“And Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:62, NRSV)
We’re beginning a new sermon series this week, “Reset.” The challenge with the Christian life is that complacency surfaces when we neglect the practices of a spiritually disciplined life and lose touch with God. It’s easy to go through the motions mindlessly, merely checking off our religious “to-do” list; however, God didn’t create us to be religious; he created us to be in relationships. God made us so that we could enjoy living with him and finding meaningful connections with others. Because sin destroys relationships, we occasionally need to hit the reset button and start again on the path to an ever-deepening relationship with God and healthier relationships with one another.
Our intentions are pure whenever we commit to reinstituting a discipline like healthy eating, exercise, Bible study, or prayer. We strongly desire to persevere through any challenges and barriers to our goal. But it usually doesn’t take long before a significant test arrives, and, if you’re like me, our intentions go out the window. The result is guilty feelings that further sabotage any progress toward our stated goal, often leading to giving up.
Jesus recognized this tendency in our human nature when calling people to follow him. Some would-be followers were willing to step up to the plate until they realized that following Jesus would cost them something. In Luke 9:57-62, three different people considered following Jesus, but all three withdrew their commitment once they counted the cost. These encounters led to Jesus uttering these harsh words: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62, NRSV)
Ouch! I “look back” all the time, and I suspect if you’re honest, you do, too. It’s natural. Then we add to Jesus’ demands (and to our guilty feelings) with phrases like, “Nothing worth doing is easy,” or, “If it was easy, anyone could do it.” Is it true that we’re not fit for the Kingdom of God if we fall back into our old life? It’s partially true, but not completely. While none of us is fit for the Kingdom of God when we start, we become more fit as we grow in God’s grace through each attempt. No matter how many times it takes for us to find a deep connection with God, God is grateful for every effort because he knows that’s one less failure before we eventually get it right. But that’s only true if we keep trying.
So, if we think we’re ready for a reset of our faith, let’s remember that even if we get off to a rough start, let’s not give up. One of my favorite sayings is, “It doesn’t matter how many times we get knocked down as long as we’re willing to get back up and try again.” Growth is in the struggle if we keep struggling. Join us on Sunday as we find strength for the journey. — Senior Pastor Rev. Dale Cohen