" as something a little too costly. The truth is, if we aren't willing to BE in God's presence, we will never feel like we are "doing" anything which really measures up.
The warning to us is to not look for shortcuts to God - it isn't an "easy-peasy" formula to just somehow "blossom" into all the beautiful aspects of character God wants his kids to possess. In fact, it is downright hard at times to lay down the habits and short-comings of our "old nature" in order to take up the new ones. There aren't any "formulas" to make us righteous - it is the work of Christ in our lives - his grace upon grace which transitions us from one place to the next. If we think we can commit our "spare time" to following Jesus, we have another thing coming - for "spare time" Christianity is just like "average" in team sports. We may still be part of the "team", but we aren't really "on par" with our capabilities in Christ Jesus!
A vigorous life is one which is active - there is something more than the occasional "stirring" of our emotions and a little time spent in the Word. It is consistent - as such, it is robust - strong, healthy, and hearty. I recently asked my sons to build me a raised garden area since I cannot get down to the ground as easily anymore. They did a magnificent job and now I have a great gardening space which I plan for both herbs and veggies. I have been actively preparing that space with compost, soil, and mulch. This weekend, I went to the store to purchase earthworms to assist in creating an environment within the soil for continually "replenishment" of the soil with nutrients. Those nutrients will come in the "castings" of those worms. Each week, I will purchase another couple tubs of those squirmy worms, letting them take up residence in my raised gardens. Why? They will stir up the soil, digest the composting materials I am adding regularly and will ensure a better environment for my plantings to grow.
I think God asks for us to have a vigorous walk with him much like I want a vigorous and robust bed for my veggies. He wants to "add things" into our lives which will ensure we are constantly "replenished" with all we need. How? Through time with him, in his presence, experiencing his peace and understanding his tremendous love which extends grace upon grace. Plus time in the Word, where we come into a place of seeing how he works, what he values, and who he has created us to be. In fact, he also wants us to succeed in this venture so much that he gives us his Holy Spirit to be "resident" within us 24/7 so that we can constantly be "digesting" what he provides to nourish us and then stir up the "soil" of our hearts to bring more and more growth in turn.
I have not been quick to run to the nursery to purchase my lavender, lemon grass, herbs, and veggies. Why? The soil is not ready! It needs a little more tending and turning. It requires my attention. If I just plop plants in there now in the heat of summer, they will wilt and fade away. Good money will be going down the drain. I need to ensure the soil is ready to receive what I plant and that it will sustain it over the long haul. In much the same way, we cannot take short-cuts in our walk with Jesus. We need prepared "soil" in order to see growth. Just sayin!