And Then It Was Challenging

Just this morning, even though I’m still excited (or trying to convince myself that I’m excited), after finishing my work-out on the treadmill and a few of the stations designed to work muscles in the arms, I was already grumbling. You know . . . my feet hurt, my muscles hurt, I’m tired, etc. You might say, “and then it was challenging.”

And then it was challenging

Several years ago I coached a baseball team of 7 & 8 year old boys.  When players are this young, as the coach, I’m mainly focused on teaching fundamentals.  Everyone wants to win but come the end of the season your goal as a coach is that everyone on the team knows and executes the fundamentals of catching, throwing, running and hitting.  In addition, your objective is that your players develop the understanding of the rules of the game and the various positions on the field. In fact, at this age, most of them volunteer to pitch or play first base and the spend most of the season arguing over who should be playing these positions. You also get a good number of them wanting to play the catcher position. However, you may start out of with 8 to 10 of them excited about it and then by the end of the season you may have 1 or 2 that stick with it. At first, the catcher’s equipment looks real cool to them. They marvel a bit at the helmet and face mast.  And then they pick up the catcher’s mitt and strike a few blows into the pocket.  Then they try on the shin guards and pound on each one with their fist to see if it will actually protect them. At this point in the process, most of them are still excited about the opportunity to be a catcher. That is, you might say, “and then it was challenging.”

They may be excited but after a few practices wearing the catcher’s equipment in the heat, as their hair, shirt and pants fill will sweat, a few of them beg to never be asked to play the position again. A few more eliminate themselves once they take a foul tip to the face mask.  And, of course, the coach has to redirect one or two because they can’t catch the ball or possibly can’t see the ball to catch it.  As you know, playing catcher isn’t the only opportunity that may look exciting from a distance.  For instance, I had a friend who wanted to be a farmer.  He even found a farmer that hired him and put him to work in the Spring during planting season and kept him on all the way through harvest.  Also during this time, he learned to care for cattle, pigs and chickens. However, once he had the experience, he decided that farming wasn’t as appealing after all.  He complained about early mornings, late nights, sore muscles and rarely having a full day off. You might say, “and then it was challenging.”

As I’ve recently mentioned in a couple of sermons as the subject of a joke, I have a gym membership.  In all seriousness though, I really like the new gym where I’ve only began to work out.  I like it better than the two previous gyms where Cheri and I’ve been members.  Okay, go ahead and laugh. In any case, overall, the facility is nicer and cleaner. It has better and a larger selection of equipment and exercise options. And, of course, the price is the best in town. I just hope I have the discipline to go on a regular basis.  At the moment, I’m excited about this new opportunity to stay in shape and take care of my body. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit after all (1 Cor 6:19). However, with that said, as reported by statisticbrain.com, sixty-seven percent of people with gym memberships never use them and the average number of times a gym membership owner actually goes to the gym every week is only 2.  Just this morning, even though I’m still excited (or trying to convince myself that I’m excited), after finishing my work-out on the treadmill and a few of the stations designed to work muscles in the arms, I was already grumbling. You know . . . my feet hurt, my muscles hurt, I’m tired, etc. You might say, “and then it was challenging.”

The Christian church isn’t immune from the same type of experience. On the one hand, as lost and hopeless sinners overcome with guilt and shame, we hear the gospel and learn that Jesus loves us and will forgive our sins with a promise of eternal life.  We even learn that we can’t earn our salvation because it is the free-gift of God. In fact, by God’s grace we can only accept this gift by faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). But then, what happens to the new believer when they begin to experience discipleship? Okay before I continue, let me reiterate the fact that you can’t work for or earn salvation. But with that said, on the other hand, it is equally true that we are called to follow Christ and do His kingdom work on earth as a result of our salvation. James even writes, “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26) God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ by faith are real. And yet, so is following Christ at all cost. LK 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? Moreover, as Billy Graham is quoted, “salvation is free but discipleship costs you everything.” In other words, it is equally true that Jesus is Savior and Lord. And to be clear, Lord means master with all authority in heaven and earth.  So then, just as some think they want to be a baseball catcher, farmer or a disciplined caretaker of the temple of the Holy Spirit, some also have naive notions of biblical Christianity.  You might say, “and then it was challenging.” I pray that you rely on the grace and power of God as you live out your faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And, for sure, many days will be difficult but God’s grace is sufficient. After all, accepting Christ as Savior and following Him as Lord is well worth self-denial and the total cost of living your faith.

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene

Gene StocktonComment