A Diet for Disaster
Some time ago I read that in the countryside of southern Missouri, the land doesn’t have a lot of natural minerals. Nevertheless, there are farmers who raise cattle and crops there. Often the cows and sheep, wanting a healthy, mineral-rich meal, will come upon piles of junk and garbage out in the fields or while wandering in the woods. And they will eat old batteries and rusty wire or nails to get the minerals their bodies crave and which they need. But the end result is they die because of it. They choose the wrong things to satisfy their hunger for something good.
Last time I challenged us to live life intentionally so we actually reach the goals we say we’re after. We want to be a people who do more than talk about becoming like Jesus; we want to experience genuine transformation into His image. Being intentional to do the right things is important, but we also need to avoid things that can become obstacles to spiritual growth. Let me highlight five obstacles that many of us face in our pursuit of being like Jesus.
Busyness will stifle your spiritual life. Running from one thing to the next; on the go from morning to night; busyness often prevents us from hearing God. If we take time to read in the Bible, we read quickly and superficially. We don’t take time to meditate on the Word. We don’t have time to pray. Busyness saps our energies and we find we have little to nothing left for God.
Have you ever noticed lion tamers always carry a stool into the cage with them when training the lions? William H. Hinson explains that animal trainers carry a stool because the lions can’t focus on all four of the stool’s legs at once. It’s too “busy” for them. There are too many things to focus on. The trainer has his whip, of course, and his pistols are at his side. But, Hinson says, the stool is the most important tool of the trainer. He holds it with the legs facing the lion and when the lion attempts to focus on all four legs, it can’t and a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal. It becomes tame, weak, and disabled because its attention is fragmented.
Something similar happens to us when we allow ourselves to be too busy. Our attention is fragmented. We cannot focus on any task – especially not seeking God in a meaningful way. Intentionally living to open ourselves up to the transforming power of Jesus Christ necessitates we slow down and carve time for God into our crowded lives!
2. Driven, not called
Related to busyness is the reality that many of us are living and doing things because we are driven instead of called. What I mean is that many of us have a desire to serve and to use our gifts and abilities for God. But sometimes we have a hard time saying, “No”. Or other times we think, “If I don’t do this it won’t be done right…I’ll just have to redo it anyway.” But we end up taking on tasks that aren’t ours to take. We’re driven rather than called. At the heart of it may be something good; but it may be pride or selfishness or an unhealthy attitude. Not only do we end up too busy and doing too much, we rob someone else of the opportunity to do what they were actually called to do. We stunt our own spiritual progress and we hurt theirs too!
Too many of us settle for friends that make us feel comfortable and don’t ask too much from us. At one level that’s ok. But we also need friends who will challenge and inspire us. At times when I was spiritually lethargic, friends who were passionately running after Jesus made me feel guilt; condemned; sinful…but also awakened in me latent desire. I wanted what they had. I wanted the intimacy and the passion. And their unwillingness to settle and be comfortable shook me from my slumber and encouraged me to start seeking.
The Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:10, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” We need friends who will help us up…not join us down on the ground or in the pit!
Imagine climbing up a tall mountain. You’ve been at it for a while and you’re getting tired. You seem to be about halfway up and there’s a nice flat rock that you can sit down on and look out over the valley below. So you sit down, have a nice cool drink and admire the view. It’s beautiful! You are only part way up, but even at this elevation the views are amazing!
After a bit you stand up, sore from the morning hike. As you stretch, you look up at the peak are realize not only is it far, it gets even tougher the higher you climb. Turning back to the valley below you think, “You know, this spot is awfully nice. The views may not be as breathtaking as they’d be from the peak, but they are the most incredible I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’ll just stay here and settle down right where I am. It’s comfortable and the rest of the climb just looks too hard.”
“Mediocrity” comes from two Latin words: medius (meaning middle height) and ocris (meaning a rugged mountain). Literally mediocrity is stopping halfway up a rugged mountain. It’s settling for something middling instead of pushing on to greater heights and more spectacular views.
For too many of us, we come to faith in Jesus and we experience some transformation and even pursue more growth. But the reality is that we settle. We get comfortable. We’re only part way to the top, but we become satisfied. We no longer drive for more. We want just enough Jesus to bless where we are and what we’re doing, but not so much we have to be inconvenienced or change. Needless to say, this stops our spiritual growth!
5. Unresolved conflict and unconfessed sin
I list these two together because they are related. I mentioned these in my previous post so I won’t say much about them here. Suffice it to say if we have a broken relationship or have sin that is festering in our hearts, we will not grow in intimacy with Jesus. We can’t. It puts barriers between us and him and though things may look fine on the outside, they are dying on the inside. That’s why Jesus said that if we are presenting our offering at the altar and realize we’ve offended someone we need to go make it right then come back and make our offering.
Are there obstacles keeping you from experiencing more of Jesus? Are you settling for the spiritual diet equivalent of old batteries and rusty nails? Let’s get the junk and the obstacles out of our spiritual diet. Let’s make sure the things feeding us are life-giving and soul-satisfying. Let’s seek to live intentionally so we make it all the way to the top of that rugged mountain!