A few years back on a mission trip to a hostile country my group had the priviledge of spending the day with a small band of persecuted followers of Jesus. From countries where professing a love for Jesus would, at best, result in a sound beating and at worst death, these kind, loving souls hosted us in a private location. We quietly sang hymns, shared stories and ate a meal together. I saw first hand what it meant to eat “prepared.” It’s dangerous business to come together for a meal. There was no shortage of joy and laughter. But there was a sense of keeping one ear to the ground. We were watchful for our physical safety, but our spirits were filled joy.
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action . . .” (I Pet. 1:13 NIV). In the early church the language literally meant for the person to gather up his long, flowing garments and be ready for physical action. Much like how God called on the Israelites to eat their first Passover meal. As the Angel of Death swept through the city killing the firstborn of anyone without the lamb’s blood over the doorpost, God tells them to eat ” . . . with your cloak tucked into your belt, sandals on your feet and staff in your hand” (Ex 12:11 NIV).
God’s call to our Christian lives is one of preparedness. For anything. We can’t be caught lounging in complacency. Without spiritual preparedness we can easily trip over the hem of our inadequacies and step on the thorns of doubt. Because God is the Beginning and the End, only He can know for what we are to be ready. But there are many ways we can be positioned to take action no matter what the situation. I call attention to three biggies:
God has called his people to be holy (set apart) for his service. We can’t be if there is unchecked sin in our lives. It would be like putting tainted gas in your car. Sure it might putter down the road a ways, but eventual it would quit working. Paul tells the church at Corinth to “. . . purify [themselves] from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (II Cor 7:1 NIV). Our sin grieves God. And it should grieve us. It’s the sorrow that “. . . brings repentance that leads to salvation” and gives us a heart tendered for service. “. . . what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” (II Cor 7:10-11 NIV).
How easy it is to become lazy. Even while I avoid the “biggies,” the daily toll of simply being in an imperfect world can create seeds of sin even too small to immediately recognize. In an effot to remain prepared, the Psalter had the right idea: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24 NIV). The Holy Spirit reveals where I need correction and cleansing. But I need to be open and willing. Humble to change the most ingrained of behaviours. What I’ve chalked up to “habits” turned out to be unsightly stains to God. Attitudes I considered justified, indulgences I felt I deserved, time I wasted on passing fancies. The cloak I need to have gathered up and tucked in becomes so ladened with mud I’m weighed down at every step. Only when these things are laid at our Father’s feet are my garments made white and suitable for action.
I came across a growing career choice for college students call medical nutrition. The idea (while not entirely new) is to formally educate students to treat illnesses, as simple as allergies to devestating cancers, with diet. Not just with the balance of the main food groups (remember the triangle with bread and grains on the bottom?) but with careful sicence, biology, chemistry and research. The search for the key to cures by unlocking food health. God wants us to care for the vessels he has entrusted to us. But more so our spiritual health. How many of us are malnourished?
I am hypo-glycemic. It make for interesting workouts. Too many times I’ve overdone the exercise with not enough balanced sugars and passed out. Seriously! Nothing worse than fainting after a couple of squats. In our spiritual lives we can fall flat when we aren’t taking in the right nutrition. And the Bible provides all the variety needed. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teaches what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (II Tim 3:16-17 NLT). Not only will I keep from fainting, I will be equipped. Prepared. Ready for action.
Social media. Seems you either love it or hate it. Either way it’s here to stay on some platform or another. No doubt it has been instrumental for good and bad. The ultimate TMI, distracting and too often a place for predators to have access to our kids. But sharing important moments with friends and family, especially those I haven’t actually seen in years, is amazing. The church has been able to reach nations and generations with the Good News like never before. But the oldest media has been the direct line to the Creator of the universe. Unlike social media it’s personal, intimate and critical. This has been an area of my life I’ve had to be extra careful to protect. Way too often I’ve spent half an hour scrolling through Facebook and missed out on empowering prayer. It’s like drinking a soda instead of a protein shake! Then when the struggles come, you guessed it, I pass out instead of powering through. There’s just no substitute for time alone with God.
Prayer warriors like Moses, Abraham and David had an intimacy with God that surpassed most. To Abraham God made the promise of his chosen people. He spoke to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex 33:11 NLT) and David was a man after God’s own heart. One of the identifying marks of each of their lives was their complete faith that God was who he said he was and kept his promises. It is the lack of faith that not only hinders prayers, but makes prayer ineffective. When I’m disappointed, I question whether God is listening. At times of self-depreciation I don’t feel worthy to talk to God at all. Sometimes I’m busy catching up on Instagram. But I have to remember, God is always listening, I’m worthy because of Jesus and God deserves my time.
It’s like the three main food groups of our soul. Without one we will feel the imbalance. We will faint as we run the race. I don’t know about you, but I want to come tearing across the finish line.