Discipleship is a Partnership

Some people like to say, “Let go and let God.” Which essentially means, relax, sit back and let God do all the work.

Other people seem to be of the mind that spiritual development rests solely on the shoulders of the disciple. In other words: God does the saving, but its on us to do the growing.

I find both views to be extreme. Instead, I believe that discipleship is a holy collaboration between Creator and the re-created.

We can’t grow without God’s help. At the same time, we won’t grow if we refuse to put forth any effort.

In John 15, Jesus stressed the importance of consistently abiding in Him, to the point that he declared, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” As we abide in Christ and keep in step with the Spirit, God works through us to produce lasting spiritual fruit that will remain forever (John 15:4-5; Galatians 5:25; John 15:8).

If we leave God out of our “spiritual growth equation,” its a sure sign of hubris. Simply put, “no God, no growth.”

Yet, in contrast (but not in contradiction), Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 5:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Paul used an athletic analogy to convey to Timothy that effort will be involved. The Olympic athlete dedicates himself to countless hours of rigorous training, all the while refraining from otherwise acceptable enjoyments to maintain discipline, all for the sake of achieving his goal. So, too, the follower of Christ must engage in certain activities and refrain from others in order to achieve the goal of increasing Christlikeness.

Paul also told the believers in Philippi, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13)

So, although we are completely dependent upon God to mature spiritually, we have an indispensable role to play in the process.

Perhaps we might look at it like this: God provides all the tools we need to grow (which is backed up by 2 Peter 1:3-8), but its our responsibility to pick up the tools and put them to use.

Those who farm know that they, on their own, can’t make a single plant grow, But, the wise farmer also knows that if he doesn’t plow, plant, water and cultivate, no crop will sprout from the ground.

Spiritual maturity is a divine work of God and a miracle to watch. Yet, God calls upon us to join Him in this amazing work. We are called to listen, learn and obey. We’re also called to study and meditate upon God’s Word, pray, worship and serve.

Scottish Bible teacher Alexander MacLaren once wrote: “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” So we see, then, that the choice is ours. May each of us desire increasing godliness and use the keys we have been given.”

Get Thee to Church!

In years to come, sociologists will have a field day looking back at the effects of the pandemic/quarantines of 2020. Why? Because whether for reasons large or small, culture has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Did you know that during COVID, the divorce rate skyrocketed? At the same time, loneliness became a huge societal issue. And the birth rate dropped. Because of COVID, many of us shop, travel and work differently than we did before the pandemic.

One area that’s concerning to me is how people engage in church life. Sadly, some Christians have decided church attendance and involvement isn’t a priority anymore. Churches across the nation report that more people are returning to church, but the numbers of in-person attendees is still way down. The big question is: “will they ever come back?”

The Christian life was never meant to be solitary. All of the biblical metaphors for a church indicate a plurality, never a singularity: we are a body, a flock, a building, and a holy nation. There are no “lone wolves” in biblical Christianity.

Church engagement is a discipline, but the pandemic threw a wrench into something many were in the habit of doing. Going to church was part of the normal flow of the week, but once that flow was interrupted, some found it difficult to re-engage. But gathering consistently with other living, breathing human beings is something God wants us to do!

But why?

First, we gather on Sundays to worship God corporately. Yes, we can individually worship God throughout the week. But there is something unique and special when people worship en masse. Corporate worship is a gathering that anticipates the worship believers will experience in heaven. In eternity, believers will worship with all of God’s people before the Lord. Corporate worship on earth allows us to participate together in a way that looks forward to this time of eternal glory.

Second, we gather to practice community with other believers. I appreciate the people in our church who come on Sunday mornings with a intentional, purposeful mindset. They make it their aim to visit and pray with people as well as greet newcomers. When we practice community, we seek to encourage one another in our walk with Jesus.

Hebrews 10:24-25 gives us this exhortation:

And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

I think it’s significant to note that the recipients of the Hebrews letter were under the threat of persecution. Public church attendance could open them up to abuse. The command indicates that the benefits of attendance outweigh any possible threat.

The Hebrews passage mentioned above reveals that one of the purposes of gathering together is to “encourage one another.” We all need encouragement. Corporate worship provides that for us. Church attendance also helps prevent drifting, backsliding and apostasy. Without regular participation in corporate worship, one tends to meander spiritually.

When we attend corporate worship, we hear the public preaching of the Word of God. Substituting a media ministry (like radio or television or an internet streamed service) not only removes the immediacy of public preaching, but can foster a sense of isolation, effectively privatizing our Christianity. This was never God’s plan for us.

