May 032020 0 Responses

What You Are Missing and May Not Even Know It

Jenny wants me to run by the grocery store on the way home. After preaching a couple of times and greeting everyone after the service, I head to the store. As I roam the aisles looking for the last ingredient for lunch, I see him. Making his way through the store is someone who I know is struggling with a specific issue. At the moment I am saddened. It’s not his issue that saddens me, but the reality that the Scripture I just preached speaks directly into his situation. But he wasn’t there.

As he walks through the store, he has no idea how much he could have been encouraged, challenged, and changed had he simply been in a different place (the right place) that morning.

Young preachers quickly learn a key lesson–never prepare a sermon for a specific person. Clearly this should never happen will ill-intent–mad at someone, the preacher prepares a sermon for personal revenge. No preacher is below that, but every pastor must make sure they never sink to that level.

However, even preparing a sermon with good intentions for an individual simply doesn’t work. Every preacher tries it. In study, an issue hits us, we think about a person we love who struggles with the issue, and we can’t wait to preach to them on Sunday. But, without fail, that person doesn’t show up. After this pattern is repeated two or three times, a pastor learns to no longer prepare a sermon for a specific person. (See: Stop Whining About the Church)

I gave this up years ago.

Yet, there is a pattern in preaching which greatly grieves my heart. I’ll preach about an issue that is highly applicable or speaks to a very specific topic and later that week I’ll see someone in public. At that moment I’ll realize how impactful Sunday’s sermon could have been for that person, except, they weren’t there. Unbeknownst to them, they could have greatly benefited from corporate worship, but they missed the potential for life change because they chose not to attend.

I wonder how many things we miss because we fail to place ourselves in a position to be reminded of God’s love.

While we are free to choose as we wish, there are some basic disciplines in which a follower of Jesus should engage. A routine of weekly corporate worship is an understood aspect of Christianity. When we fail to engage in that routine, we miss the encouragement of music, the teaching of prayer, the fellowship with other believers, the opportunities to serve others, and the content of the sermon. On any given Sunday, this comes with little loss. Over time, it can have a major impact on a person. (See: What If The Church Honored Sunday?)

Obviously we will all miss a Sunday on occasion, but how many can we miss before we start experiencing the negative effects of those absences? And the problem is we won’t know what we are missing. Like a child who doesn’t have a nutritious diet, we will experience the negative impact of our poor meals but will never know the cause of our problems. While not every problem is a byproduct of our choices, many are. Some of the problems in our lives are completely avoidable. Yet when we fail to grow in our faith, we are guaranteed to make poor choices which otherwise we could have bypassed.

It’s not just about corporate worship.

What about:

Prayer. The old hymn says, “oh what grace we often forfeit, oh what needless pains we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” What anxieties do we carry because of our failure to regularly turn to God in prayer? We often feel as though prayer doesn’t accomplish anything, but when we look at the lives of those who consistently pray versus the ones who occasionally pray, we can see a considerable difference–not in their circumstances, but in their contentment.

Discipleship. How many meaningful things do we undervalue and useless things do we overvalue all because we have not grown in our faith? How many stresses could we have long outgrown had we continually been maturing in our faith? Never has a generation had so many opportunities to grow in their understanding of God as this one, yet we often push aside an intentional approach in maturing our faith.

Service. How many relationships have we missed out on because we are not seeking to serve others? Jesus said it’s better to give than to receive. We all know that the person who benefits the most is the one who serves? How much have we missed out on when we forget or forgo the discipline of service?

Bible Engagement. How many of our days go awry because we refuse to create the discipline of daily engaging with God through His Word? How often has God prepared for us the answers to our great questions, but we never hear those answers because we never engage Him with the questions? Our perspective about life would be greatly altered if we regularly engaged with God’s Word.

Discipline is a basic part of the Christian life. It’s not an avenue through which we earn God’s love, but it is a pattern of behaviors that regularly remind us of what God has done for us through Jesus and what He seeks to do through us in this world. Yet when we fail to engage the basic disciplines of a Christian, we are robbing ourselves of a plethora of blessings from God. (See: Your Christianity Isn’t Christian)

What have you missed out on because of a lack of spiritual discipline?

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