It is easy for us to find ourselves resorting to the “I am just not being fulfilled” attitude inside of today’s church. Notice that the same reasoning has justified many a wife or husband to search elsewhere in marriage and an employee for a new place to work as well. If we are not careful, we can allow internal desires, unmet false expectations, or our own personal spiritual negligence to cause us to be discontent with our local church. Many of our churches have become carousels of worship. If we don’t feel we are getting the most out of our worship experience, we immediately hit the trail looking for a church with a greener pasture without having considered if we have “watered our grass” at our present church.
“Watering our grass” is the weeklong self-preparation for worship. For many of us, a state of spiritual displeasure often follows a great spiritual victory. Remember it was following the great miracle of the livening of the widow’s child and the wondrous miracle of fire in the challenge with the Baal prophets that Elijah found himself in self-pity under the shade of a juniper tree. This positioning resulted in him answering the Lord, “I alone am left” in 1 Kings 19:10. We cannot put the gear of the church or ourselves into neutral based upon the result of yesterday whether it be following victory or seemingly defeat. The neutral position and an “I’m the only one” attitude finds us under the shade of the juniper tree. We must dedicate ourselves to regular and sustained spiritual “exercises.” These “spiritual pushups” involve the avoidance of worldly entanglement, the study of the Word of God, meditation upon the Word, time in our prayer closet, and regular connection with our fellow church members.
Our society is a “serve me” people. If we are paying for a meal, we have our own personal expectations for both quality service and food. When we visit restaurants, we become de facto chefs and culinary experts in the foodservice industry. If any aspect of our eating experience falls short of our expectations, we immediately eliminate the restaurant from our dining rotation and leave a negative review on Yelp. We can have this same mentality in our houses of worship. We desire the convenience of sitting down at the spiritual buffet and be fed an entire weekly portion of the Word in one or two sittings. Just as our bodies cannot be physically nourished with one trip to the Golden Corral buffet, our spiritual sustenance and growth will not be maintained with the mere attendance of a one-hour worship service.
We Must Withdraw from Worldly Entanglements
Our spiritual battles do not lessen in number or intensity when we make a decision to place our faith in Jesus Christ. In many ways, the battle has just begun because an active Christian soldiering for the Savior is at odds with the prince of this world.
In 2 Timothy 2:4, Paul in writing to Timothy, gives each soldier for Christ the wisdom that “no man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” We are needed to be “at the ready” for matters of the cross which include taking a stand for the Word of God in our Jerusalem. Paul is not teaching that we should quit our jobs and withdraw ourselves from society altogether by moving to a cabin in a remote portion of Montana. Notice the usage of the word “entangleth.” Alexander McClaren in his commentary wrote, “we are not bound to abandon the affairs of this life, but we are called upon to prevent their interfering with our warfare.”
Our spiritual health demands that we withdraw ourselves from the hobby or activity if the focus distracts or keeps us from the work of the kingdom. He detailed a helpful self-examination when determining the effect of our worldly endeavors. McClaren wrote that we are to consider whether “a certain thing – some legitimate, or even praiseworthy occupation, or possession, the exercise of some taste or accomplishment, some recreation, some companionship – clog my feet when I ought to march; clip my wings when I ought to soar, dim my eyes when I ought to gaze on God?” If the answer is in the affirmative, McClaren wrote, “it is interfering with my warfare, and I must cut the cords” and “entire abstinence” is required until at such time we are stronger.
We Must Make Studying the Word a Priority
In this day of preachers and Biblical teachers proclaiming dangerous doctrine and theology from the pulpit, it is even more imperative for the believer to be well-versed in “what sayeth the Word of God.” We must know “what we believe” and “why we believe it.” As elementary school or even college students to a certain degree, instructors could have told us many things to believe, and we would have without hesitation. We were unlearned and impressionable in matters which we had no earlier exposure in our lives. A dedication to the Word of God, however, is the responsibility of every believer to have a working knowledge. The primary purpose is to see His face and glory more clearly, but we also protect ourselves from being deceived. This growth and learned wisdom then enable us to have the ability to instruct others.
