Two weeks ago I wrote about contagious generosity. This was followed by a post on infectious passion last week. To sustain contagious generosity and infectious passion requires commitment. As followers of Jesus we are challenged to sustain a close daily walk with God our Father, to keep alive in Him, to grow spiritually, to live out our lives in a way that touches the lives of others, to share our faith practically as well as verbally, etc. The fact that none of this is easy is evident in the number of times we fail.
I wonder. I wonder just how concerned God is about the times of failure? Given that He knows us intimately surely He expects there to be more downs than ups in our spiritual journeys? We can’t all be spiritual giants, can we?
There was a chief engineer on a ship I sailed on in the 1970s who used to swear a lot. The wife of the fourth engineer took exception to the chief’s language and introduced a swear box to the officer’s bar. This required a payment of ten pence for every banned word. With lightning reactions she could reach the swear box and wave it under an offender’s nose before a profanity had completely left his mouth. In time the chief engineer managed to bring his language under control. It took some considerable commitment to change, particularly as this was a change he was under no obligation to make. After all, he was the chief engineer, with four gold rings on the sleeves of his uniform jacket. She, as a wife, was a guest on the ship.
Then one day we suffered a serious engine breakdown. All the engineers spent several hours working on the engine as the ship pitched and rolled, wallowing helplessly in the middle of the ocean. When the repairs were completed the engineers headed to their showers and then directly to the bar, where the swear box was gathering dust having not been used for so long. Finally the chief appeared. He looked at the fourth’s wife and said, “I’m sorry, pet.” (‘Pet’ is a Geordie term of endearment.) He then removed a five pound note from his pocket and deposited it into the swear box. And then he let rip! Was the fourth’s wife bothered? Yes, she was. She didn’t like the language, but she understood. What she appreciated was that for several weeks the chief had committed to following the no swearing rule with considerable success.
I believe that God understands when we have such moments. When things fall apart for whatever reason and all of a sudden we revert to behaviour that belongs in our past. When we put £5 in the swear box and let rip. And God forgives us because of His passionate, generous love for us. I have no excuse not to follow Him and demonstrate that love to others.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)