We live in a microwave society. We want instant satisfaction in every area of life. We are a culture catered to by fast-food restaurants, one hour dry-cleaners, and 15 minute meals. If we have a need, we want that need met and we want it met now. We hate to wait in lines, in traffic or in lobbies. When we need to lose weight or make financial gains, we need it this moment. We are a culture that indulges in impulse buying, on-demand viewing and immediate gratification. Unfortunately fast-food meals, get-rich-quick schemes, express diets and one-hour processes are, at best, suffer in quality and, at worst, can prove disastrous.
But what happens when that culture invades the church? A crisis strikes and people look for a quick spiritual fix for their immediate need. Is there a verse of scripture that can give grant us peace now or a prayer that will provide immediate positive resolution? We have all experienced people looking for simple answers, easy solutions, shortcuts to make spiritual sense of it all. If those rapid rewards are not immediately forthcoming, we tend to question the things and the promises of God. The problem is not our concept of God but our concept of time. The greater gifts of God take time to develop.
That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:10 (NIV)
Are we doing the things – laboring and striving – that will develop a hope, a faith and a life that can weather the storms of life? Surrounding the above verse, Paul gives believers a three step plan for these sustaining qualities of those equipped for the long haul. First, we need to know God’s word. Next, we need to show God’s word. Finally, we need to grow in God’s word.
We need to know God’s word. The Bible reminds us that people will look for easy answers – godless myths and old wives’ tales – and neglect the truth of God that is proclaimed through all that is around us. We can better weather the storms of life and better embrace the sunny days if we truly know what the savior, protector, redeemer and keeper of all creation has said to us.
Next we need to show God’s word in the way we live. Paul likens spiritual training to physical training. No one enters the gym and expects to be the picture of fitness simply by walking amongst the machines and never exerting any energy. Neither can we expect to be the picture of godliness if we simply hang out with the people of God but never break a spiritual sweat. We can better face the dark clouds and their silver linings if we embrace discipline and increase in character.
Finally we need to grow in God’s word. We cannot remain where we are; we need to move forward. We must share the truth – reading it out loud, proclaiming it boldly and teaching it to all who will listen. We must use all the resources – our gifts, passions, abilities, preferences and experiences – to encourage those around us. Because we all have tough days and tough questions requiring tough solutions, we all need each other to keep us on the proper path.
That is why we will not accept easy solutions to the complex realities of life. We will hope in the living God who will deliver us over the long haul.