Hot- and Cold-Running Christians

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

The sign read: House for Rent. Hot and Cold Running Water.

Though laughable now, there was a time when having indoor plumbing was a luxury only the wealthy knew anything about. Water was drawn from a well or creek and carried indoors. Getting hot water meant cutting wood and placing cold water in pots in the fireplace or on a wood burning stove.

On a recent mid-August trip through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, my wife and I noticed the tree leaves in the highest elevations turning. Odd I thought, this early, but then again that’s what tree leaves do. As the summer season draws to a close and the daylight hours get shorter, the leaves lose their luminescence and reveal their natural color. The yellows were shining through beautifully.

Christians shouldn’t run hot and cold or change annually like tree leaves. Paul encouraged the early believers to be steadfast in their love for the Lord as well as in their work for Him. Only by steadfastness would they be able to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

We hear a lot about pastors burning out and leaving the pulpit, but I’ve known quite a few regular Christians who burned out too. Burnout can come from trying too hard to alleviate feelings of guilt over past sins, from wrong motives for serving, or from trying to boost one’s self-esteem.

Another entire set tends to drop out rather than burn out. Among 18 to 22-year-olds, around 70% drop out of church after graduating high school. Reasons they give for doing so include life changes, needing a break, moving away to college, work interference, judgmental or unfriendly pastors or church members, a change in their views, or an acknowledgement that previously they were only trying to please someone by attending.

God’s work requires steadfast determination. The abundant life Jesus offers requires the same. Otherwise, we’ll change like the leaves or run hot and cold like water. The power to remain steadfast doesn’t lie in us, but in God’s Spirit indwelling us. He provides the want to that keeps us keeping on—and for the right reasons.

Don’t run hot and cold or turn like the leaves. Serve God with consistency and diligence.

Sidetracked

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.

Isaiah 30:21 NLT

Getting shoppers sidetracked is a retailer’s dream come true.

After a long day of sweating in the hot, humid temperatures of a South Carolina August, my wife and I showered and readied ourselves for church. Moving isn’t fun, but we had no choice.

Following church, we stopped by the local Wal-Mart for a few necessities: curtain rods and a gallon of milk. Tired from a day of moving, I said, “Now, we’re just going to get those two things and leave, right.”

“That’s all,” my wife remarked.

As we entered the store, we began walking in the wrong direction: the garden center. “You mom said they had chair cushions on sale.”

And so our visit went. Though we only came out with four instead of two items, I had to continually keep my wife pointed in the direction of what we came to get. My recliner was calling my name, but the retailer’s reputation for putting things in my wife’s path that attracted her kept getting her sidetracked.

God did His best to keep the nation of Israel on track. He sent prophets, priests, and judges who kept His ways before them, but they kept getting sidetracked. The pagan nations around them put more attractive things in their path.

I’m not much different than God’s people of old. In fact, I’ve been known to get sidetracked in Wal-Mart myself—just not over the same things my wife does. That’s how the enemy of my soul works. Through experience, he learns what attracts each individual. He won’t try to sidetrack me with clothes or shoes because he knows they don’t interest me. But he will throw up a few tech gadgets, a fancy calendar, or a recently released DVD movie.

I had to continue telling my wife not to get sidetracked. “Keep your eyes focused on what we came for,” I reminded her.

I have to do the same for myself. If I don’t, Satan will lead me in sinful or unhealthy directions. And like a puppy on a leash, I’ll follow if I’m not clothed in my spiritual armor. By the power of God’s Spirit, I can say no, get what I came to get, and go home.

Don’t get sidetracked by Satan’s attempt to convince you that you need things you don’t.