Friday, September 17, 2004

Two Brothers and a Grocery Store: A Seemingly Implausible, But Very Common, Story About Finding Time for God

Two brothers inherited a grocery, but it wasn't just any store. It had an unmatched selection of produce, the very best meats and seafood, a world-class bakery, and the freshest dairy products this side of the farm. Not surprisingly, people came from all over to shop there.

One of the brothers, we'll call him the first brother, was always on the go. He had a family, a large circle of friends, was very involved in the community, and was an avid golfer, all on top of his responsibilities at the store. He was always pressed for time and one way he coped was to spend very little time eating; he ate just enough to keep body and soul together.

That worked for a while, but over time his health faded; he found it harder and harder to meet his many obligations. He became an increasingly stressed, and therefore bitter, man. In spite of his efforts to get more out of life by not eating, he actually received far less.

The other brother led a different kind of life. Although he had the same responsibilities and hobbies, and hence very little free time, he always found time for food. He would personally study new recipes, select the best ingredients from the store's wide inventory, and cook them himself. It wasn't easy to fit that into his stretched schedule, and he wasn't able to give as much of himself to his leisure activities as he would have liked, but it was worth it. It was pleasurable in its own right and, more importantly, it gave him the strength to meet the demands of his busy life. He lived a rich and happy life, even after his brother's decline and the increased burdens that placed on him.

It's not hard to recognize which brother was wiser; who would starve himself if he had access to such wonderful food? It seems preposterous, who would do that to themselves?

We do. All the time.

Far too many American Christians fall into the same trap. No, we don't starve ourselves physically (far from it), but we are spiritual anorexics. We get "just enough Jesus" for salvation but very little more. After all, we rationalize, "who has time for regular prayer and Bible study? There just aren't enough hours in the day."

Is it any wonder that life's demands continue to wear us down when we won't do what gives us spiritual strength? The result is just a predictable, and avoidable, as that which befell the first brother.

The "starving saved" aren't the only ones hurt. Just as the first brother's family had to put up with his bitterness, and his brother had to carry the load he couldn't bear in his depleted state, both our natural families and brothers and sisters in Christ are burdened by our spiritual anemia. We are less loving to each other, and no one can deny that the body of Christ is weakened by the fact that many of its members are biblically malnourished.

It doesn't have to be that way. We have ready access to an unprecedented supply of spiritual food. We have more Bibles, study aids, and other Bible based resources than any one at any time in history. They can connect us to the ultimate source spiritual strength—Jesus, the Christ. Just as the two bothers had ready access to all they needed for physical vitality, we have been given all we need for spiritual strength.

But we must "take and eat." And we have to do more than just graze—we must really dig into what's offered us. Sure it takes time, and sure something else will have to give, but anyone who has done it can attest that it's well worth the price. The resulting strength will make us better able to meet the demands that will come, whether we are starving or full, weak or strong.

So the choice is ours. We can starve ourselves or we can be fully nourished. Is it really any choice at all?

(Images about God providing things we need, but can’t provide for ourselves, were posted September 12a, 17a, and 18c, October 3a, 3b November 6, 10, 21 and 27, 2004 and January 2, 10b, and 10c, June 13 and 27, 2005.
Images about the importance of exercising the spiritual disciplines were posted September 17a, 18a, and 18d, and October 3a, and 8, 2004 and January 10d and August 27, 2005.)

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