So this blog has been on my mind to do for several weeks but as other ideas gained more traction, I kept it on the back burner until today. Delayed by not denied as my Pastor would say.
Do you remember that game we played as children: Stuck-in-the-Mud? A couple of kids are ‘on it’ and chase around trying to catch the ones who aren’t. When touched, you are ‘stuck in the mud’ and cannot move. You then have to stand with your arms and legs out waiting to be ‘released’ by a fellow team mate who goes under your arms or legs to free you. The game ends when everyone is stuck or too tired to play any more!
I was thinking that sometimes on our Christian journey, we can get stuck in the mud too. I’ve certainly been there and I’m sure, at times, you have too. Most of the time, we’re not even aware we’re stuck until something (or someone) jolts us out of our complacency.
Maybe it feels like we’ve arrived at our destination and we don’t need to go any further. Maybe we’ve become comfortable where we are and see no reason to move forward. Maybe spiritual growth is too challenging: “We’re quite happy where we are thank you very much!” Or do we only go to church because we like the praise and the coffee afterwards: “Church is more of a social a thing.” For me, I sometimes pause for a break and forget to get moving again! Why do we even need to keep moving forward on our spiritual journey anyway? Don’t we ever get to wear our tartan zip-up slippers and sip cocoa by the fire?
Remember the sick guy who’d been by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years waiting to be healed by the waters (John 5: 1-9). He could never get to the water before someone else got there first so he waited, day in and day out for the waters to be stirred never quite getting to the edge in time. Thirty-eight years. He waited, doing nothing, for THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS! Then, one day, Jesus came along and said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” and he did.
That’s God’s message to you today if you’re resting on your laurels, “Get up!”. As Paul said, ‘Forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.’ (Philippians 3: 13). I’ve always liked the verb used in that verse: to strain (Greek: epekteinomai meaning to stretch out towards). It speaks of effort despite things pulling you back; it speaks of determination, of action. It certainly doesn’t speak of sitting comfortably on the sofa watching TV and eating giant bags of Cheesy Puffs (or is that just me?).
The writer of Hebrews also speaks of moving forward when he tells us to: ‘lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.’ (Hebrews 12:1). Not just run, but run with endurance! Keep on keeping on. Do not give up. The verbs used in these passages are active, our faith should be active too. ‘Be doers of the word, not hearers only’ (James 1: 22).
When we begin our journey of faith, we are like babies, drinking milk, but as we mature spiritually, we are weaned onto solid food as we become acquainted with God’s teachings (Hebrews 5: 13-14). By this time some of you ought to be teachers... but you still need milk not solid food!’ (Hebrews 5: 12).
There is a maturing that needs to occur in our faith as the years pass. We should grow in spiritual wisdom and strength as we study scripture, pray, spend time with God, fellowship with other believers and are led by the Holy Spirit. Notice the word ‘led’; again there’s a moving forward.
I want you to examine your faith-walk for a moment (and I am doing it too). I want you to think, ‘Have I grown spiritually, in wisdom and strength in the last year?’ ‘Have I heard God’s voice, His challenge, His direction for my life?’ ‘Have I spent quality time in prayer?’ ‘Have I even opened my Bible recently?’
If you suddenly realise, you’re stuck in the mud, then I metaphorically release you. Seek a Christian friend and speak with them about where you can go from here and how you can kickstart your journey once again. If you are not part of a Christian gathering, join one. ‘Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.’ (Hebrews 10:5).
If you are in a place of healing, seeking or rest then stay a while. There is time on our journey to be restored, to wait for direction, to pause for thought, but always with the aim to continue on your path refreshed and revitalised with a renewed sense of vigour for the journey ahead. Even so, if you’ve forgotten when you last moved forward, chances are the mud is seeping up over your shoes. Make sure you don’t get stuck in it!