Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. -- Proverbs 13:11
Friday, February 13, 2015
Crisis, Commitment, Communion
I think I heard that there were three winning tickets for this week’s huge Powerball drawing. That’s means probably a minimum of a hundred million or so to each winner – a lot of money to be dumped into someone’s lap. Most of us cannot even imagine what that means, and most people cannot handle that kind of wealth. We have learned how to manage the income we have. Poor people have acquired skills in dealing with poverty. Show up at any Walmart or similar store the day after the monthly load of EBT cards takes place. These people know to the minute when their money will be available. They know to the penny how much they have -- three or four hundred bucks, or fifteen hundred, a person like that can manage with some degree of skill. Give them access to a hundred thousand, a million or a hundred million, and they simply have no concept.
It happens to lottery winners, to athletes, and to some entertainers – especially those who become overnight celebrities. To the rest of us, it seems strange that someone who has an inordinate amount of money should ever end up in debt and bankrupt, yet, this is a very common path. Managing large amounts of money is a skill like any other. It can be learned, but it is takes time. If your money comes in slowly and your wealth accumulates little by little, your management skills grow apace. Everything works out.
The same applies in the spiritual realm. We get a picture of it in type as God promises to give Canaan to the Children of Israel: I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land (Exodus 23:29-30).
The problem the Israelites had was that, though they had been delivered from slavery, they were still slaves in terms of their mindset. It took time for them to see themselves as the Lord saw them. Upon encountering the gigantic inhabitants of Canaan, the faithless spies famously said that they were as grasshoppers in the eyes of their enemies, and in their own eyes. After being beaten down and oppressed for generations, they could not change their minds about who they were and what they were capable of. They had come out of Egypt in crisis which led to, quite naturally, celebration and vows of commitment, but very few of those so delivered entered into communion.
I believe that conversion is a genuine experience, but, at the same time, I am skeptical of instant Christians – just add water. Typically, I think we come to a point of crisis where we realize what we are doing isn’t working. We recognize and embrace the truth of the Gospel. We commit ourselves to Christ. The riches of God’s grace and mercy become available to us, and we rejoice. After a while, though, most of us experience difficulties. The same old problems confront us. The same old man too often responds to those problems. We wonder if we were ever “saved”, or if we need to “rededicate” our lives to Christ. Maybe it didn’t take the first time. I have a close relative who used to rededicate about every six months. I don’t suppose it hurt anything, but I’m not sure it helped anything either. How many times do you need to cross the Red Sea? It borders on magical thinking.
What did Jesus tell us to do in the Great Commission? Make disciples. Disciples are those under discipline. They are learning and developing a new attitude and a new mindset – renewing our minds is the Scriptural phrase, to go with the new nature we have been given. When people say that we learn to pray, we mean that people learn when to pray and that prayer is listening as much or more than pleading. We have faith, but we need to develop it and refine it, challenge it and test it in real world situations.
It takes time. This is why most people do not die immediately after coming up from the waters of baptism. A Crisis Christian can immediately or almost immediately become a Committed Christian resulting in a Celebrating Christian. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s common. To become a Communion Christian, however, is always going to be a process. A few of us -- for reasons known only to God, move to that place fairly quickly. To those watching from the outside, the transition may appear seamless and sudden. The rest of us take the long way home. We adapt slowly. At times it may seem that we are making no progress at all, but we can trust that the Lord is leading by the way that is best. Some of us take more changing than others, more dying to self than others. Do not despair or fear. Little by little, we grow in grace.