Paul wrote to his dear friend in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We dedicate ourselves to the Word to be strengthened both spiritually and factually. Then, we are able to “divide” it by teaching and helping others depending upon the circumstance. John Gill in his “Exposition of the Bible” wrote that the study of the word is “not unto men, as pleasing men.” Our Bible study is done “unto God, showing all fidelity and uprightness; speaking out the Gospel opening, and freely, with all sincerity, as in the sight of God.” Our dedication to the study of the Bible is our testimony of His presence in our lives. As we read about the trials, temptations, victories, and defeats of the saints, we can identify the dangers of the circumstances and keys to victory and act accordingly. We are then blessed with the opportunity to share the application with a world looking to other failed sources.
We Must Learn to Meditate on Our Study
Congregational Bible studies can be the “rat poison” of the serve-me church member. He or she can get into the spiritual mentality that this hour is my only study of the Word for the week. If this study does not lead to spiritual satisfaction, the member becomes disgusted and idles any type of Bible study. Further, the mere isolated reading and general study of the Word is not sufficient. These practices of the Bible give us knowledge most certainly, but it is the deliberate ponderance and consideration which allows us to make an application of our study.
David wrote in Psalm 1:2 that the believer’s delight “is the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” This verse denotes the frequent deliberation of the Word. David meditated upon the Lord “in the night watches,” “all of thy work,” “in thy precept,” and “in thy statutes.”
Theologian Thomas Watson in his “Treatise Concerning Meditation” wrote “a godly Christian is a meditating Christian” when he quoted Psalm 119:15: “I will meditate in your precepts.” In 1 Timothy 4:15, Paul wrote to “meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” Watson considered meditation to be “the chewing upon the truths we have heard” which “is like the watering of the see, it makes the fruits of grace to flourish.” Meditation while under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the chewing up and the digesting of the Word of God.
We Must Engage in Premeditated Preventative Prayer
The selfless prayers of the church are necessary for the strength and vision of its leaders and fellow members. Every church desires its membership to make a priority of regular prayer for his or her pastor, Sunday School teacher, song leader, musicians, choir, youth leader, and everyone else within the church who has a leadership role. Additionally, the pastor of the church and the deacons have the responsibility to pray for their congregation. A pastor who fails to pray for his congregation is a shepherd who isn’t “worth his salt” to his congregation. The prayers should be for guidance, protection, and a filling of the Holy Spirit. This filling allows the pastor to preach of the unsearchable riches of the glory of God, the Sunday School teacher to equip his/her students for battle in the world, and the music leader to victoriously belt out the songs of Zion.
Numbers 6:24-26 gives us a great desirous prayer for our church by petitioning “the Lord [to] bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” The prayers for our church should include a desire that any outside distractions be eliminated from the confines of the House of the Lord and that everything said and done be in accordance with the will of the Holy Spirit.
In Joshua 1:9, the faithful servant wrote, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Praying for these armaments is certainly necessary for our church leaders in midst of today’s spiritual climate. The church needs a great empowering of confidence and boldness to proclaim the power of our Lord as we face global turmoil and domestic strife. The “serve me” member on the other hand is more concerned about “my four and no more.” We must have a selfless Kingdom vision in our prayer life.
We Must Be Continually Connected to the Church
The church cannot live in the world on Monday through Saturday without any connection to or care of our church brethren. Sunday morning can not be the only time we visit or commune with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 1 Peter 2:17 instructs us to “love the brotherhood.” The church is to comfort one another outside of the walls of the church.
In writing to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote that he trusted “in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.” Paul had confidence in Timothy as he wrote, “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” It is natural for believers to care for other believers. We need to have a care for the welfare for the members of our church. Paul added, “for all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
The world looks out for its own interests. We, however, have the obligation noted in Hebrews 3:13 to “encourage one another daily.” Thus, it is imperative we keep connected with our church leaders, our widows, and anyone else who may need comfort outside of our Sunday worship schedule. If our best friends are unbelievers, it may be necessary for us to inspect why we are not closer to fellow Christians. Additionally, if we don’t have a vested interest in the success of our church and its leaders, discontent and a negative mentality are the sure results. The “serve me” member shows up a few minutes before the time of service and sits in a pew demanding to be fed his or her weekly portion.