OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #241 A Luxury We Can’t Afford
I have a love-hate relationship with the flyers which land in our driveway every week, rolled tightly and stuffed into a clear blue plastic bag. I resent that they arrive uninvited and must be dealt with, adding to the pile in our recycling bag which ultimately must be taken to the curb each week. When I see them there, I line up the car as I pull into the driveway and attempt to squash that roll of flyers, while Jan either rolls her eyes or tells me I shouldn’t because she will need to check the grocery flyers. I figure that an extra crease or two won’t hurt.
I must confess, however, that there is a part of me which enjoys the flyers. Are there any bargains? Is there something we have been planning to buy which is finally on sale? And, sometimes it is nice to dream about some of the things we see, even if we know they are luxuries we cannot afford.
The thought has occurred to me that we sometimes view spiritual disciplines in the same way. They are nice, we’d like to have some for ourselves, but they are really luxuries we cannot afford at this time, not with regard to money, but time. Where does the time come from if we can’t keep up with what we do now? Someday, perhaps...
Jesus spoke about this. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46*)
In back-to-back parables, Jesus used business as an illustration. If we had the opportunity to make a lot of profit, legally, wouldn’t we take it? And wouldn’t we do everything we needed, even if it meant selling everything else? In one case a man discovered buried treasure and bought the field in order to gain the treasure. In the other, a jewel dealer discovered a very valuable pearl. In both cases they sold all they had in order to make the sure investment.
We understand this as good business but the application is where we have trouble. The stories are not about business, but about seeking after God: “The kingdom of heaven is like...” I can understand in my heart that there is opportunity for great gain spiritually as I read my Bible, pray, write in my journal, fast, or especially if I take some time for silence and solitude. But all the things that must be done call out like a siren. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
And yet there is the chance for great gain. This is what drove the people in Jesus’ stories, causing them even to sell all they had because of the opportunity. If we are to see spiritual disciplines in the right light, we must see them, not as luxuries which cut into our time, but as opportunities for great gain.
I am truly impressed and inspired when I see people taking advantage of this principle. I spotted a truck driver in a parking lot reading his Bible one day. A mother of young children I know keeps a Bible in the bathroom. People I know keep prayer lists on their I-Pods and Blackberrys. These are all busy people, but understand they need that time with God and so find ways to make it happen.
I’ve not talked much about spiritual disciplines even though this is my third letter. The difficulty, I find, is not in understanding how to do them, but in seeing them in the right light so that I approach them with the right attitude. For me this makes all the difference. For years I saw them as something I needed to “fit in,” and I was hit and miss. Any consistency I developed came after I changed the way I think about them. Its not perfect, please understand. Time pressure is a constant battle I face and feel. But attitude makes all the difference.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Nov 5, 2010. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at http://www.onfireletter.blogspot.com/