“Okay, let’s make sure we leave enough time to get back before dark.” “Settle down. Don’t get carried away.” “That’s not appropriate.” Just a few of the tag lines that earned me the name of “fun warden.” Don’t get me wrong, I was always looking for a good time – chasing the baboons through the bush in the four wheel drive Land Cruiser, trusting that because the cows that were on this side of the river on the last trip but were on the other side of the river this trip meant that the water was shallow enough to make the crossing with the vehicle. But through it all I wanted to make sure that as much as reasonably possible my family and friends were able to complete the activity they were engaging in successfully.
And then there’s Christmas… it seems that the day after Christmas the music died. No more Jolly old elf or angels singing on high. By the 27th it was reported by my family that Christmas was gone from the stores. Some of our neighbors had removed their Christmas decorations and by the 29th I began to see Christmas trees along the road in town… And Christmas has only begun.
It seems the preparation for holidays and other matters become so intense that we hardly have the energy to finish them well. And I find myself wondering if this isn’t some deep seated psychological defense mechanism that keeps us thinking that it’s only the thought that counts. We get excited about New Year’s make New Year’s resolutions that die within a day or a week or at best a month. We consume our energy with anticipation and planning and preparation so much so that the actual carrying out of so many things becomes almost cumbersome. Yep it’s that attitude that brought me the label “fun warden.”
But Jesus tells us to count the cost. In his parable about the cost of discipleship he says – “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?
The challenge of our faith is both the effort we make and that we finish well. Jesus has promised to do His part. Paul tells us of his confidence in the matter as he addresses himself to the Philippian congregation – “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
And yet so too in the very next chapter Paul encourages the Philippians to do their part – “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,”
All this requires us to manage our time and efforts well. Just as it is not enough to put a Christmas dinner together on paper – there is shopping, table setting and cooking to be done – so too it is not enough to simply resolve to be a better Christian…
In His parable on the Cost of Discipleship, Jesus warns us that there is work to be done, costly work. “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Note the terminology. Jesus who knew full well of the beating that was ahead of him and the difficulty he would face in trying to carry His cross – that that burden would be shared – encourages us likewise to exert every ounce of energy we have in being his disciple. So what great sacrifices are you making to become more like Him. What is your plan for spiritual growth? What to you need to “shop for” to make the journey successful? What have you determined the cost will be personally, economically, socially. What are you going to have to stop doing so that you can start doing the things that matter. When the judgment day comes how will you defend your use of the time talents and treasure the Lord has blessed you with? Inasmuch as the New Year is a time for resolutions, why not make one that will make a difference in your spiritual health? Why not reallocate your finances, your calendar and your abilities toward things that make an eternal difference. Why not start by asking yourself how can you become a better, more efficient, more effective member of Christ’s Kingdom, a better participant in the St. Andrew’s congregation? This part of His church NEEDS you!