Corporate worship is a vital part of our spiritual growth. When we regularly gather with other believers, we can encourage others, be encouraged, and grow together in our common faith in Jesus Christ.

The Hope of Wholeness

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 30:17

I hadn’t seen what I’d call the “real Aaron” for about 2 months.

From the moment he had his cancer surgery in Boise on March 11, Aaron has been, to varying degrees, a shell of himself.

Yesterday I took Aaron to a foot doctor appointment. The nurse who checked him in made mention that on his last visit in 2018 he weighed 153 pounds. Ever since his diagnosis, he’s hovered between 125 and 130 pounds. That’s a lot weight loss.

Beyond the typical struggles of recovering from a serious surgery, Aaron has run the gamut of chemo side effects. He’s literally been impacted from head to toe: dehydration, dizziness, heartburn, various digestive struggles, bone pain, and numb fingers and toes. Overall, he’s been lethargic, weak and easily exhausted.

I’m still resolutely focused on the big goal of eradicating the cancer. But it has been difficult to watch Aaron’s body broken down in so many ways. In fact, because he was dragging so much, his doctor decided to give him a week off of chemo treatment in order for his body to regain some strength.

And, thankfully, due to the respite, Aaron woke up this morning resembling much more the person he was before this crazy journey started. He was bright-eyed and displayed his unique sense of humor. He didn’t need help moving around. He teased the dog. All without one complaint or mention of pain.

Since he’s only about halfway through his chemo treatment, we will very likely go through another season of struggle. But today gave me hope that in about a month we will get to see the “old Aaron” emerge for good.

And as I often do, I couldn’t help but tie a situation like Aaron’s to a bigger issue.

When I think of the big picture story of the Bible, it’s a message of God seeking to bring broken creation back to a place of wholeness and well-being. And part of that fallen creation is us!

As it stands, we are not the people God created us to be. We are broken. That’s because human beings, along with the entire universe, are marred and marked by the effects of sin.

Imagine God’s sadness to know that, although human beings were first created in his image and without fault, we now suffer from the consequences of our fallenness.

Simply put, we are spiritually sick. In fact, the Bible says that we are spiritually dead.

Romans 3:23 puts in like this: “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”

This brokenness shows up in the ways we think, feel and act. Don’t believe humanity is scarred by sin? Just turn on the evening news.

Every human struggles in one way or another. No one is perfect.

Thankfully, humanity is not beyond redemption. There is hope for restoration.

Through Christ, God is actively working to bring us back to what was once humanity’s “normal.”

The Hebrew word that describes God’s goal for us (and all creation) is shalom. It’s a word that describes several aspects of well-being such as completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord

On earth, this work is spread out over our lifetime. Day by day, as we yield ourselves to God’s grace and power, God transforms our hearts, minds and wills to be more conformed to his perfect ways.

And when we leave this planet, we will, in a moment, be completely restored. We will have returned to the original condition God made us to be.

Today I got to see the “old Aaron” emerge from the cloud of surgery and chemo. The sad part is he still has about 4 weeks of chemo to go. And with it, another series of side effects. But when he’s done, I’ll be anxiously waiting for the old Aaron to return for good. I look forward to him having clearer mind, stronger body and lifted spirits. (And a fresh, new head of hair.)

Revelation 21:5 has Jesus offering a powerful promise to a sick, struggling universe: “I am making all things new.”

Because of this declaration, we can be encouraged by the hope of wholeness.

Doing the Hard Work

“I must take care above all that I cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace – mark that – yet it will be the channel of it.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

This spring I noticed my lawn was full of a lot of dead, compressed grass (which is typical after the snow season). The weight of the snow simply smashes everything flat. The result of all this grass flattening is the lawn doesn’t grow as well as it should. Basically, it can’t breathe.

To resolve this issue, I bought a small, electric de-thatcher. Which is amazing! All I have to do is run the machine over the lawn and the de-thatcher pulls up all the dead grass and leaves it in little haystacks all over the top of the grass. It’s amazing how easily the machine works. It’s almost effortless.

But then I have to rake up all the thatch and toss it in the trash. Which is laborious and kind of boring. It takes but minutes to de-thatch the lawn. It takes hours to clean it up.

But, if I don’t do the hard work of cleaning up, I’ll never gain the result I seek: a richer, thicker, greener lawn. I’ll have only moved the dead grass from the bottom of my grass to the top.

Lately, I’ve been bumping into this verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 CSB)

Typically, this verse is attributed to salvation. The idea being that those who pursue Jesus’ pathway toward life will find it leads to heaven. Which I’m on board with. But I wonder if the concept of a harder, more arduous path could also be applied to our ongoing spiritual development as well.

