Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Try Again

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."  Ecclesiastes 9:10

Yes, you are seeing the exact same verse I posted yesterday.  There were some thoughts I had about this verse, and I had been thinking on it, and then my posting went in a completely different direction than intended.  That was certainly just fine, I rather like it when the Holy Spirit takes over.

But what I actually had been thinking about with this verse was how often we tackle something- anything- just partway.  We do a task, and we do it half-heartedly, just enough to get the task done.  Think of a child with music lessons.  At the weekly lessons they are usually assigned a certain amount of practice time to practice at home, and most kids will practice that amount of time precisely- without a minute over.  I know when I was in that situation, I would start the timer, and THEN I would get out my music book, tune my instrument, and by the time I actually started practicing, five minutes of my practice time had amazingly elapsed.  I certainly never went even a second over my scheduled time.

And yet, I would look over at the girls who were playing beautifully and be disgusted that I wasn't playing more like them.  I was certain that I could just pick up this instrument without much practice and play like a virtuoso.  Obviously, it just doesn't work that way. (Except in rare cases where someone actually is a virtuoso or a prodigy, but that's not at all related to today's post.)

This verse reminded me of prayer, actually.  We have a lot of speakers who come to our church and share what God has been doing with them and their ministries.  So many of them talk about how they pray for someone to be healed of one thing or another, and they are healed.  We even had one speaker last year whose ministry has raised over 400 people from the dead!  It's always phenomenal to hear these speakers, and usually I leave these weekends feeling encouraged and like I can take on the world.  I feel empowered, and ready to pray for someone to be healed of cancer, or ready to swoop in and pray for someone to come back to life after a tragedy.  But then reality sets in.  Usually shortly after one of these weekends, I'll have a conversation with someone who has a cold or allergies, or I'll run into someone with a basic broken bone, and while there may be a part of me who thinks that maybe I should pray for them.  I don't.  Later on I always think of that and regret that I didn't even try.  Because the fact is, if I'm not willing to put in my practice times and pray for the smaller things- like colds and headaches and broken bones- how on earth am I going to know how to pray when it comes to the big things?

I think way, way back to my young Sunday School days.  I remember how we would go around the room and share prayer requests, and the littlest ones would have a request for a small cut on a finger, or for their mommy who was home with the flu, or for their cat who had a cold in its eye.  We would smile and pray for these things, not really expecting any kind of response from God towards these requests.  Of course, now I can look back and wonder why we didn't have faith for these small things.  What was wrong with us?  To that child, their cat is everything to them, why wouldn't God heal their precious kitty and make the child happy again.  Why wouldn't God heal little Katie's paper cut- He loves her so much, and that small owie is obviously causing great distress.

We get so excited when we hear about healings of the big things- the cancers, the arthritis, the metal dissolving in people's bodies (from pins and such for bones), but we don't take to the time to practice by seeking God for the little things.  And you know what the biggest shame of it is?  When God heals a paper cut, he's pouring out the exact same love that he's pouring out on someone who He is healing of brain cancer.  We should rejoice in asking God to heal the smallest things, and we should rejoice when He does do it.  Because the more we pray for the small things, the more we're building our faith for the bigger things.

Just like the child sitting in that music lesson chair.  First, they have to learn how to play the nursery rhymes correctly, and THEN they can take a stab at that concerto.  They don't give a first time student a score from a symphony and tell them to play it perfectly.  They start with the basics, and work their way up as the students improve.  And they way they improve?  Practice.

Practice makes perfect.  Although, to be honest, I am kind of in the mindset right now that there is no such thing as perfect. Really, there should be a mindset that we will never really arrive- that we will not reach perfection, yet we should constantly be striving to get there.  When we pray for someone and they are not healed, we should be thinking "that's not good enough" and then pray again.

And this can really apply in all areas of life.  I think of school teachers who have their degrees and are teaching- and yet they are still constantly taking classes, trying to improve themselves.  I think of the growing trend right now of running marathons.  People don't start training for small half-marathons and then think they've done good enough- they keep going, they keep pushing themselves to get to the next level.

That's how our Christian walk should be.  We should never, ever be happy with where we are- we should always be striving for more, for forward progress.  Because stopping and staying put right where we are is just never going to be good enough.  And I don't want to be "just good enough"- I am after excellence in all areas of life. 

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