I don’t usually write blog posts on Sunday because church dominates the day, but today is different. We cancelled services at Oak Grove Baptist this morning because of the lingering effects of the season’s first snow. Many of us could have made it to church, but we have a lot of elderly folks who attend Oak Grove, and there is always a concern about ice causing them to slip and fall. For that matter, I myself don’t get around as well as I once did.
The problem with cancelling services is that we pastors are forevermore trying to build momentum in a church. If we have good attendance for Sunday School one Sunday, we want to build on that. If we have good attendance for a worship service, we want to build on that. If we have a good service all the way around, we want to build on that. But then we have to cancel Sunday morning services because of several inches of snow, very cold temperatures, and black ice. That’s a momentum killer. Even if we go ahead and have services on such a day, the attendance will always be limited.
But why is it so hard to not only build momentum in a church but keep that momentum going? It’s because the human race is a fallen race. That means that sin comes easily to us and spiritual endeavors don’t. Even born-again Christians who have God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them still struggle with their inborn sinful nature. The Biblical term for this Adamic nature is “the flesh.” It’s “the flesh” that rebels against praying. It’s “the flesh” that rebels against studying the Bible. It’s “the flesh” that rebels against giving. It’s “the flesh” that rebels against witnessing. And, yes, it’s “the flesh” that rebels against attending church.
Whenever I’m on this subject, my mind goes to that story from Exodus 17:8-16. Moses and the Israelites have recently experienced the miracles of God parting the Red Sea, sending them manna from heaven, and causing water to gush from a rock. They are on their way to Mount Sinai, where they will receive the law and build the Tabernacle. Before they get there, though, the Amalekites hit them with an unprovoked attack.
The attack causes Moses to hastily organize Israel’s first army, with Joshua being tapped to play the role of general. The next day, while Joshua and Israel’s army march out to retaliate against the Amalekites, Moses heads to the top of a hill that overlooks the battle site. From that vantage point, his job is to intercede for Israel with God. This intercession is publicly evidenced by him holding up his rod.
And what happens? As long as Moses is able to hold up that rod, Israel surges ahead in the battle, but when he grows tired and the rod drops, the Amalekites surge ahead. Finally, Moses’ two aides (Aaron and Hur) get him a stone to sit upon and they themselves support his hands so that he can keep holding up the rod until the sun goes down that afternoon and Israel’s victory is ensured.
What’s noteworthy about that story is the fact that the Bible never mentions Joshua and the other soldiers getting tired in the fight. It does, however, speak of Moses getting tired in his interceding. So the lesson is: The more spiritual the endeavor, the harder it is physically.
You’ll find this out anytime you commit yourself to doing something for the Lord. Oh, you might start out with a bang, but then you’ll learn that it takes more and more effort to keep your momentum going. It might even seem as if the entire world is conspiring against you to knock you back into line. That’s when you’ve got to dig in, straighten your back, and redouble your commitment. Basically, you’ve got to overcome the drag effect “the flesh” inflicts upon you to keep you inert.
Perhaps you are right now planning to make some spiritual changes in your life. Or perhaps you’ve already begun those changes. Or maybe you are well past the beginning stages and have already hit a wall with your changes. Regardless of the stage in which you find yourself in the cycle, please hang in there. Yes, the spiritual lesson is true, the more spiritual the endeavor, the harder it is physically. But there is vast difference between hard and impossible, and you can outdo “the flesh” if you show some grit, determination, and stick-to-it-iveness.