I find the things that really promote deep spiritual growth are usually quite hard for us. And in a lot of cases, the degree of difficulty will determine whether we invest our time and energy in our own Christian maturity.

Things like prayer. Or study. Or slowing down to spend time with God. It could be meaningful service that costs us time, energy or resources. Each of these practices demand a lot from us. And so we may choose other activities that aren’t as strenuous. In essence, we are choosing the wide, easier path that doesn’t demand much of us.

But I believe the depth of our spiritual life is in direct correlation with how much of the hard work we are willing to do. We must foster personal self-discipline in order to complete the harder practices of the Christian life.

Steve Lawson wrote:

“Growth in personal holiness is largely determined by our progress in self-discipline. Without this foundational discipline, there can be no advancement in grace. Before other disciplines can be administered, whether in the home, business, or church, there first must be self-discipline.

De-thatching my lawn was pretty easy. But raking up the dead grass felt like a grind. But unless I removed the dead grass, my lawn wouldn’t look one bit better.

As the saying goes: “Anything that comes too easy probably isn’t worth doing.”

How to Win While Losing

“Losing is only temporary and not encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.” ~ John Wooden

This evening I was doing two things at the same time.

I was watching the Gonzaga-Baylor NCAA title game. And I was polishing up my notes for my Sunday message out of the Sermon on the Mount.

Obviously, with Spokane less than 30 miles from our house, I was pulling for the Zags.

But it was obvious from the get-go that Baylor came out with more energy and greater determination.

(As an excuse for the loss, I’d like to think that Gonzaga burned up all their passion on their win over UCLA two days before.)

On this night, there was no denying that Baylor was the better team.

The Zags were, sadly, the losers.

But then I stuck around long enough to catch the post game interview with Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

And as Few spoke, I found my spirits being lifted.

The more Coach Few talked, the more I could tell he was a man of character and healthy perspective.

-He graciously congratulated Baylor on their victory.

-He spoke of his love for his players and how he sought to encourage them in the face of a loss on national TV.

-He marveled that his team could actually win 31 games in one season, and saw it as a gift to be enjoyed rather than grow bitter because of one loss.

-He told his players that the difficult emotions they were experiencing would pass.

Coach Few didn’t come across crestfallen, but grateful. He displayed an air of peace, joy and humility.

Interesting, so much of the Sermon on the Mount of which I was studying is about living differently than the rest of the world.

-Its a call to make peace rather than fight

-Its the challenge to go the extra mile

-Its the invitation to be people of our word

-Its Jesus summoning us to shine like lights in a dark world

-Its a bid for us live humbly in a world filled with pride

One can’t read Jesus’ sermon without realizing it’s a call to live in contrast to how people typically live.

A lot like how Mark Few displayed himself during the post-game interview.

My hunch was that Coach Mark Few would follow in the footsteps of many other coaches who have confronted loss with anger, frustration, blame or defiance.

But what I saw was more than good sportsmanship. I believe I was witnessing deep character being revealed.

Few offered a fresh perspective that I imagine his players couldn’t help but notice.

And because Coach Few was placed on the national stage, we also got to see the type of man he is: a winner in the face of losing.

The Testing of Faith

“The ultimate test of faith isn’t how loudly you praise God in happy times but how deeply you trust him in dark times.” ~ Rick Warren

At various times throughout our lives, God will seek to move our faith out the realm of mere mental theory and and allow it to be tested.

That’s because faith isn’t meant to be something ambiguous that only dwells in our minds, but something practically applied to our everyday lives.

Why?

Because what good is faith if it is never scrutinized? How can we know we possess faith if it is never probed? How can we know the quality of our faith if it is never employed?

Bottom line, our faith must, from time to time, be taken out for a test drive.

Typically, the “faith tests” we face come in the form of obstacles, challenges, diversions, mysteries, pain, and suffering.

Sometimes we pass the tests God allows into our lives. (If so, hallelujah!)

And sometimes our tests of faith show us we have more growing to do.

The apostle Peter wrote about allowing our faith to go under the microscope in his first epistle. The recipients of his letter were being persecuted for taking a stand for Jesus. Life wasn’t easy. Endurance was waning. Thus, Peter offered these words of both encouragement and exhortation:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 CSB)

If faith is never tested, we can never be quite sure it exists. But as faith is tested, it reveals itself through our character and conduct.

The testing of our faith is not only for proving the existence of faith, but also for growing of faith. James said as much:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3 CSB)

Simply put, the more we practice faith, the stronger our faith can become.

It’s a bit like going to the gym. The more we run, the farther we can run. The more weight we lift, the stronger our muscles become.

