I like to work out. And due to some extensive knee surgery in high school, I like to stick with the elliptical. Despite the fact that my gym has roughly seventy-two TV’s, they are never turned to any channel that I find interesting enough to keep my mind off my work out. Listening to music doesn’t help my attention span either. Talking with someone is my preference, but my lack of oxygen prohibits me from having a conversation much longer than three words. So how do I pass the time?
I have started listening to podcasted sermons on my ipod.
It has proven to be the best way to hold my attention and focus. Not only does is not get boring (because I haven’t heard them before like the songs on my play list) but I can actually work out longer because I am no longer constantly looking down at the clock on my machine. I’m concentrating on what is being said. Who knew?
A few days ago while “elliptizing,” I was listening to a sermon called “Hands and Feet” by Matt Chandler at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. And something hit home… hard.
He was reading out of Matthew 25:31-40; pointing out that Jesus’ miracles were primarily preformed around the poor and the needy, those whose faith was their only possession.
In verse 31, Jesus is describing for his disciples the way in which believers and non-believers will be divided at judgment and on what basis they will be welcomed into the kingdom. In verse 35 he Jesus says, “I was hungry and you have me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…” (ESV) It goes on to say that the righteous will answer “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you drink.”
You all know what He says next. “Truly I say unto you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (ESV) I know that this may not be a new verse or a revolutionary concept, but stick with me. Where Mr. Chandler went from here was profound.
Most would read that passage and immediately think, “Ok, I have to do more; if feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is what is going to get me into heaven, then I need to pencil in my volunteer time at the local Salvation Army this Saturday.”
But again, we all know that you can not work or earn your way to heaven; Christianity is not a works based faith. So it would appear as though we are at a cross-roads. But in fact we are not.
We are at the very intersection where the law and grace meet. Turn left and you live for yourself. Sure to grow tired, worn, and eventually defeated, for the law leaves no room for error.
But turn right and you die to yourself and will be raised with the glory of Christ. And it is at this resurrection that something extraordinary happens. As Mr. Chandler described it “the way out of works-based mentality is this: doing what comes naturally when the gospel penetrates your heart and changes your spirit. It is not something you will or can do in your own strength, power or will, but is instead a natural outflow of progressive sanctification. It will happen because God has control of your whole being and He has changed your heart, mind and desires to reflect His.”
As this word began to sink in, I peddled slower and my heart rate began to stabilize. Then I realized, “If I want to be more like Christ, if I want to do His will, serve His people and be obedient with everything that He has blessed me with, than He will reveal to me what that looks like gradually as my faith grows and my dependence on Him deepens.”
If all of our questions and wonderings were answered or made clear in one sitting, why would anyone still feel the need to seek Him? They wouldn’t need to. There would be no need for relationship.
It seems as though I can not escape this lesson: In everything, no matter what, at all times, seek to know Him more and He will provide. He will provide us with the strength to do that which we can not do ourselves which is to display and reflect His goodness and grace more clearly to others. We are to be living testaments but all too often we get in the way; we speak up when no words are needed.
Matthew 7:16 says that “You will know them by their fruits.” (NASB)
As hard as it is for me (ask my boss), I am finally learning to shut up. Because at the end of the day, what I have to say is of no consequence. Instead I’m finding that what I have heard and learned from the Lord, will pour out of my life if I am fully and humbly surrendered and it probably won’t be verbal. It will flow forth as physical and spiritual necessity to be obedient to what I know.