Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Walter Writes Our Church - How to Endure Through Boring Times in the Christian Life (Part Two)

The first part of Walt's letter can be found by clicking on this link.

Here is the rest of what he had to say to us on staying faithful through the ordinary routine times of church life...

You can also listen to this letter being read by yours truly. Please don't be thrown off by the "theatrics." It just reads better if you "take on the role."

But the endurance I want us to focus on most closely today is not the staying faithful through affliction and suffering. Rather the staying faithful through routine, through the non-eventful, even boring times in the life of a church.

The Devil has more than one trick in his bag. Sometimes he will try to fear you into sin, sometimes he will try to lure you into sin, and other times he will just sit back and let you drift into sin.

I wonder if Shem ever got bored? Every day, year after year hammering like a fool on that giant floating barn. Did he ever feel like giving up? Did he ever get tired of the smell of gopher wood? Did he ever question the whole project and say to Noah, “Dad, I’m tired of all this pitch under my nails! Ark schmark! Let’s go to Disneyland!”

Or what of Methuselah? 969 years on earth! The average man works 1/3 of his life. If Methuselah retired at 69, he had to live off his RIF for 900 years! That must have been some good investing! Did he ever start to wonder, “What is this all about anyway?” “I’m 813 years old... let’s see... what HAVEN’T I done?”

Or what of the 7 churches described in the Revelation to John? Most of them had pretty exciting starts! The Ephesian church began with a city riot, for example (Acts 19). But they ran into trouble some 50 years later. Although they are commended for their endurance in some things, they had not endured in all things. They had not endured in their love for God. Now, why was that? I am not sure I know. But I’ve been married as long as Yonge St. and know that if a man is not deliberate, if he doesn’t keep at the little things, the love he has for his wife will wane.

And I would bet a nickel to your dollar that the same is true in the life of a church. After a while, the same old things can seem... well, like the same old things. Another sermon, another prayer meeting, another lunch, another worship service. And if we are not careful, we’ll begin to think of church like some Muslims think of their 32nd wife – not much at all!

Now the Lord in His grace may send along some hailstorm or earthquake to shake things up and wake things up – but I would rather stay at the course than have the Omnipotent flex his arm in order to get our attention!

So, here is my advice for not growing weary in doing good and staying faithful through the boring routine times in church life.

1. Take some time to thank the Lord for what is good.

Nothing brings a feeling of life like remembering how much you’ve been blessed. You stop taking it all for granted! It is no mistake that the happiest men are the most thankful – or should I say the most thankful men are the happiest. If you never give thanks to God for the routine things of church life, then you may have a deadly disease eating at your bones. Destructia Ungratia.

It begins with an ulcer-like feeling in your gut so that your eyes turn yellow-like and all you can see is the faults and failures of others. Even worse, your eyes make every other church you see look all green – like your neighbours grass! And you start to thinking that there is something wrong with everything at home. Well, there is. You. And the best way to improve any church is to improve yourself. But more on that later.

Learn to thank God for a steady diet of the Word and regular worship with his people. My 4-fingered Uncle used to say, “A man doesn’t know how much he needs his pinky until he loses it in a combine.” I’ll take his word for it!

2. Be careful to avoid all those sneaky, easy sins.

The slightest noise will alert a sentry in the middle of war, but he’ll sleep through the loud laugh of a drunken sailor in days of peace. When the dog days drag on, a church may grow tolerant of little sins... and that’s a danger. For “little sins” is an oxymoron, like “Jumbo shrimp, or pretty ugly, or unbiased journalism.”

So, we need to be diligent to put to death things like

· Gossip

· Pride

· Laziness

· Backsliding

· Strife

· The love of pleasure

· The envy of the wicked

· Chasing worthless pursuits

As Solomon wrote, the wicked will be found out (Proverb 10:7). Even though not much may seem to come from these misty disobediences at the time, they are breeding an avalanche of disaster around the bend. They are the kind of sins a man may grow tolerant of when things are good. He may even falsely interpret God’s blessings on his life as a sign that the Lord approves of his sin! Beware of that hoogly! And run for Christ!

3. Redeem the time to grow in wisdom and knowledge

10:14 “The wise lay up knowledge...”

13:11 “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”

18:15 “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”

24:13 “My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, there will be a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.”

A smart man will learn to get done now what he can’t get done in difficult days.

Memorize the Word. Learn some hymns. When I was a boy we would read of Christians in Russia who had no Bible but the one in their memory. Such a thing may seem impossible today, but you never know.

You’d be wise to heed the words of Solomon.

24:27 “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”

27:23 “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?”

The answer, of course, is that a man needs to look at the dog day as a time to get caught up and stored up. In a church, that means you ought to keep working away at the regular ministries and such and getting them more and more grounded and running well.

5. Think long-term integrity

16:31 “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”

20:7 “The righteous who walks in his integrity — blessed are his children after him!”

Just owning a barn and field doesn’t make you a farmer. Just getting old doesn’t give a man integrity. You gain integrity by staying upright through the valleys and trials of life. One of those trials can be the boredom of routine.

6. Decide to keep running when your stitches twang.

Most of us pull up short in a run when we get a stitch – a burn in the side of our gut. But I learned that a man can often run further than he thought. I have never been much for running. Leave that to the gazelles and geckos. But one day a section of fence broke and the cattle got out on the road.

Well, those cows were my mortgage – so I got to running after them. And there wasn’t anybody around to help – so I ran and ran. Got the stitch and everything but just kept on running... until the last cow was back in the field. Then I laid down! Right there in the field with them!!

Friends, one day we will lay down to – but not here! It’ll be in a perfect place where the Lord is.

Hebrews 12:1-4 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Well, I think this letter was about as deep as a coat of paint. But I had one point to make: Don’t let routine lull you into sin or slackness. You’ve got a mighty good thing going on down there, but I’ve been around the block enough times to know that its easy to stop watering and weeding, but a lot harder to find your cucumbers when you do.

The best remedy to getting off track in the middle is to keep your eyes looking ahead. Jesus had a word or three to say to the man who looked back. So, Walter says, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Remind one another pretty regularly about the price with which you were bought and the One who paid it. Give lots of thanks. Run from sins. Redeem the time. Build integrity. And keep on running.

Who knows what tomorrow holds? So be faithful today.

Your Friend,

Walter

P.S. Thank everyone for the nice cards they sent urging me to write again... they’ll probably ask for them back now. And somebody tell that fine Polish boy who I am!