“I’m sick of Bible studies,” I thought. I went to the Sunday night Bible study anyway. But I was feeling cranky. I fully realize the silliness of my feelings. After all, I have led Bible studies for years. I love God’s Word, and teach a Sunday school class every week. The feelings, however, were genuine and disconcerting.
I get this fever of discontent every few years. After one bad bout, I quit teaching Sunday school for a year. To put it bluntly, I tire of teaching God’s Word and not doing it. This is not a case of a guilty conscience or hypocrisy catching up with me. Although not perfect by any measure, I’m good at loving folks and doing Christian niceness. I can’t think of any area of my life not surrendered to God.
But sometimes it feels that I am forever polishing the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word, and never using it. I do a lot of God’s Word, most of what is accepted and expected within Christian culture. Jesus commissioned his disciples to heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. He did a lot of that himself. But I don’t, and thankfully (I guess) no one expects me to. And I can go days without worrying about my failure to do what Jesus told his disciples to do if I don’t study the Bible.
Sometimes I hate how easily I embrace life in The First Church of Low Expectations. I can plod along happily on pleasantries before and after church services until I start reading Paul’s description of how we should be edifying each other through the gifts of the Spirit. Or how we should be holding each other accountable through exhortation, correction, and rebuke. When I read that stuff, my hearts sinks because we are no closer to doing it than we were ten years ago. For the most part we are like every other American church; we don’t really know what’s going on in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Sure we share prayer requests and praises, but they seldom open us up to the ministry of others. The more I read the Bible the more I realize we aren’t doing all the Bible’s one-anothers.
The strange part is that the more passionately I pursue God, the more I dislike Bible studies. For instance, we just studied Philippians 2:1-2 where Paul urges the church there to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Am I actually doing all I can to obey this? Or am I content to sit in my denominational silo and just move on to the next verse in our Bible study? Why not swing the sword of the Spirit at the status quo of division, isolation, and irrelevance? Taking God’s Word seriously ruins me.
Ok. Maybe we simply can’t actually do all of God’s Word. Maybe God won’t or can’t empower us to heal and cast out of demons like Jesus did. Maybe we can’t have any more unity among believers than we now do. And maybe the radical discipleship and mutual accountability described by Paul is unreasonable. However, we can’t know this until we have given our hearts and lives to obeying God in these areas. We can’t know until as a church we have confessed our barrenness and in prayer cried out for God to fill us and change us.
I am not afraid that God won’t answer our broken-hearted prayer. I am afraid of my own fat heart—content with the status quo. Content to polish my sword and slide it into its sheath unused.