The testing or trials we undergo come in various ways. Becoming a Christian will often require us to move out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Every test, every trial, and every difficulty is not intended to break us but to shape us, form us, and make us into the image of the Son of God, as “he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8)

Sometimes I wonder if we put too much energy into running from trials, rather than spending time building our faith. Rather than try to protect our faith, we should be willing to allow it to be tested to make sure its there!

I think its important to note that whatever trials God has ordained for us during the course of our lives, we will ultimately be made to stand by God’s power, and not our own. God gifts us with faith. And if we allow, He will grow our faith that it might glorify Him and bless those around us.

When we experience the storms of life, we should be like the tree that digs its roots ever more deeply for a greater grip in the earth. We must “dig our roots” more deeply into God’s Word and cling to His promises so we can weather whatever storms come against us.

Equipping, Not Entertaining

In the early chapters of the book of Revelation, the apostle John received some words from Jesus about the spiritual condition of seven churches that were scattered throughout Asia Minor. A few of the churches were highly commended (Good job churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia!). Most of the churches received a mixture of both commendation and correction. And, of course, the church located in Laodicea only got complaints from Jesus.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus might say about church life in 2021. Would he give us a high five? Or would he be forced to point out some problems that needed some attention?

One thing that seems obvious to me is that many of us approach church more like a consumer rather than a communer. In other words, we come to church seeking what church can do for us, rather than finding out how we can help make the church become more fruitful and faithful. Rather than give, we’re more interested in taking.

One way this shows up is how some people think about the hired staff. For some, the pastors and ministry team leaders are hired to do the all the work of ministry. For this kind of church attender, the bulk of their responsibility is limited to (1) showing up for worship services and church events, and (2) giving to the offering.

But this is not a scriptural perspective. Not in the least! Check out what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in regard the primary role ministry leaders are to play within the life of the church:

And he himself (Jesus) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB)

It seems that in our modern day we have broken down the church into two groups: the professionals and everyone else. The implication is that the professionals do all the work while they rest of the church shows up and gives money. But from God’s perspective, every believer has a role and function within the church. This is the point Paul sought to make in 1 Corinthians 12,

They key task of ministry leaders is not to do all the work of the ministry, but to equip all the members of the church to carry out the ministry! In too many of our churches, the majority of Christians are too busy watching the action rather than participating in actual service. The church was never intended to be a spectator sport where great numbers of believers warm the bench. But sadly, a lot of Christians are doing just that. Which doesn’t make for much health, for the individual or the church body.

It’s been said that the modern church could be compared to a pro football game. On any given Sunday, the stands are filled with 80,000 people desperately in need of exercise. And on the field are 22 players desperately in need of rest. What an imbalance!

May the people of God resist the urge to have our ministry leaders entertain us. Instead, may God’s people insist on being equipped.

Equipped to teach.

Equipped to counsel.

Equipped to serve.

Equipped to love.

The bottom line is this: the more equipped Christians are serving within the church, the healthier that church will be.

Let’s say no to spectator Christianity once and for all.

Christianity Without Change Isn’t Christianity

Transformation is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Throughout our relationship with Jesus we are to grow, mature and develop in the areas of our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.

For this transformation to take place, we must put ourselves in a position of submission and obedience to the clear directives (whether positive or negative) found in the scriptures and the promptings and prodding of the Holy Spirit.

At the moment a person puts their trust in Christ, all sorts of change takes place. For example, we move from guilt before God to being justified by Him. Also, we become God’s friend after being His enemy. Not only that, but we are adopted into the family of God.

But God’s plan is for us to continue changing beyond the point of salvation as we follow the life and example of Jesus.

Sadly, some have reduced the gospel message as avoiding an unpleasant hell in favor of much preferable heaven. But the gospel is much more than a rescue from a disagreeable afterlife. Yes, the gospel is the power of God to rescue us from hell. But it is all the power of God to renew, restore and reframe our lives.

If we are honest, we will admit our lives need work. We understand that our minds and hearts aren’t pure. And we know our actions are often motivated by self, rather than a love for God or concern for others.

Such change must begin in how we think. That’s because thoughts impact attitudes, and attitudes impact behavior. No wonder Paul wrote these words in Romans 12:

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 CSB)

The word Paul used in Romans 12:2 is the word we use for the metamorphosis of a butterfly. The change in the end is something completely different than was there before. This is how total the transformation should be when it comes to our thinking.

If we are satisfied with the status quo of our life, then we likely are not in tune with God’s life-giving plan to continually reshape us more into the example of Jesus.

