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Get off the Treadmill

I love running. Specifically, I love running outside. I love the fresh air, constantly changing scenery, and actually moving forward to get somewhere. Alone is ok but with a friend, we can find a pace that is mutually beneficial, talk to each other, and accomplish something together. The weather isn’t always perfect, but I love being OUTSIDE. But occasionally, due to weather, I have to run on a treadmill inside a gym.

I hate treadmills.

Don’t get me wrong, the availability of a treadmill is great. The climate is controlled for you and you never have to leave the room. It’s predictable. But that’s also the problem. For me, what makes running a joy is that it’s outdoors…and I was born for the outdoors. Treadmill scenery never changes. People come and go out of the gym but you’re stuck in the same place you started. Others may run alongside you but they’re not getting anywhere either. Headphones on to distract from the boredom and to avoid any awkward conversation, they just get busy. Treadmills have become the subways of the fitness world, crowded and lonely at the same time. Churches can be like that, too.

I’ve been on a spiritual treadmill at times, too. Running hard to keep up with what I thought were Kingdom priorities but getting nowhere, mistaking busyness for progress. I’d fallen into the common trap of thinking that doing for God was the same as being with God. But they are not. On the spiritual treadmill you work hard but see little fruit from your labor. You try to live a life of excellence without realizing you are already made in the image of God and it’s the work of Christ in you that makes you excellent.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to good works… Ephesians 2:10

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill Hs good purpose. Philippians 2:13

The worst thing about a treadmill is that we never leave the room. On the spiritual treadmill the church building becomes our gym as all of our time and effort is used to entertain Christians. We build stationary church buildings and expect the lost to come to us when Jesus said to go out into all the world and make disciples.

Our efforts on the spiritual treadmill say ‘come and see what we’ve built’ when Jesus said ‘go and make disciples.’

Responding to the call of Jesus to go out is risky. It’s easier to put on the headphones of our religious rhetoric and get right back on the treadmill. But after a while even the fittest get tired, turn off the machine, and walk out of the gym. There’s always someone else waiting for your treadmill.

The outdoors are for me. I’ve come to realize that Jesus is more concerned about me walking with Him than how far I’ve run, or whether I outran the person next to me. He’s not interested in what I’ve built. He’s interested in me. He’s interested in who I’ve brought to Him. Jesus is bringing His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy to a world that desperately needs it and He is bringing me along. There is freedom and beauty in an outdoor run and in there is freedom and beauty in that kind of relationship with Jesus.

As a disciple of Jesus, I can no longer afford a spiritual treadmill because if what God pours into the Church stays in the Church, then it will die in the Church. To make disciples and advance the Kingdom of Heaven my greatest efforts need to be outside the walls of my church building where the real gains are to be made.

Do yourself a favor…Get off the treadmill. You’ll be glad you did.

When God is Silent

God speaks to us. Sometimes clearly, sometimes subtly but He has a voice and, no, it doesn’t sound like Morgan Freeman. That would be cool though, right? There have been moments in my life when I have heard God so clearly that it drowned out every other voice and even the often most powerful voice — my own. My voice in my head is often the most powerful because what I tell myself can have the biggest impact on the fruit my life produces. We’ll talk about that more in another blog.

God can speak to you in several different ways. A voice from a burning bush, the mouth of a donkey, a voice from the clouds, God is one creative communicator! Regardless of the method, as a follower of Jesus, when you know you’ve heard from God and He has given you a commission you really only have two choices — obedience or disobedience. For perspective on the latter option read the book of Jonah. Jonah eventually got it right but, as I frequently remind my young sons, delayed obedience is disobedience.

God is infinitely patient with us but there are moments when God wants us to move without hesitation. Luke 9:59-62 tells of a time when Jesus commissioned two people to follow Him. Though the call was clear, they both told Jesus they first had other important matters that needed their attention. Jesus essentially told them to stop looking back and move forward with what He was telling them to do now. Leave behind whatever you have and do exactly what He has told you to do. As He said, the dead (the things you leave behind) will bury their own, Luke 9:60.

The lesson is this: when you clearly hear the voice of God the time to act is NOW.

But what if God is silent in other areas? What if, although God has told you what He wants you to do, He has been silent on how to do it? What if you really need to hear from God on a particular issue but it seems as though He’s not answering your texts, never returns email, hasn’t commented on your Facebook post, the gates of heaven have closed, and your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? Trust me, we’ve all been there. Left to our own devices we can think either God isn’t listening or we’ve done something wrong.

There are several instances from Scripture why our prayers can be hindered. A husband who who does not respect or honor his wife will struggle to hear God (1 Peter 3:7). Spiritual opposition (Daniel 10:12-14) can cause a delay in receiving your answer. These are just a few. But sometimes God chooses not to speak to us. Only He really knows why but I often suspect it is the same reason I don’t always answer every question my kids ask me. I want them to figure it out for themselves. I want them to realize they had the answer all along, they just needed to use the resources and wisdom I had already given them. In the next few posts, I want to show you a few of the valuable resources God has given us to help us obey Him and proclaim the Kingdom of God to our generation.

I want to show you what to do when God is silent.

Coming up: When God is Silent: Light it Up!