“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves,” said James, the brother of Jesus. “Do what it says” (James 1:22).
My son Pete works as a junior high youth pastor, and he has a knack for explaining spiritual truth to kids in ways they easily relate to. He had a particularly good insight about Christians who spend a lot of time building their spiritual muscles. Here is an excerpt from one of his messages, titled “Spiritual Body-builders”:
“When I think about body-builders, I think of massive muscles and glistening tans. These guys dedicate their entire lives to getting huge. I heard an interview with a body-builder who admitted to eating eighteen meals a day. That is incredible! This man is dedicating everything he has—his health, his money, his energy, and his time—to becoming the ‘strongest looking’ man in the world.
“So why do these body-builders do it, you might ask? This is a question I struggle to answer. They don’t play a sport; they don’t use their muscles to pull trucks and lift cars, as they do in the World’s Strongest Man competition. They are not prison guards, firemen, or rescue workers; no, these men use their muscles to don a Speedo and strut around a stage, flexing their muscles to a choreographed routine of blaring hip-hop music. It’s all for show. What a waste of their incredible strength, and what a waste of their time and effort.”
Pete goes on to tell his kids that this is exactly what Christians do when they build all of their spiritual muscles just for show but never use them to do anything significant. What a waste, indeed. But these Christians sure do look good and feel quite pleased with their impressive spiritual physiques.
As a follower of Christ you can fall into the trap of believing that a deeper knowledge of Christ will automatically make you a better disciple of Christ. You can read scores of Christian books, attend conferences, and participate in various Bible studies to deepen and broaden your understanding.
But head knowledge of theology no more makes you an effective disciple than knowing the rules of tennis turns you into Roger Federer or Serena Williams. It’s only when you take that head knowledge out onto the playing field and invest thousands of hours putting into practice what you have learned that you actually become more like the one you seek to imitate.
Does spiritual maturity lead to service, or does service contribute to spiritual maturity? How has this played out in your life?
Father, please give me opportunities to put this knowledge into practice—and please help me to recognize them!