Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Attitude


Every now and then, I hear a sermon that changes my life on the spot. This past weekend, I went to hear Fred Craddock, professor emeritus of homiletics at the seminary where I earned my degree. In the course of his well-crafted, yet inspired sermon, he shared a prayer he says daily:

“Lord, thank you for work
that is more important
than how I feel about it
on any given day.”

In an instant I experienced prototypical repentance. Repentance is derived from the Greek root metanoia, which means to turn around. It does not simply mean “I am sorry for these my misdoings.” It connotes a dramatic change in disposition.

Fifteen years have passed since I discerned my call, preached my initial sermon, and entered the candidacy for ordained ministry. However, I only serve when I feel like it and on my own terms.

Never for a moment have I been able to deny the call, but God’s people sometimes leave me a bit indifferent about their eternal destiny.  “Let them go to hell for all I care.” Imagine if Jesus prayed that in the garden of Gethsemane. Instead he said Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

While he prayed in anguish, his boys who were supposed to be watching his back had fallen asleep. He returned to the garden to pray again after undressing them verbally. Yet, they fell asleep again. Y’all better be glad I was not the Messiah. Good Friday would have been so called off.

Then comes to mind the prophets of old whose cruel fate it was to deliver news that more often than not (spoiler alert) got them killed. Modern prophecy has become incredibly dilute and uninspired. True prophecy would be the antithesis of a Dale Carnegie course. Its primer would be “How to Lose Friends and Offend People.” Such messages would never pack arenas consistenly or facilitate the development of a megachurch.

I cannot count the number of times that God led me to say things that resulted in people never speaking to me again or becoming my mortal enemy on a dime. Jesus warned his disciples:  
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19).

So if you leave service every Sunday feeling like you just left a pep rally or multi-level marketing meeting, you are not being fed. The gospel and committed service unto it are hard pills to swallow. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come (John 16:13). The world—and ironically the church—will not love you more for it.

Nonetheless, I have been repeating new prayers these days:

“Lord, thank you for work
that is more important
than how I feel about it
on any given day.”

Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Please pray with me and let’s see where the Lord leads. There is so much more at stake in our obedience than we can ever imagine.