Angry? Why angry?
I was in the mountains attending a retreat along with other church leaders. The speaker was comparing two common church attitudes. One focused first on prayer, Bible study and community service. This was desirable. Another emphasized cafeteria-style, pick and choose programming. “This attitude,” said the speaker “was undesirable.”
That’s when I got angry!
I stood and suggested that today’s church really needed both attitudes. “Yes,” the speaker answered, “that may be true but on which attitude do you place your priorities?” His point was to urge churches to seek an ongoing relationship with God first before blindly creating programs just because people ask for them. He was right and I knew it, so why was I so upset?
After the meeting, I took a walk to clear my head. It was cold but I was too preoccupied to notice.
After a few minutes, I looked up toward the top of the mountain and saw a bright light in the shape of a cross. It took a few minutes of climbing and walking to get there but finally I stood below a beautiful cross that could be seen for miles.
Despite the temperature, I somehow felt warm and secure beneath this shining beacon of light. It was as if Jesus himself was offering comfort and reassurance.
After a few minutes of standing quietly, I began to understand my anger. It wasn’t about church attitudes or programs. It wasn’t even the speaker. The problem was with me.
Underneath the glow of the cross, the words of the speaker became a divine warning. I was the one focusing on creative programming ideas while neglecting my own relationship with God. My priorities were focused on people rather than God: programs rather than relationships. It was so simple, yet I almost missed it.
In the Bible, a young man named Timothy was also struggling and faced many pressures and challenges but an experienced pastor named Paul wrote several letters filled with Godly wisdom.
U Cling tightly to your faith in Christ and always keep your conscience clear. (1 Timothy 1:19)
U I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them and give thanks. (2:1)
U Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. (4:7)
U Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers and teaching them. (4:13)
U Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right and God will save you and those who hear you. (4:16)
The lessons from Paul to Timothy are abundant and clear:
- Cling tightly to your faith — Always put God first in everything we do.
- Pray for all people — Prayer should be the foundation of our life and ministry.
- Train yourself for spiritual fitness — Spiritual discipline is an all-important part of faith.
- Reading the Scriptures — Still the best way I know to discover God’s love and grace.
- Encouraging and teaching others — Emphasis is on relationships not activities or programs.
- Stay true to what is right and God will save you — Putting our ultimate trust in God.
What about you? Maintaining a Christian lifestyle is about so much more than attending church, singing in the choir or serving on a committee. A Christian lifestyle is more about who you are, how you act and Whom you serve.
Question: What priorities are you neglecting in your relationship with God? What needs to change in your life? When can you start? How can the church encourage you?
On a cold dark night beneath a brightly lit cross, I received a divine warning and a priceless lesson. At the same time, I felt the love and comfort only a loving Christ can give.
I walked back to the hotel with a bounce in my step and a new fire in my heart. But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life along with faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. May God’s grace be with you all. (1 Timothy 6:11 & 21)
Amen! Thank you, God!