So many times while the pastor is reading a scripture reference during his sermon, my mind will latch on to a word or phrase. This phrase jumps of the page, and my brain gears start spinning. Sometimes it’s because the phrase instigates deeper questions in my heart. Other times, it’s because it fits my current situation perfectly. Yesterday, the latter reason was the cause for my brain’s kick into gear.
Part of yesterday’s sermon came from 1 Corinthians 9:26, 27 (my version was from The Message).
I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.
The words sloppy living leapt out at me. For the past 3 weeks, this is exactly what I’ve been fighting against. No, I haven’t been watching dirty movies, or cursing, or drinkin’ it up (alcohol – that is). But there are so many other areas in our lives where we tend to live sloppily. Let’s name a few: eating habits, prayer time, television viewing, busyness, exercise/health, bible study, church attendance, free time, etc. Surely, there’s one area in that list that might be sending up a red flag of sloppy living for you.
My problem is life here in the jungle is either run-away train busy or Sunday-afternoon drive slow. Both can lead to sloppy living. On the slow days, it’s easy to sleep in a little later, lolly-gag all day long, watch too many DVDs, stare at Facebook/Twitter/Blogs too long. Suddenly, it’s time for bed and a whole day has been wasted – or in this case, sloppily spent.
On the other hand, the sloppiness is present during locomotive-fast days as well. Work begins with the sun’s rise and ends well past the moon’s shift-change. If I’m not careful, those days are spent without prayer and time refueling in God’s word. This busyness often gives an excuse to eat sloppy. It’s so much easier to grab a bag of chips and a Coke when hunger calls than to make a healthier choice. Exercise? Ha! That’s means I’d miss even more sleep.
The past three weeks have been an exercise in living well. A mantra keeps playing over and over again in my mind: “God always rewards discipline.” Is this a verse found in the Bible? Nope. Can I pull this truth from a Bible story? Possibly, but I didn’t. Somewhere along the way in my many readings of books and blogs, the thought just materialized. Even though it’s my thought, I feel like it was God-given because isn’t it just like God’s character to live up to this mantra.
For me it all boils down to effectiveness. When I live sloppily, my life is ineffective for God. Why? Without the discipline of daily exercise, I’m a worse me. If I choose to eat whatever I want – which usually ends up being salsa and chips, brownies, and sweet tea — my body sludges through it’s day. If I skip the daily prayer time or study of scriptures, my spiritual and mental response to life stinks. And these put together help NO ONE! I cannot be effective for Christ if I continue to in sloppy living.
Has my discipline over the last three weeks been rewarded? Enormously! Have I wanted to take just a split second and live sloppily by making unhealthy choices or being lazy? Yep! Have I slipped up and fallen into the “just this once” trap? Oh sure. BUT….I have gotten up every morning with His “new mercies” and tried once again to live disciplined.
It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about “doing” things to earn the love of God (cause I have that for free). It’s about learning that a disciplined me is capable of being used more by God, of dreaming bigger with God, working harder with less stress, and being happier because of all of it.
Just like the athlete Paul references in 1 Corinthians, I’m seeking to “giving it all I’ve got.” I want to “run hard for the finish line” in everything that He calls me to do. I don’t want my “sloppy living” to cause someone to miss their opportunity to know Christ. Have I achieved this discipline in every area my life? Nope, but I’m taking steps in every area to finish the marathon, not the mile.