We, as a whole, are goal setters.
In one week, I typically participate in 18-20 teleconferences; some weeks many more than that. Objectives are laid out, and Action Items are identified to help move toward the end goal, tasks are assigned, and tracking spreadsheets for all these things are updated. And, that’s a good thing. A very good thing. It’s how bridges are built, technology is innovated, rocket ships are launched, cures for diseases are found–by incrementally tracking planned courses of actions that keep a task moving forward. We like to see progress. We like things to be quantifiable.
I like things to be quantifiable. For instance, in my (hard) work to reach my goal of 100 pounds lost (closing in on 70 pounds lost–so close to that mark), I know the following information about this past week:
- I took 78,744 Steps
- I walked 33.96 Miles
- I burned 19,635 Calories
- I was “active” for 742 minutes
Nerdy, huh? Quite.
I like to see progress. I like forward movement.
I despise losing ground.
I tend to fall to the (sin?) of approaching my relationship with God the same way. Often, I have to fight the urge to quantify what being a Christ-follower looks like. I have to fight the pull of being the snotty-nosed, disheveled child who brings home the B- on their report card and who says (to God) “Look, God, are you proud? Do you see what I have accomplished?”
I think we are all like that, to some degree. Maybe.
“Don’t just do something, stand there.” ~ Dr. Al Mohler
I read the above quote by Dr. Mohler a few weeks ago. He uttered these words during a convocation sermon at Southern Seminary in the year 1993. I may have actually been there, though I don’t remember it. I certainly remember the climate of the school at the time, though, and reading over the transcript of his sermon, I understand his purpose behind the words–his exhortation to the seminary community to stand on scriptural foundations as put forth by school’s Abstract of Principles. At the time, the atmosphere was hostile. His words, and his stance behind the words, helped turn the very large ship of Southern Seminary around and back into Biblically clear waters.
However, I feel pulled toward Dr. Mohler’s words in another sense. Not that I wish to take them out of context, but I think there can be other, similar meanings applied.
For example, there are times that, as Christ-followers, standing fast is forward movement. Standing fast is progress.
Discouragement and grief can so quickly morph into unbelief and doubt, by default.
Good gracious, how well I know this to be truth. This past week, even. This week. My soul.
And, unbelief and doubt can quickly morph into despair. This, too, I know to be truth.
And, I suppose, there is much sin in that despair. And sin in the unbelief and doubt. Much.
It’s kind of like quicksand. Quicksand often appears solid, but isn’t–much like sin; it gives the appearance of being able to support weight. But, in reality, an agitation of some sort has occurred to the ecosystem, causing the sediment to lose strength by liquefying and to becoming unable to support weight. An object sinks in the sand to the point that the weight of the object is equal to the weight of the displaced water and sand.
And it’s not easy to get out of.
Discouragement and grief can, on occasion, agitate the soil of being sure, leading to displacement of certainty. And, then, despair (and unbelief) (and sin?) holds us there.
And flailing about seems to only strengthen the grip of the sand.
Or the despair.
Sometimes, standing fast is progress.
We see this time and time again in scripture. Most famously, we are told this in Ephesians 6:13. After being instructed in how to put on the armor of God (that’s not cross-stitch, key chain, Christian Bookstore t-shirt stuff. Look it up and look beyond the imagery), we are told this:
Here’s what’s interesting about this Ephesians verse, though–these words: “Having done all”. In order to stand firm, there is still work to be done. Every single day, there is work to be done. But it is not the work of Action Items and task lists and quantifiable spreadsheets, as wonderfully nerdy as those things are. It’s soul work of prayer. Of worship. Of confession. Of confession. Of confession.
But, sometimes, once that work is accomplished, the task becomes to “Stand Fast.”
To not waver. To not doubt. To not give way to unbelief and cynicism. To not despair, even in the grief and discouragement. It’s the stuff of Hebrews 10:23:
We mimic the Psalmist, “Why are thou downcast, O soul? Hope thou in God. Without wavering. He is faithful. He has to be. He is, surely He is. Surely He will hear. Surely He will answer.”
It’s the Standing Fast of 1st Thessalonians 3:8.
Standing Fast sometimes takes more energy than surging (flailing?), or giving up and drowning. However, always, always, always this is truth: standing fast in God is forward movement toward soul-knowledge of who He is.