For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV)
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
This morning I heard a bit of Ed Stetzer’s Saturday morning radio show, Ed Stetzer Live.
Like most radio shows of late, the topic was all about the COVID-19 crisis. Most recently, Stetzer has been heavily preoccupied with helping the church prepare for the flood of ministry, service and evangelism opportunities that will come our way as a result of the pandemic.
(For those who have never heart of Ed Stetzer, he holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center.)
A regular component of Stetzer’s show is giving people the opportunity to call in to ask questions. And today, some of the questions presented by a few people concerned me. My impression was this: many Christians are simply unprepared to be salt and light in the midst of a global disruption.
One segment of the show focused on how believers should take full advantage of the present COVID-19 crisis to connect with and care for our neighbors. It was a challenge to be Christ’s hands and feet, taking the love of Jesus to those within our immediate sphere of influence. In response, one caller (who identified themselves as a Christian) came on the air frantic, fearful and flustered. They wondered how they could ever demonstrate love toward a particular neighbor they didn’t get along with. Wisely and graciously, Stetzer took the next five minutes of the program to talk about the basic Christian practice of forgiveness, along with the scriptural mandate to show kindness to others even if they don’t do the same to us.
I found it tragic that rather than being ready for ministry opportunities, this caller was in retreat. They were mystified, not mobilized.
When crisis strikes, Christians are provided opportunities to shine like lights and season like salt. But if we have not prepared our hearts and minds for “a time such as this,” our impact will likely be minimal.
Discipleship is certainly about what one knows about the faith, but I would contend discipleship is even more about how we respond to life with our faith.
James wrote about how faith is translated into action when need arises:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (James 4:12-20)
James point was this: faith isn’t something we treasure like a museum piece; rather it is more like an tool we apply to life. Our faith is not just something we possess, it is something we practice!
Just like an athlete’s training program or a soldier’s drills, we too must apply ourselves to growing in the faith so we become readied for the tests that come our way. Such training comes through deliberate practices such as:
- Time in the Word (reading, meditating, memorizing)
- Time in prayer
- Learning from mature believers
- Yielding to the Spirit
If we neglect such practices, we will almost assuredly miss out on opportunities. Like a person who tries to run a marathon without any training or preparation, we will fall miserably short.
I appreciate the attitude displayed in these lyrics from a song called Get Me Ready by the Lost Dogs:
Get me ready for hate and love
For a devil or an angel
For the vulture or the holy dove
For the banquet or the empty table
For long life or early grave
For the cross or for the bliss
To be a free man or a shackled slave
For helping hands or the Judas kiss
Get me ready for the signs and wonders
For the absence and the silence
For the sunshine or the rain and thunder
The age of peace or the times of violence
For doubt and faith, for fear and hope
For the curses and the blessings
Smooth sailing or the sinking boat
For the trials and the testings
Get me ready for the brokenhearted
The down trodden, deaf, blind, dumb and lame
The growing numbers of friends departed
For those who love you
Or those who curse your name