A couple of weeks ago I did a Marvel movie marathon, watching classics I’d never seen before (like “Iron Man”) and re-watching more recent movies (like “Avengers: Endgame”).
In “Endgame,” Marvel’s colossal story arc is plunging toward a conclusion, and every character knows the stakes are high. We see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow each preparing for the fight they know is coming. In the movie trailer, we hear several of the superheroes calmly commit to the challenge, reminding themselves: “Whatever it takes.”
The problem we all face
I’ve noticed recently that it’s easy for me to drift, to just “get by” in my spiritual life. It takes zero effort to fall into the habit of meeting minimal requirements and not really apply myself to taking ground in my own spiritual growth and sanctification. I can let myself off the hook about fighting seemingly small, “respectable” sins or even just wastes of time.
It isn’t wrong to watch a movie. It isn’t wrong to have a movie marathon. But how often am I choosing passive entertainment instead of seeking to know God more? How often am I filling my free time with my own leisure instead of preparing myself for the good works God would have me to do? How often do I check off reading my Bible or praying as if it’s just part of my daily routine — without realizing how central both are to my spiritual life?
When the apostle Paul was nearing the end of his life, he wrote another letter to Timothy, painting a vibrant word picture that still preaches to us, too: “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable,” he wrote. “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”
What can I point to in my life that is a vessel of wood or clay? Or what am I keeping in the corner, letting it gather dust when I should be polishing its silver shine?
A few times when I was a teenager, my parents had me temporarily fill out a timesheet of sorts. For every 30-minute period (or so), I wrote down what I had been doing. After a couple of days, I could see that I spent way more time on some things than I realized. It was easy to see where my time went.
Maybe I could do something similar now. What do I choose to do with my time on weekday evenings? What do I do first thing in the morning? There are apps that tell you how long you spend on specific apps at specific times — and it’s likely more time than we realize.
Hope for my cluttered life
Of course, following a list isn’t the point. It’s not even that helpful, as some of my previous attempts at list-following have proven. Jesus didn’t call us to fulfill a checklist or create a behavior modification system. Quite the opposite: the glory of the gospel is that we can’t cross all our Ts and dot all our Is. We will never be perfect. To tweak Paul’s analogy, we can never purge our own houses of all our wooden vessels.
Jesus fulfilled the checklist for us. He lived the blameless life, made all the right decisions, and handed us the reward that comes only with perfection. Do we really grasp the grace God has given us?
To fully understand the tremendous reality of the gospel means to change our questions. No longer should we be asking, “Is this allowed?” but instead, “Will this bring me into closer fellowship with Christ, preparing me for whatever work He has for me?”
Whatever it takes. In “Endgame,” the characters were willing to sacrifice whatever was necessary — even to the point of sacrificing everything. What am I willing to sacrifice for the incomparable treasure of seeking after Christ? What am I willing to give up to know and trust Him more?
Copyright 2021 Lauren Dunn. All Rights Reserved.