True story: Some guy bought a motorhome for traveling across the USA. At some point during his trip, the fellow put the vehicle in cruise control – and then proceeded to walk toward the back to visit the bathroom. While it was still moving! Predictably, a wreck soon ensued, although he somehow survived his own stupidity.
While some of us are waiting with bated breath for driverless cars to become the standard (or maybe, with bad breath?), for now cruise control means we can take our foot off the gas pedal, but still must steer and use the brake whenever necessary.
I mention this because I’ve observed people that seem to have hit the “cruise control” button for their spiritual life.
We read Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Then, for confirmation, we read a passage like Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy….” It’s easy to conclude, “It’s all done. God’s taken care of everything, so it’s smooth sailing from here on.”
Yes, believers in Christ are saved by faith, recipients of His love, mercy and grace. None of which is earned or deserved. But that’s no rationale for taking our shoes off, leaning back in our spiritual recliners, and spending out the rest of our lives clicking a spiritual remote control. If we look seriously at the Scriptures, we find the so-called “Christian life” anything but a leisurely pursuit.
We get a clear sense of this when we read the apostle Paul’s admonitions to his protégé, Timothy. For instance, Paul writes to young Tim, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if any one competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops” (2 Timothy 3:3-6).
Think about these examples Paul cites. When was the last time you saw a soldier casually swaying back and forth in a hammock? Any athlete serious about his or her sport devotes countless hours to training, expending sweat – and sometimes, blood – to ensure victory when it’s time for competition. And farmers don’t just dream about growing lots of corn, soy beans, watermelons or whatever crop they have in mind. Much of the year is spent preparing the ground, sowing seed, and nurturing the crop, all for one day reaping a bountiful harvest.
We can’t excel, as a soldier, athlete, farmer – or teacher, business owner, scientist, law enforcement officer, or salesperson – without hard work and determination. In a similar way, God doesn’t intend for His children to don T-shirts declaring, “Once saved, always saved,” and then cruise through the remainder of their lives.
If you’re not certain about that, consider what else Paul wrote to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Paul specifically calls Timothy “a workman.” It’s as if he’s saying, “There’s no place for slackers in the kingdom of God.” For this reason the apostle wrote, to a different audience, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
It’s clear Jesus’ followers don’t work for their salvation. The recent observance of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation affirmed that. But a desire to work and to serve, being committed to participating in the advancement of God’s purposes on earth, is a natural – and necessary – byproduct of His transformational work in our lives.
This is why another apostle, James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? ...faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
It’s a worthwhile question to ask ourselves: Have I put my spiritual life on cruise control? If I have, it’s probably time to put my foot back on the gas.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.