Don’t settle for less, #03: don’t let your skills atrophy

Don’t let your skills atrophy.  It’s the third in a series of traits for successful people in the secular world that we’re going to look at.  However, we’re going to see how these same traits can be applied to becoming a “successful” Christian.  Someone who not only has an idea what Christianity is really about, but who also lives it.  Finally, who also does the Great Commission and not what Dallas Willard calls the Great Omission.

Don't settle for less, #03: don't let your skills atrophy is article #5 in the series: Settling for less. Click button to view titles for entire series

Don't let your skills atrophyWith that in mind, here’s the third, from 23 Things Successful People Never Do on bestlifeonline.com: Don’t let your skills atrophy

You know that you need to work out your body, but are you working out your mind? Just like your muscles, your professional skills need to be developed and improved on to stay in good shape. Successful people make sure to balance leg day with some serious stretching and refreshing of their knowledge.

“After studying the patterns of hundreds of people in business that I admire, one thing that they all have in common is a hunger for learning,” says Latrice. “They are constantly reading books, watching training, and feeding their minds with tools to grow in their field.”

You know, I don’t have to change much about those tips at all to have them apply to someone who really wants to lead a Christian life.  Maybe we don’t consider being Christian a profession.  Truth be told, it isn’t.  It’s more important than a profession.  After all, jobs demand anything from a few hours here and there to a considerably longer time.  When I was in management, I was on call 24×7.

But even there, it wasn’t really, literally, all day long every single day.  Yes, there were times when I actually did work 17 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week for many months.  However, even that pales in comparison to what Jesus asks for those who follow Him.

The Greatest Commandment – Matthew

22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31

Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Don’t let your skills atrophy

Say what?  What do Jesus’ words have to do with letting our skills atrophy?  For that matter, what does it have to do with skills at all?

Read on.  It’s coming.

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Yeah – how about that.  All of our soul.  And our heart.  Even all of our mind.  Even at work, most people get time for breaks and meals.  But Jesus wants everything.  All of us.  Even the breaks and the meals.

Don’t believe it?  Check out what Paul wrote on the subject.  We need to read carefully.  There is a message here, but we can’t just pull out one line and run with it.

The Believer’s Freedom

1Co 10:23 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Let’s look at that.  Paul writes twice that everything is permissible.  And yet, each is followed by a reason to not necessarily do “everything”.

10:23 This is a return to the subject begun in chapter 6:12 about how to balance Christian freedom and responsibility (cf. Rom. 14:19). Verses 23–33 address the strong brother.

We need to keep in mind that Paul wrote this to a church that was having issues.  Specifically, this part is about how to balance the freedom a Christian has with the responsibility that we also have.  We also need to take into account that when Paul writes “everything”, as in Everything is permissible, it’s not to be taken literally.  It’s hyperbole.  An exaggeration, to make a point.

 “All things are lawful” This phrase is repeated twice. Some translations put this phrase in quotes (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB) because they think it was a slogan of one of the factious groups at Corinth or a cultural proverb. This is the emancipated world view of the “strong” Christian (cf. 6:12; 10:26; Rom. 14:14, 20).

 “but not all things edify” The practical, spiritual test is, “Does it edify the body (the believing community)?” (cf. 6:12; 14:3–4, 26; 2 Cor. 12:19; Rom. 14:19; 15:2). This must be the test in all believers do or say. One’s freedom in Christ must not hurt another for whom Christ died (cf. Rom. 14:15).

It’s the spiritual test that’s important for Christians.  And as I’ve pointed out, and we’re about to read, this spiritual test should be applied to everything.

This is not to imply that spirituality must float at the lowest level of the weakest believer, but that mature believers must not flaunt their freedom at the expense of fellow-believers. Some believers are dogmatic, Pharisaic legalists. I do not have to succumb to their rules, but I must love them, pray for them, fully accept them, and not publicly embarrass them or flaunt my freedom. I am spiritually responsible for my fellow believers!  [1]Utley, R. J. (2002). Paul’s Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians (Vol. Volume 6, pp. 119–120). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

We don’t just turn into instant Christians.  For more on that thought, I invite you to check out Pop Tart Christians.  It’s a growth process.  For a detailed look at how Jesus laid out this process, please see the series on The Beatitudes.  At the time of writing this, that series isn’t yet complete.  There are seven articles so far, so there’s plenty to see how it works.

1Co 10:25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Here’s the specific example that Paul’s addressing in this passage.  Whether or not it’s OK to eat meat, regardless of whether it was part of a pagan sacrifice.

1Co 10:27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake— 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

1Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

And this is the key.

 Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God

1Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  

One more time – whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Whatever we do.  Work, Fun, Breaks.  Walking the dog.  Writing.  Spending time with friends.  Even spending time with people we don’t like.  All of it.  And do it for the glory of God.

don’t let your skills atrophy

So here’s the question.  What skills does it take to do all that?  What skills do we need to have in order to do literally everything for the glory of God?

Remember that image at the top of the page?  It has these words in it”

Learning
Knowledge
Experience
Competence
Ability
Training
Growth

Those are the skill we need to have.  It’s the kind of things we need in order to do what Jesus said:

Rest for the Weary

11:25-27 pp — Lk 10:21, 22

Mt 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Mt 11:27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Mt 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me

There seems to be a feeling among some Christians that we don’t really need to use our minds when it comes to God.  We should be like children.  But that’s not what Jesus actually said.  Quite the opposite, as in the passage above, Jesus tells us to learn.  From Him.

Here’s something C. S. Lewis wrote on the topic the mind and on common sense.

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the ‘virtues’. In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are ‘good’, it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of ‘prudence’ about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim. The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old. It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have.

So while it’s not at all a requirement to be a genius, God does want us to use the mind He gave us.  It doesn’t matter where we fall on a man-made Intelligence Quote scale.  God gave us what we need to accomplish the task for which He created us.  And so, He does want us to use our mind.  Whatever that us for any given person, there’s an expectation that we use it.

And we use it, in the ways listed above, to learn from Jesus.  Today, that means the Holy Spirit.  The mind of Christ.

Think about that.  We use the same skills for learning from the Holy Spirit that we use for our day jobs.  Or night jobs, if that’s when you work.  How”  Through the Bible.  Prayer.  Christian community.

And it’s not like we need to be rocket scientists.  We take the skill God created us with.  And we don’t let them atrophy.  Then, we have access to the mind of Christ.  What an opportunity!

I’ve often said one of the awesome things I expect in Heaven is to learn, forever, from the Creator of everything.  But hey – this says we can start now.  We don’t have to wait ’til the next life.

The mind of the Creator is available to us right now.  And all we have to do is not let our Creator given skills atrophy.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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