Thursday, July 13, 2017
Time to Provoke
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The need for spiritual growth and maturity is placed before the believers. They are a community of faith and they share responsibility for one another. Given permission to provoke, the community is to be one which reflects the love and good deeds of Jesus Christ. This ability to “provoke” will only happen if they continue meeting together on a regular basis.
Some have made excuses that they are too busy and so they have given up the habit of meeting together regularly. The danger is being lulled into complacency without regular provoking from their sisters and brothers in the faith. With regular fellowship one will be provoked, but it will feel like encouragement on the part of fellow believers.
When the world looks in on Christianity do they discover a people who reflect the love and good deeds of Jesus Christ? I’m afraid that these are not the descriptors that are usually used in relation to Christianity — at least not in the part of the world in which I live. Sadly, Christianity has been provoked, or possibly enticed, to seek power through political channels. Maybe we’ve thought that it’s easier to seek the power of the world to try and make things the way we want them to be, than to regularly meet together and to provoke and encourage one another to love and good deeds!
The reality is that we are meeting together more and more infrequently. Even those who say they attend church regularly are now attending 2-3 times a month. Our lifestyles have changed with more opportunities and events clamoring for our attention. Little by little regular church attendance has become a thing of the past, and even those in leadership are gone on a regular basis. It’s all good stuff that takes us away. We want to invest in our children and grandchildren by allowing them to participate in the best sporting events possible. Our financial resources provide us with the opportunity for travel and fellowship with family and friends from far-off places. It’s all such good stuff but upon evaluation, is something missing? None of this has been an intentional plan to neglect our spiritual life. We still have time with the Lord in prayer and devotion — even while being busy (we do, right?). And yet there is something missing when the community is unable to get together and have iron sharpen iron.
It’s time to provoke! If we do not make gathering together with a community of faith a priority, we will all fail to be the complete reflection of Jesus Christ that we are called to be. When I only drop in to church from time to time, my actions and behaviors become hidden. No one will feel comfortable provoking me, because they’re not really sure what I’m up to. And if I don’t have time to go to church regularly, can I be intentional about minister to those on the margins and reflecting love and good deeds? I don’t mean dropping a dollar in the cup of the homeless beggar, but taking time to get to know the homeless beggar and find out the real needs!
I lead a life in which I travel a great deal and being part of a “home” church and community is not easy. However, one of my favorite things at our church is the Wednesday night prayer gathering. If I am in town, I will adjust my schedule to make sure that I get to be at Wednesday night prayer meeting. This has become my group with whom I want to meet. They pray for so many needs and burdens and I know that they lift me up when I am not present. I remain inextricably tied to this group of individuals because we have spent intimate time together in God’s holy presence. They can provoke me to love and participate in good deeds. I cannot neglect meeting with the Wednesday night prayer group.
We must all find a place of accountability; a place where we are willing to be provoked. Our lives will become spiritually fat and unhealthy if we do not allow ourselves to be prodded by those who love us and only want the best for us. Somehow, in our busy schedules we must intentionally create a space for regularly gathering together so that we can be provoked. Without being provoked, we just may begin to die spiritually.
Lord, please help me listen to the voices of those who are seeking your face, and may need to provoke me. Amen.