Let’s not wrestle with the idea of transformation. Let’s embrace it!

Wear Your (Jesus) Colors

January is the time of year that people begin coming to church wearing a variety of shirts, jerseys and jackets representing their favorite football teams.

Packer green.

Seahawks blue.

Chiefs Red.

And, as teams go deeper into the playoffs, the more people seem to come to church in their NFL garb.

Of course, Super Bowl Sunday is when all of this reaches an apex. On “Super” Sunday, the energy is palpable. Maybe even a bit competitive! At this point in the season, its down to the final two teams. Pretty much everyone has picked a side of who they would like to win.

I think all of this is pretty fun. Why not get behind your favorite team and make known to all your gridiron allegiance?

Allegiance. That’s a word that I wonder if we use enough as Christians.

Think about it: through the scriptures and the Spirit, we are called to manifest an abiding loyalty to Jesus. We are called to joyfully praise Him, consistently obey Him and faithfully serve Him. All in all, our loyalty is not to be divided or diminished.

When a person chooses a favorite football team, its near impossible to talk them out of their strong feelings of devotion. Whether their team wins or loses, they don’t bail out and jump on the bandwagon of another team.

In the same way, we ought to show Jesus an even greater degree of undying fidelity. Yet, divided loyalties can prove to be a huge hurdle for some Christians. All I can say is that we are called to go all in for Jesus.

So how do we display our Jesus colors?

By loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength,

By loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

By doing what Jesus tells us to do.

By acting as light to a world that stumbles in the darkness.

By serving as salt to a world that suffers from sin-induced decay.

When we live like this, we let the world know where are loyalties lie.

Here’s my challenge. Live in such a way that your allegiance to Jesus is unquestionable.

Wear your colors.

The Tragedy of Spiritual Stagnation

Many years ago, we lived in a community that surrounded a fairly large lake. Each spring the lake was filled by a river that brought forth rainwater and melted snow from the nearby mountains. But, one thing unusual about this lake was that it had no outflow. All the water that entered the lake remained in the lake.

When summer came and temperatures began to rise, the lake would stagnate. The result? Algae blooms made swimming unsafe and a drop in oxygen levels proved deadly for the fish. By August, it was typical for the shoreline of the lake to be lined with scores of rotting fish. You can imagine the noxious odor that wafted through the air! All because the lake didn’t have an outflow.

So, why I am a telling you this? Here’s why: I want you to get a mental picture of what happens when a Christian is filled up with all sorts of good things pertaining to the Christian life (such as good doctrine and discipleship training) but fails to put such things into practice.

Simply put, the Christian life is meant to be a steady stream of both inflow and outflow. What we learn is supposed to be applied to our lives (which often impacts others as well).

James wrote about the unfortunate disconnect that occurs when we hear the instructions of God, yet decide to apply the brakes at the point of actual practice:

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:19-25 CSB)

Sadly, some people will spend years learning about things like serving, ministering, sharing, loving, teaching and evangelizing, yet apply very little of what they’ve learned. Such people are like athletes who ravenously invest in learning about the details of their particular sport, but rarely make the move to actually play the game.

I believe that, from the perspective of heaven, this is heartbreaking!

In a nutshell, Christianity was never been meant to be a spectator sport. We aren’t trained and equipped for our own personal satisfaction, but rather to make an impact for the Kingdom of God.

Remember the Hebrews writers lament of chapter 5? “By now you should be teachers…” These people should have had an outflow of their Christian lives, but instead, they just kept taking in for themselves. Which meant they were getting spiritually bloated. Yet, in reality they were going backwards! So much so, they were having to learn about the basics of the faith all over again. And, as a result of this irresponsibility, the ball of ministry was obviously getting dropped.

I think one of the main reasons we hesitate from getting involved in service and ministry is we feel inadequate. We feel like we might mess up. Brothers and sisters in Jesus, on our own we are inadequate! And we very well may mess up! But doing nothing with all our learning is even worse. It’s disobedient and it shows a lack of faith that God, by his power, can use us for his purposes. Remember, according to 1 Corinthians, God actually prefers to use people who are weak:

Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 CSB)

So here’s my challenge: get involved in living out the Christian life! Assist a neighbor in need. Teach a kid’s class. Serve in the nursery. Use your God-given skills to help your church. Disciple a new believer. Volunteer at a local ministry.

Whatever God prompts you to do, just get your hands dirty! Don’t stop being equipped, but at the same time, become fully determined to put your equipping to use. I guarantee this: to do so will bring about greater spiritual vitality and well-being in your life. Conversely, without a spiritual outflow, we will become weak and a burden to the body of Christ.