Let’s take a test. For years, a man makes a habit of going camping on Sunday rather than attend church. One Sunday he sees a mountain lion coming toward him. He says, “God, if you will get me out of this danger I promise that I will start going to church every Sunday.” As soon as he finishes that quick prayer, the mountain lion calmly walks away.
Now here’s the test question: Do you think that man will honor the “deal” that he made with God? The answer is: There’s a pretty good chance that he will go to church that first Sunday, but if nothing else changes he won’t keep up the attendance for long.
You see, it takes more than a quick moment of desperation to create a lasting turnaround in your life. As a pastor, I’ve seen so many people who were going through difficult times make grandiose boasts about what all they were going to do for the Lord if He helped them out of their messes. But how many of those boasts actually came to pass, even after the Lord gave the help? Maybe there were two or three, but right now I can’t even remember there being that many.
One Sunday morning I preached and gave an invitation, and a woman promptly made her way to the altar and knelt for prayer. When I went over and asked her why she had responded to the invitation, she told me something along the lines of she wanted to dedicate herself more completely to Jesus. She was crying hot tears and her face was something of a mess from the running makeup. I knew that she was sincere. I also knew that she was a good Christian woman who had some areas of her life that could have been more submitted to Christ’s lordship. So I prayed with her and asked the Lord to help her be even more devoted to Him. The emotion of the moment was almost palpable.
But did that woman even show up for the evening service that same Sunday? No. As I looked around the sanctuary that night and didn’t see her, I was in virtual disbelief. That was the moment when I truly understood for the first time just how fickle and inconsistent we are when it comes to serving the Lord.
Jesus knows us all too well. On the night of His arrest, He took Peter, James, and John into the garden of Gethsemane with Him and said to them, “Stay here and watch with Me.” Then He walked alone a little further into the heart of the garden and prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Following that prayer, He returned to where He had left Peter, James, and John at their watch post. And what did He find? Rather than keeping diligent watch, they had all drifted off to sleep.
After a fairly strong rebuke, Jesus summed up the problem by saying, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). In my opinion, those words perfectly describe why that Christian woman didn’t come back for church that Sunday night. Her spirit was willing, but her flesh was weak. When she had devoted herself more fully to Jesus in the altar that morning, she had meant it. In that moment, she couldn’t have meant it any more. But, unfortunately, that moment had soon passed and the rest of her life had come crashing back in upon her.
I’m saying all of this to encourage you to work at eliminating the fickleness from your walk with the Lord. Try to avoid the roller-coaster devotion that marks the lives of so many people. I know that your flesh is weak. So is mine. But we can’t keep using that excuse to consistently fail the Lord and not live up to the commitments we have made to Him. And, by the way, we needn’t expect Him to keep sending mountain lions to keep us committed either.