Running, Fighting, Striving, Worshipping, Pressing, Praying, Growing, Serving, Watching, Seeking, Enduring.
The Bible uses a lot of action words. The epistles in particular are full of energetic language, which reflects the way the apostles lived their lives. It is clear from this that the Christian life should be one of action and energy. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible to suggest that once we are converted, we can sit back in a comfortable armchair, put our feet up and wait to arrive in Heaven. It’s the complete opposite: once we are saved we begin a new life to be lived for the glory of God, in his service, and commence a daily battle with some very powerful enemies.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we’re not trying to earn our way to Heaven by our actions. We cannot add to our justification by being energetic. But, the Apostle James tells us, ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:20). Our Christianity shouldn’t be an afterthought, something that is great so long as it doesn’t take much effort or get in the way of everything else. It should be front and centre in everything we do.
Here are three areas in which our Christianity should be energetic and active:
1 – Personal Spiritual Life and Growth
This is the number one priority for all Christians. Conversion is just the beginning, not the end. Remember all those action words…
Paul tells us to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ and to ‘run the race’. Peter tells us to ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ’, and, to be diligent in making our ‘calling and election sure’.
The teaching is simple – never be content to be standing still, relaxing, or worse, stagnating in your spiritual life. There are always things to learn and battles to fight. And, in reality, is there anything more worthwhile than growing closer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?
In what ways should we be active and/or making progress? There are many, including:
- Seeking to know more of Christ and the things of God; putting real effort into cultivating our relationship with him, and seeking to love him more and more (2 Peter 3:18).
- Aiming every day to be more Christ-like in our lives, keeping our bodies under control, striving after holiness and resisting worldliness (Luke 9:23-26; Titus 2:12-13; John 14:23).
- Increasingly focusing our thoughts, plans and desires on the things of God rather than earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2).
- Becoming more aware of the battles we are fighting with Satan and with our own sinful hearts. We’ll take Paul’s advice seriously and put on the whole armour of God so that we can stand firm (Ephesians 6:11).
- Having a growing zeal to do good to all men and particularly fellow Christians, both practically and spiritually (Galatians 6:10).
- Worshipping God, praising him daily for his faithfulness, love and mercy to us (Lamentations 3:22-23).
- Watching and praying day by day (Mark 14:38; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
How can we achieve this? We retain spiritual health and keep growing mainly through using the means of grace God has given us: prayer and Bible study, listening to preaching, attending the Lord’s supper. Other things can also help – fellowship with believers, thinking on the things of God, reading good books etc. However, whilst all these are provided by God, the key point is that we will not be successful in any of them if we do not put in the effort. With God’s help we need to be energetic in our personal spiritual life.
2 – In The Church
In a number of passages, Paul describes some the different roles in the church (see 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Romans 12:6-8). Whilst he is specifically referring to the offices appointed by God for those leading the church, there is also a general principle for us all – he writes ‘Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…’. All Christians have different skills, and whatever abilities God has given us we should seek to use for his honour and glory. Whilst this applies to life in general, it is of great importance in the local church setting. Not everyone is a pastor, preacher, deacon or Sunday school teacher, but there are always valuable things to do.
Recently we made a list in our church of the different jobs that need doing; it included some surprising things – managing the website, looking after the heating, sweeping the paths, recording and broadcasting the sermons, putting out water glasses before services, running the monthly market stall, distributing leaflets and calendars, washing the tea towels to name a few. None of these things happen by themselves! Think also about people in your church who need help. Maybe there is an elderly brother or sister who struggles to go shopping, needs odd jobs doing, or would just appreciate some company. Paul said ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.‘ (Galatians 6:10).
Leaving aside the more practical aspects let’s briefly link back with the first area we looked at. The church needs praying, committed, godly Christians. People who love being at the services, prayer meetings and Bible studies. People focused on the worship and glory of God, who care about the spiritual good of the church, its officers and members. People with a heart for evangelism who long to see others saved and the church growing.
Without active members, local churches cannot continue. What can you do in your church both practically and spiritually? Where can you focus your energy?
3 – In society
Whilst Paul said that our focus as Christians should be to help and support other believers, he clearly taught that we should ‘do good unto all men‘. Commenting on this verse Dr Gill says, ‘not only to our relations, friends, and acquaintance, but to all men; to them that are strangers to us, of whatsoever nation, Jew or Gentile; and of whatsoever religion or sect, yea, even to our very enemies.‘ That covers just about everyone! We should seek to use our lives to improve the lives of all those around us.
There are many and varied ways to do this. Have a look at Romans 12: 9-21; Paul describes so many ways in which our faith should influence how we conduct ourselves in society. Be polite and kind to everyone. Get to know your neighbours, be friendly and willing to help them when they have a need or problem. Be hospitable. Look for ways to help those less fortunate than yourself. Could you volunteer for a charity – how about at a soup kitchen or winter night shelter for the homeless? Work hard, be honest and conscientious. The list goes on.
Then there is another angle to this – Christians should also try to engage society with their faith, seeking to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Take an interest in the world around you. Prayerfully engage with politics, elections etc. Write to your MP about things that concern you. Stand up for your faith at school, college, university and work. Society may seem to be in a downward spiral of immorality, completely hostile to the Bible’s teaching, but there are many recent examples of where Christians have been able to influence things for good. We should not give up on society or hide ourselves away. Use your energy for good – keep informed, keep praying and act![A00062 – 01/02/2018]