Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Spiritual Doesn't Pay the Bills"

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…Well, it really wasn’t far, far away – but it was a long time ago.  When I was serving as a youth minister in my first staff position, my pastor asked me a question.

            “What comes out of a lemon when you squeeze it?”
            “Lemon Juice.”
            “No, what comes out of a lemon when you squeeze it is whatever is inside.”

His point was that all it takes is a little pressure to find out what people really are on the inside.  We can all play the game when times are good and things are going our way, but when life gets tough and a little pressure is applied – we all instinctively run to our safe place.  We turn to whomever or whatever we truly trust.  What’s on the inside comes out.

A few years ago, some church members were having an “after-meeting” meeting in the parking lot to discuss some of the issues facing their church.  Most of the discussion seemed to be focused on cost-cutting measures, since the immediate crisis seemed to be that expenditures exceeded giving.  In the midst of the conversation another member was asked to give his opinion.  He explained that the problems facing the church were not financial in nature, but were spiritual.  He further explained (rather emphatically) how the Bible gives clear answers to the problems that were being faced and how they were addressed spiritually.  To which he was rebuffed, “Spiritual doesn’t pay the bills.”

I don’t think I have heard a more revealing statement – “Spiritual doesn’t pay the bills.”  It reveals a heart that limits God’s province to areas of vague mysticism; a belief that God isn’t able to overcome real world problems.  It reveals the belief that through effort and ability man can accomplish anything he desires apart from God.  It reveals a faith that is nothing more than empty platitudes, devoid of conviction or genuine commitment. 

While few church members would ever dare to utter such a blatantly non-Christian statement, I fear that it is representative of a significant number of people in the church.  We loudly proclaim our belief in God on Sunday, but quietly live our lives as if He does not exist.  When we have to “pay the bills” we don’t submit to God and depend on His providential care, we lean on our own understanding.  We formulate our own schemes, we enact our own plans and we give only casual tribute to God.

That same pastor that asked me the question about lemons also taught me that every problem is a spiritual problem and has a spiritual solution.  He reminded me that we are engaged in a spiritual war that is often manifest in physical situations.  The danger is in failing to see the spiritual dimension and focusing solely on the physical manifestation; like treating the symptom without addressing the disease.

In every situation, we should stop and ask ourselves, “What is really going on here?”  We need to prayerfully look beyond the immediate dilemma and try to see the spiritual struggle.  “What spiritual condition has led us here?”  Paul reminds us that, “…our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Eph 6:12 HCSB)  We cannot be fully engaged in the battle if we are not mindful of where it is being waged.

In His Service,