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Use it or lose it

When I used to play team sports, I used to like basketball. The game was both a challenge in endurance and accuracy. We had to run a lot to keep up with the movement of the ball, but we also had to be very accurate in our passing of the ball to the next player, while assisting them in making their lay-up shot with absolute accuracy. As I have gotten a little older and a whole lot more out of shape than I used to be, I have neither the endurance, nor the accuracy! I have tried shooting hoops in the driveway with my grandsons, but alas...I stink! I miss more than I hit. My skill didn't leave overnight - it left because I failed to use the skill to keep it 'in shape'. My muscles have lost their tone and my eyesight requires more and more correction every couple of years. All this combined leads to a fairly 'ineffective' basketball player now. Use it or lose it - isn't that what they say? I wonder what we haven't used in a while that we might not even realize we have lost now.....

I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. Ephesians 4:2 MSG

Use it or lost it...don't just sit around on your hands. That is a challenge to us this morning - for most of us actually can associate with the 'use it or lose it' reality. We have stopped using something in our lives, only to find when we need to use it at some later point, we haven't really maintained it, so we don't have it at our disposal any longer. There are talents God has given us that have been tucked away long enough - use them! There are truths we have studied a long time ago - use them! There are relationships that have become a little 'moldy' and dry - restore them. God doesn't want us to lose what he has gifted into our lives - he wants us to use ALL of it!

When it comes to our spiritual walk - we need to remember it is a 'walk' - not an 'armchair' kind existence, but an actual 'progressive' walk that maintains our spiritual 'health' and 'vitality'. My basketball skills are gone - but could they be restored? Yes, with a whole lot of conditioning and time and effort and retraining. If I had of maintained that former conditioning, I'd not need the time, nor as much effort, or the significant amount of retraining I'd require today! In our spiritual walk, we use it, or we lose it. We keep this walk in tip-top condition by walking it out everyday. We listen, observe, adopt, and adapt to what we are instructed in times of prayer. We read, study, and commit to memory so as to know exactly how to live. We serve, sacrifice, and encourage - not because we have to, but because it brings all the truth we have heard and studied into practice in our lives.

Our passage shines light on the idea of noticing differences and quickly mending fences. Much of the drift in our lives isn't because we were paying close attention and taking immediate action - in fact, it is just the opposite. We allow drift - we make way for it by our inattention and delayed responses. When we 'dilly-dally' in taking action, we open the door for that hesitation to become a pattern. When faced with similar circumstances down the road, we dilly-dally once again, allowing just a little bit more drift to come into our lives and relationships. Slowly, but surely, relationships are changed - not for the better, though. What matters to us the most gets the most attention from us. This is a simple truth. If I wanted to be good at basketball again - I'd direct some attention to the physical training required for that sport. If I want to have a solid, growing, and fruitful relationship with Jesus - I direct my attention to doing the things he says will help me grow and be fruitful. If I want solid relationship with others - I direct my attention outside of myself and toward meeting their needs. Just sayin!

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