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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Training

Spring tends to be a season of preparation. If you practice Lent, you make intentional decisions to lay certain things down to make more room for God. You determine to pick up certain things in order to have a greater focus on Christ and His sacrifice. In doing this, you and I are communicating to our heart and our brain that the Presence of Christ in us matters and is worthy of our attention.

If I am honest, I am a long ways away from living in this constant awareness of His Presence. There is an ideal I have of what this unbroken communion with Jesus would be like, and most days I am nowhere close! I can either beat myself up about this lack of faith and focus, or I can determine to prepare myself to live in this way. I begin to practice. I train.

You may find yourself in a season of preparation as well. Preparing to get married, preparing to have kids, preparing for college, preparing for a new job- all of these require a certain way of life. As a church, we are also in a season of preparation in many ways- preparing for Easter, preparing to hire staff, preparing to plant a church. In seasons like this, what parameters should guide our behaviors? I would offer these four principles:

1. Do the hard work now so you can enjoy less work later.
I think of this every spring with my garden when I am busy tearing out unwanted growth, trimming back bushes, and tiling up cold, hard soil. The more work I am willing to engage in now, the better the summer will be. If I make the effort to ready the soil of my garden, I can spend far less time pulling weeds in the summer. I have to remind myself of this, or else the work just feels like drudgery.

Life works this way. There are seasons in which we must invest heavily in something so that it has the freedom to grow and flourish. You may be putting an extra focus on your walk with Christ in these weeks- this will lead to a stronger friendship with Him. You may be pouring countless hours into young children- this will lead (hopefully!) to better adjusted adults who can contribute in the world. You may be struggling mightily to change a behavior or addiction- this will lead to a better, freer way of life. Be willing to engage in the hard work now because life will flourish when you do.

2. Endure unpleasant things because better days are coming.
When I head out to run on a cold, miserable February or March day, I rarely appreciate the weather. I don’t like running in the rain, and I really don’t like running in the wind. If, however, I let these elements stop me, I have just eliminated 6 months from the running calendar! Enduring some unpleasant runs in the early spring gives me the ability to enjoy running on beautiful summer evenings and in crisp autumn races.

Your season of preparation may be causing you to face or experience many unpleasant things. These adverse conditions may leave you wanting to quit. Don’t do it! Making these sacrifices now will pay off. The author of Hebrews said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) You are training yourself to be able to receive a good harvest!

3. Remember that unseen, little things usually become visible big things.
Every spring, the Major League Baseball season begins almost unnoticed by most of us in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Mariners open practice usually around the third week of February down in Arizona. Day upon day, they will take to the field in the early morning hours and scoop ground balls, shag pop-flies, and take swings in the batting cage. Few fans attend these workouts. Why? Because they are BORING. But come April, 50,000 people will fill SafeCo field for opening day. On that day, a thousand little things done by the players will be on display in a big way.

So is the case for all of us. We may be engaging in practices that seem small in the scope of life, and go unnoticed by almost everyone else. We get up early to pray. We read the Bible with our children. We skip that extra snack or desert. We practice kindness when we could have been rude. Choice after choice, we are creating a life that will one day be on display for all to see. Don’t let the hidden nature of these acts convince you they are unimportant. They mean everything in the end!

4. This is a season; and season’s change.
A final principle to keep before you is that season’s change. You can’t plant seeds all year-round. (Ok, I’m sure there are some that you can, but you know what I mean.) You have a window of time to plant your garden or your flowers and then the growing season ends.

Whatever changes you are making right now will not be your focus forever. They shouldn’t be. The kids will grow, the relationship will change, the habit will become a routine- life has a way of changing. So focus on this as a season. Bring intensity and discipline to this season because you know it won’t last forever. Stagnation- or not changing- is what creates despair and causes us to quit. Viewing your current commitment as a season may give you the grace and strength you need to see it through. And God will be with you.

So, may all our seasons of preparation become the fertile ground leading to new, and greater, life in Christ.Journey on!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10


Linda g. said...

Very good advice, Nick. I found that what I gave up last year (one hour of tv..a certain program I watched most mornings) I haven't even missed & don't even remember which program it was! I'm still spending that hour as part of my devotional time.
I'm now looking forward to what God will accomplish with what I'm giving up this year.

Marcia said...

Really great! Really! (Sorry I can't think of any better adjectives right now. I'm in the unpleasant season of not-getting-enough sleep.)