In our small church we are fortunate in having a number of young couples with small children. One of these couples has a wonderful child named Elijah. He is not quite two years old and he has recently found his feet. He loves to run. He just goes and goes, from here to there, like a miniature Energizer bunny ~ his face wreathed in smiles as his patient mom trails after him to see he doesn’t come to any harm. After the service, he circles the sanctuary round and round, occasionally bumping into people who greet him kindly, but he just continues on his journey at top speed, his chubby little legs seemingly fueled with tiny rockets. He is completely set on his quest to stay in motion, whether or not he hits obstacles, people, or falls over because his bottom half is moving faster than his upper half. He just has to keep moving. People watch him with smiles on their faces as they enjoy his obvious delight in this new found skill of running.
In thinking about Elijah, I see some parallels to our Christian lives. In one way you could say that our lives should be like Elijah’s in that we show perseverance: we should keep on keeping on, working steadily at our tasks, single-minded and focused. He is developing his skill, and growing in the process. Faithfulness to the task at hand is a good thing… as long as we know what we are accomplishing with all our activity.
On the other hand, we could say that his activity is essentially ineffective ~ just moving for the sake of moving, with no conscious purpose except to keep in motion. As an observer, I see a lot of folks like this. They feel threatened if they are not constantly moving; filling every minute of their schedules with tasks, constantly overloading their energy, and yet seemingly unable to say no to any request, or reluctant to stop and stand still. Some people I know constantly overload themselves because they believe that each minute of their day should be productive, especially if it is the Lord’s work. Their motives are good, but in the doing of this they are wearing themselves out, and they and their families becomes stressed and lose their joy and peace. Others may simply be competitive and feel the need to demonstrate that THEIR love for the Lord is greater than that of those who may do less. This is pride based, and not really a demonstration of love for God as much as it is an expression of ego.
Others, especially older people, seem to believe that if they stop their constant movement, they will be forced to recognize that they are getting old, and no longer able to do all they could when they were young. They can’t bear this; they don’t want to think about the truth that they no longer have the strength of youth, so they keep pushing themselves mindlessly, exhausting themselves and those around them. S ometimes people are excessively active in order to make sure they have little time to think. They seem terrified to be alone with themselves and their own thoughts, so they just keep moving. They fill their minds with the task at hand and the task to come so that there is no time for reflection.
Some are just so task oriented that they never even consider slowing down or taking time for reflection. They are prime examples of the Puritan work ethic gone berserk… type A personalities who challenge themselves constantly. Perhaps they just love to work. Who knows what really drives them?
None of this is “wrong”. We are talking here of people; and we all have our ways of coping; we are what we are. That is what makes us different and unique. However, as Christians searching for a strong and balanced walk with Christ, I think we must at least consider trying to balance movement with reflection. A healthy Christian life is not all good works and activity; good works must be based on a solid spiritual core energized by a steady renewing of our minds in the Word, and periods of genuine worship of Christ. This is the fuel which enables our activity in the right spirit. It is the old Martha-Mary situation. There is nothing wrong with hard work and activity; people must work, or nothing gets done. Yet, we need to realize that we can’t pour everything out without refueling. We nourish our minds and spirits through worship and the steady, consistent study of the Word of God.
I think I have understood this more as I have become old. I have heard so many sermons pushing people to get out and get active; challenging people to get involved in their communities and to demonstrate God’s love to those around them by acts of kindness and sharing the load of our common humanity. Yet, I have come to realize that the foundation for this must be an awareness of what God’s love IS. We are not called on to do good things in order to score points for ourselves in some heavenly ledger, but rather our good works are to be an unconscious overflow of the fruit of the Spirit, doing good things because God is good, and we are to be reflections of Him ~ His hands and feet in the world.
We may need to be reminded of Romans 12:1~2, which says: “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
There is so much in that passage! I think the portion which calls on us (on me) to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove the will of God, is particularly applicable in this context. How do we renew anything? Our bodies are renewed by the nourishing of our cells by nutrients found in food. We need to be hydrated by water. The earth is renewed by nutrients found in the soil and the watering of the rain. Christ called Himself the Bread of Life; the Living Water of truth. It is being fed on Christ and the Word of God and being obedient to them which transforms us. Only as we feed ourselves on Christ and the Word will our spiritual lives be healthy and genuinely capable of the kind of activity which has meaning. Works built on any other foundation are merely wood, hay and stubble, and will not be able to withstand the fire of God’s holy assessment.
He wants us to find in Him all we need for lives which produce more than just activity for the sake of activity. Elijah will grow up and he will need to find more purpose in his running than mere motion; we, too, need to grow up to see that good works are only one half of the equation. Worship and a loving, intimate relationship with Christ are the foundation on which the good works are based, and without these, all our activity is just so much running in place. We serve Him because we love Him. He provides both the will and the power for us to do so. Praise His Name!