“Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
In preparation for the new program year, I set out to purchase a rug to use in one of our rooms. I found the perfect rug online and placed the order, assured that the rug would be shipped within a few days. The days came and went, and the rug was never shipped. I called the company that sold me the rug and they couldn’t figure out why the rug hadn’t shipped. They also couldn’t tell me when the rug would ship. Frustrated, I cancelled the order, and with a very limited amount of time available, set out to find another perfect rug. Every attempt I made failed – I could not find the right rug at the right price that would be available by the time I needed it.
Reflecting on the situation of the rug made me realize that I have been very conditioned to receive a high level of almost instant gratification. As a frequent Amazon customer, I am used to placing an order online, and finding it on my doorstep in two days or less. (Ironically, even Amazon couldn’t deliver a rug to me in the time I needed it.) As convenient as shopping has become, it comes at a cost.
Receiving this type of instant gratification in some areas of our lives can lead us to expect it in other areas as well. In addition to shopping online and receiving my purchase within a couple of days, I can also find virtually any information I need, anywhere, anytime with the help of the Internet. The world is at my fingertips, at my convenience. While this is a great and powerful reality, it can lead us to expect the same level of instant gratification in areas of our lives that we should take more time and care to tend.
One of these areas is our spiritual formation. We cannot nor should not expect to “become Christian” instantly. It takes time and continual care to develop our faith. Discipleship is work – lifelong work. We may think that coming to church regularly for worship will do it for us, but that simply isn’t true. Truly, regular (weekly) worship with other Christians is a vital part of our walk with Jesus. But Jesus expects more of us than an hour a week. In Matthew 16, Jesus says to his disciples, “If any of you want to become my followers, you must forget about yourself and your own interests and take up your cross and follow me.” Get it? Jesus wants it all. These are strong words, and challenging to be sure, but shouldn’t our Creator and Sustainer be fully justified in asking this of us?
Conforming to the Jesus Way requires much of us, and we cannot do it on our own. Part of conforming to the Jesus Way – and part of equipping us to continue living in the Jesus Way – is to take part in things that will deliberately form and challenge our faith. At SIPC, there are many ways that you can participate in faith formation, and continue to transform your mind, heart, and soul so that you may discern the will of God. As we prepare to begin another season of Kirk Night, and as our Sunday morning faith formation opportunities continue to meet, I encourage you to say no to something that might be preventing you from being involved in some faith formation activity – whether that’s sleeping in, working late, or just having too much on your schedule – and say yes to being involved in something that will contribute to the further development of your faith. Join a class or a Bible study, even if it isn’t at SIPC. Better yet, volunteer to lead a class, Bible study, or small group. You’ll be surprised at what you will learn!
The important thing to remember is that our faith formation doesn’t happen instantly. It takes time, work, and patience. It takes commitment. Sometimes it takes saying no to something else that is important to us (in other words denying ourselves), in order to show Jesus that he is indeed a priority in our lives. This is how we become and continue to be followers of Jesus. This is how we come to discern the will of God in our lives. It isn’t something that happens in an instant. But the reward is better than any rug. Indeed, we will be rewarded by deepening the most gratifying relationship with our Creator and Savior.