Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Perhaps I should start by saying I’m a sucker for movies. Not all movies, mind you, but I am a fan of movie-watching in general. I took my daughter out to see the new Karate Kid the other day, and left feeling unexpectedly inspired. It’s not unusual for me to leave a movie in a state of artificial emotional arousal (just to clarify I’m using the psychological definition here), but there are a couple of things that have stuck with me after all that passed.

The first was a quote by Mr. Han (the Mr. Miyagi character of the remake): “Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.”

I guess this is something I already know, but it really struck me in a fresh new way. I don’t know about you but I find stillness, at times, to be a very difficult thing. What an awesome discipline to perfect. And not only to perfect the times when we choose to stop and be still (which are certainly, actively, to be practiced), but furthermore to attain to a place when we are always still in spirit before the Lord, such that we are abiding and resting in Him, even while we’re moving. Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.

The second thing I’ve begun contemplating afresh since the movie ended is the importance of discipline. Not as in punishment, but dedication, devotion, disciplined pursuit. We are not all likely to become Kung Fu masters in a fantastically short amount of time. Nonetheless, the pursuit of excellence requires sacrifice and hard work.

Driving home from the movie a favorite passage came to mind:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

The comparison to an athlete training for the games really puts this into perspective. I saw a documentary during the last Olympics following one of the athletes in their training. That is serious, hardcore, disciplined training. Hours and hours every day of focused, dedicated, really hard work.

How many of us pursue the Christian life in this fashion? In terms of physical exercise does our Christian walk resemble a weekly tennis match with a friend? Sporadic bouts of regular exercise alternating with long streaks of inactivity? Maybe even a regular but short morning jog? As with exercise anything is better than nothing, but how many of us are really seeking hard after God in the manner of an Olympic athlete? Run in such a way as to get the prize…strict training…I beat my body and make it my slave…How many of us are more willing to put the time in on physical exercise than in pursuit of God? And what kind of results are we expecting? Do we think a half-hearted, sporadic faith routine is going to give us rock hard abs?

Discipline is not everything. Apart from love discipline counts for nothing (1 Corinthians 13). Even so, speaking for myself anyway, I know I could use a bit more of it. I thank God that I have been saved through grace (Ephesians 2:8), but I want to run in such a way as to get the prize!

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I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, think there is something to be said for being intentional. Deliberate, focused, purposeful steps taken toward a desired goal.

I came across the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards yesterday. Edwards was an 18th century theologian famous, among other things, for a “fire and brimstone” sermon he delivered in 1741 entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (I haven’t read it in its entirety, but I can’t say at a glance that I would recommend it).

In 1722-1723 he composed a list of resolutions to which he strove to adhere. Most of them embody typical ideals of self-improvement, some are redundant, and a few seem unnecessarily strict. But some I found thought-provoking and worth consideration…

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

Do my actions bring glory to God? If they are less than glorifying, how can they be improved? If they are more than that which is glorifying, are they necessary or beneficial in some way? Would my time be better spent elsewhere?

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). I love the breakdown of the Greek word translated as “more abundantly,” “abundant,” or “full.” Those words don’t seem to capture it. Try this: “over and above, more than is necessary, superadded, exceedingly abundantly, supremely, much more than all, superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon” (see KJV with Strong’s, look up the passage and follow the link for the word “abundantly”). Am I experiencing life in its fullness? In as far as it depends on me, am I living with all my might?

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

It’s all very well to be generous when need presents itself – a friend asks for a favor, a charity asks for a contribution, donating clothes to the local thrift store when closet space is at a premium…but am I seeking out opportunities to be generous? I love the New King James translation of Isaiah 32:8 – “But a generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand.” Also the New Living translation – “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

I love this one. It might be my favorite. To frequently, deliberately, choose to do something “which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God.” To step in faith! How often are our actions guided by our own abilities? Of course, there is something to be said for practicality, but I think the idea of endeavoring, on a regular basis, to undertake the “impossible” is fantastic (no really, and not just in the fanciful, imaginary, impractical sort of way, although that seems to highlight the point)!

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

Speaking as someone who believes, unequivocally, in the love God has for me, I think this is quite profound. I believe in God’s love because I have experienced it, and it is a beautiful and all-encompassing thing. To steal a line from Ingrid Michaelson and take it entirely out of context, it’s “the sort of” [love] “that waters me, and makes me grow tall and strong and proud, and flattens me.” Does anything cause me to doubt this thing I know to be true? Stand in the way of my receiving the fullness of it? Of being filled, healed and empowered by it?

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s…

Am I living selfishly or sacrificially?

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