13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
At least a couple of aspects in my walk of faith stand out for me from this text. First, and maybe foremost, Paul was not writing about general matters of a person’s character and attitude toward life. He is talking specifically about the building up of the church at the local level.
This aspect is obvious from the general context of the letter and also from the immediate context. Paul identifies Stephanas and his household as a real-life illustration of people who demonstrate these qualities. Paul wrote that, “they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people,” and he exhorts the Corinthians to submit to the leadership of such devoted people.
I remember one time, right after I had gotten saved, we were going to church every week for a Bible study. We had to drive about 40 miles from Livermore to Mountain View. One evening, one of the “elder” leaders of our congregation singled us out as an example of faithfulness and devotion, simply for making it to the Bible study regularly. I thought, “Wow, what’s the big deal?”
This is related to a second aspect of my faith that I see here. Over the years, I have experienced a tension in my walk between “having to” engage in spiritual activities versus “wanting to” engage in spiritual activities—Bible studies, prayer, devotion, worship, small group, on and on.
I have thought and said at times that we should engage in the building up of the church (because that is what all of these spiritual activities are about) out of the natural overflow of our intimate fellowship with our Lord, Jesus Christ. But the truth of the matter is, we don’t always have a sense of being in a personal, intimate fellowship with our Lord. Not always.
And when that happens, we might find ourselves “struggling” spiritually. And when we “struggle,” it is very easy for us to simply turn our back on these spiritual activities. They’re just not “fun.”
But as adults, we must realize (because it is a general principle of life, not some esoteric spiritual truth) that our walk of faith is not meant to be “fun,” so much as it is meant to be a blessing for the purpose of glorifying God. And frankly, the blessing that comes from our walk of faith simply takes work.
We all want our walk of faith to be driven by “want to.” But as adults, we know that a life of faith is really driven by “ought to.” That is what sustains us in the dry seasons. And most importantly, that is what helps to disciple others who are growing in the faith.
You see, this principle is fundamentally what establishes most children’s and youth programs on shaky ground. We teach our children that a life of faith is about having “fun” instead of working out the salvation that God works in us (Philippians 2:12-13) for the glory of God. Of course parents have an important role to play in modeling the right attitude toward our spiritual activities as well.
No wonder so many young people are lost and joyfully run away from the church. There’s way more “fun” to be had elsewhere. The church can’t compete because we were not meant to compete with worldly “fun.” We are meant to transcend and supersede it in Christ Jesus and Him crucified and resurrected.
Can we just stop making the same mistakes and keep expecting different results?
Pastor Jon Varner shares what he learned developing a practice of combining his daily Bible reading and prayer.