But I don’t feel like it…

When you don’t feel like dieting, you probably should.  When you don’t feel like balancing your checkbook, you probably should.  When you don’t feel like working out, you probably should.  When you don’t feel like reading the bible…you probably should.  I’d even go as far as saying, when you don’t feel like talking about Jesus with someone, you probably should.

All too often we only attempt those things we feel like doing.  Now, while that might be okay when you are considering what kind of hobby or activity you’d like to do on a Saturday afternoon,  it rarely works in the real world.  There were many days when I simply didn’t feel like facing those 35 sixth graders.  And days when I didn’t feel like training with my cross-country runners.  And when I got home from those activities, I didn’t feel like mowing the lawn.  But, time after time, I did each of those things.  And, surprisingly (to me), those were some of the best days I ever had.

Believing is an experience as real as any experience, yet multitudes are looking for something more–some electric sensation that will bring a thrill to their physical bodies, or some other spectacular manifestation.  While there may be times when powerful, sensual feelings accompany spiritual activities, the Bible says that a man is justified by faith, not by feelings (Romans 3:28).  A person is saved by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross and not by bodily sensations or religious ecstasy.

Is there a place for feelings to accompany faith?  Of course there is!  Some of my most memorable spiritual times were accompanied by powerful sensations.  But those feeling came as a result of the saving faith in Jesus.  As Billy Graham once said, feeling never saved a single soul.  Neither has faith never acted upon.  It takes real people with real faith who do something about it.

Since my sister-in-law’s recent death, I have become more aware of some of the fears that many older people begin to have.  Fear of illness, fear of not being able to provide for your family, fear that a member of the family may be drifting into a bad life-style, and, of course, fear of death itself.  These fears are feelings.  When I begin to understand something of Christ’s love for me as a sinner, I respond to Him with a love that has feeling.  But that love is also a love that is above the sensual human love.  It is a love that is free from all self.  The Bible says, Perfect love casteth out all fear (I John 4:18).  And those who love Christ have a confidence in Him that raises them above all fear.  When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer (Psalm 94:19).

We just need to be reminded from time to time.

Do or Do Not. There Is No Try. (Yoda, 1980)

How many times have you heard, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”?  For many New Englanders, it’s a kind of mantra–like “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps,” which, when you think about it, is an impossible task.  People may try to lose weight, stop smoking, cut back on caffeine, or get pregnant.  But not really.  They either do lose weight, stop smoking, cut back on caffeine, get pregnant or not.

While this is a cute chart, every step until the top is an unsuccessful not.  Only the top is a successful do.

Back on April 21st, I had a car accident when I blanked out at the wheel and drove my car off the road.  While I never appeared to lose consciousness, I did lose a little over three days of memory.  Subsequent testing seem to indicate that I have a predisposition for seizures.  Not the cardiac or pulmonary issues that I thought might be the cause, but something new.  Though it had nothing to do with the accident, my primary care physician, cardiologist, pulmonary specialist and neurologist all agreed that it was time for me to lose weight.  At the time of the appointments, my weight was 236.  Since I am only 5’7″ tall, that officially qualified me as obese.  Me…a former runner and coach.  Somehow I had let myself slowly add the pounds over the years.  And the older I got, the slower my metabolism functioned and the tougher it became to lose weight.

This time I remembered Matthew 19:26, Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”  Now I realize that Jesus was talking about rich men getting into the Kingdom of Heaven (or camels fitting through the eye of a needle), but I thought if God could squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle, He could certainly squeeze me into a smaller belt size.  But did I have the faith to believe?  When the apostles had a problem with too little faith, they said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!  (Luke 17:5-6) Everyone (including me) has a measure of faith–even if it only the size of a mustard seed.  If that mustard seed faith can cause a mulberry tree to be thrown into the sea, it should certainly be able to throw a few pounds by the wayside.

I finally realized that faith isn’t faith at all until you act on it.  There is no “trying.”  It is either do or not do.  So in a little over two months ago I decided to do.  As of today, I have lost 21 pounds.  I’ve got a long way to go and the past two months haven’t been without setbacks.  At one point I got down to 210, but I put five pounds back on in the past week.  So it is time for me to refocus and remember to ask of God, then to act in faith.  “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.  You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father (John 14:12-13).  It may not be completed here on earth, but in Heaven it is already finished.


When God Seems Silent

The LORD remains near to all who call out to him, to everyone who calls out to him sincerely. (Psalm 145:18)

Why is it that we seem to ignore God until something in our little world starts to fall apart?  D.L Moody believed that there are three kinds of faith in Jesus: struggling faith (like a man floundering and fearful in deep water; clinging faith (like a man clinging to the side of a boat); and resting faith (like a man safe inside the boat–strong and secure enough to reach out his hand to help others).

But how we get there when the trials and challenges of this life seem about to overwhelm us?  Only by staying in tune with God on a daily basis and by believing in God’s faithfulness enough to trust Him.  It’s not always easy to maintain that faith or to clearly hear what He is saying.  The world we live in is constantly clamoring and trying to attract us to fill our lives with what it has to offer.  And don’t let anyone kid you–what it offers is very attractive.

When Elijah was at his wit’s end, he cried out to God thinking that he was the last man left on earth to serve Him.  “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12)  There, in the quietness, God told Elijah what to do and reminded him that he was not alone.  The wind, the earthquake, the fire–in the world these are the type of things that attract our attention.  But in God’s plan, it is in the moment of quiet trust that He makes known His plans for us.

These words were found on a prison cell in Europe:  I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.  I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.  And I believe in God even when He is silent.  Can we do any less?

When All Is Said and Done…

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

After all is said and done, more is said than done. (Aesop c 550 bc)

I recently heard the Aesop line used by the University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach,  Auriemma as he was being interviewed after one of the Huskies games in this relatively new season.  He’s a man who knows what he is talking about. In his 28th season as head coach, his teams have won 847 games while losing only 133.  Over the years, his teams have won 8 national championships and are favored to win a 9th this year.  He took over a team that had never had a winning season and, after finishing 12-15 his first year, has never had a losing season since.

As a former girls’ basketball coach myself, I have followed the Huskies since 1992, the first year that a local Massachusetts girl played at UConn.  I found that to be successful, a team has to have faith in its coach and his teaching and training philosophy.  But even more, each team member has to act  on that faith.  And, not just in game situations, but in practice and in life outside of basketball.

As Christians, we have a tendency to become complacent with our relationship with God when nothing is going wrong.  We’re quick to remember to look to God when areas of our lives are spinning out of control and we don’t have any answers.  But not so much in the everyday things when things are going okay.

I like the examples in James’ epistle.  If we know about someone’s need and just talk about it (or even pray about it), but do nothing, our faith is useless.  God wants our faith to be strong enough to do something about the needs that we see.  Belief by itself isn’t true belief.  Even demons believe there is one God and they shudder because of it.  True belief requires a response.  Think of Abraham’s action in being willing to sacrifice his long-awaited son.  This action was credited to him as righteousness.  Rahab was a prostitute, yet was considered righteous when she gave lodging and help to the spies of God’s chosen people.

So, to finish up with the sports theme, when you see a need, definitely pray, talk about it if you must, but then just do it.  By exercising your faith, a need will be met and you will become stronger yourself.