I am not sure who writes the discussion guides we use to review and talk about the Sunday sermon in our community groups each week, but this week’s sure got my attention. Right out of the batter’s box, they stepped up to the plate swinging their pen with this question: “Do you struggle to be consistent in a particular spiritual discipline or habit?” Gulp!
Since I would probably need more space than I’m allowed to answer that question, I will limit my response to where I stink worst: my prayer life. How about you? Actually, before you go there, let’s start here. The word discipline is a derivative of the Latin disciplus, meaning pupil, which (per Merriam-Webster’s website) also provided the source of the word disciple, in later Latin being associated with a follower of Jesus Christ in his lifetime (that’s us). So then, when asked to identify “a particular spiritual discipline” you struggle with, the real question is this: where do you keep missing the mark following Jesus’ example? Gulp! Gulp!
Made abundantly clear in Sunday’s message, despite their best efforts, Israel habitually blew it; like a senseless dog, always returning to his vomit to be made sick again, and again, and again — and we are no different.
For those of us who are members of the older-than-dirt generation, you may recall The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a show that starred the real-life Nelson family and aired on television from 1952 to 1966. Each episode would begin with a pleasant family time at the table. Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky were all happy, and everything was good. But no sooner than they got away from the table, dishes barely dried and put away, something had gone wrong. Someone had messed up. The remainder of the episode was about how they get back to the table. Sound familiar? In a nutshell, that’s the story the Bible tells.
Should you read the book of Judges, it looks and sounds like ancient episodes of Ozzie and Harriet. By way of comparison, this is how it always went:
- The story begins. Israel is seated at the table, serving God. All is well.
- Israel leaves the table, tumbling into sin.
- They fall into the hands of their enemies and are overcome by them.
- They cry out to God in repentance, wanting to get back to the table.
- God hears and raises up a leader — a judge — who defeats the enemy, restoring Israel to the table.
You’d think that by the time we got to Nehemiah they would have learned. They didn’t. 2,500 years later, the story remains the same, both for Israel and for me. I still blow it. I still miss the mark. I still commit sin. I spend more time away from the table than I do sitting at it. But there is good news:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
— 1 John 1:9
In Christ, God has raised up a leader who has made a way back to the table. One day, all those who believe will take a permanent seat and enjoy, never again to leave. Then, as Jackie Gleason might say looking forward, “How sweet it is.”