On Plugs and Staying Focused

There is little in this life which is more irritating than to press the “on” switch and have nothing happen. It really doesn’t matter what the appliance or the tool; if the switch or push button or lever is in the “on” position, there is an expectation of something happening, something moving or heating up or turning or doing whatever the electric thing was designed to do.

Where we used to live before moving to Kansas, the garage doubled as a woodshop, which afforded me just one electrical receptacle with a grounded capability. My pacemaker is very sensitive to ungrounded electrical anything, so I had to be careful to use only a properly grounded cord. Depending on the tool, that sometimes required stretching that one power cord across the floor the length of the garage. Several have been the times when I had set everything up, picked up the tool of the moment, gotten ready to make sawdust, only to be greeted by the deafening sound of absolute silence. Most of the time this is traceable to the same issue — the tool wasn’t properly plugged in. Maybe I jiggled the power cord or something and the connection fell apart. However it happens, a quick adjustment to get the juice flowing, and soon sawdust is happily flying hither and yon.

This presages a very old illustration in Christian circles, about being “plugged in to God” in every aspect of one’s life. Most of those sermons or studies using the “plugged in” idea tend to go through the tried and true mantra of “pray, read the Bible, go to church” as the solutions for being “unplugged”.

The illustration may well be archaic, and true, but it’s not specifically my point here. One can believe he or she is “plugged in” to God and yet wonder why the power to live victoriously is on par with a dead flashlight battery.  Prayer happens, Bible is read (usually) and church is attended (most Sundays in a month), leaving the perplexed to wonder why “it’s not working.” There is a significant difference between being completely unplugged and having only a partial connection.  The male plug from the tool or the appliance looks as if it is properly connected into the receptacle, but no power is coming through the cord. Its is only when the plug is pushed just a little more that the true connection is made.  The hiccup was no real connection despite the outward appearance.

The old mantra about pray, etc., is not just a sermonic device or big point in a Sunday school class. It is, for all its overused simplicity, a solid Biblical truth which will be a channel of power and relationship if it is faithfully followed. Prayer is not a crisis event, even though many who call themselves Christians have no real inclination to pray unless they are immediately in the path of an oncoming catastrophe.  I’ve heard people say they will be in church unless they get “a better offer”, and far too many times those who are struggling to stay afloat in the faith have no idea where they last left their Bible, let alone be giving any significant time to actually reading it.

Luke 9:62 is very stark, pointed and necessary. No one who has put his (or her) hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the Kingdom. Jesus doesn’t want “sunshine soldiers” who maintain a veneer of viable faith when all is going hunky-dory. The call to be a Christian, despite the reinventing at the hands of liberals and others who really don’t want to submit to the Living God, is one of whole-hearted commitment.  To look back after taking up the plow is to guarantee crooked, unusable rows. It is a lot of work and nothing to show for it. Even more, if Christian faith is so wonderful, then what is there which was left behind is so worth wanting to stare at it?  While being wholly committed to the ways of the Lord may seem like a concept out of the dark ages, it is the only way true faith exists. The old hymn, “I Surrender All” is one of the most theologically astute compositions ever to reside in a hymn book. It is also the most lied about hymn ever; many who sing it never have any intention of truly giving their “all
to Jesus. Power to live victoriously for Christ doesn’t come in partial or conditional surrender to the will of God, just as power to work the tool or appliance doesn’t come in partially plugging in. Power to live in a coherence of relationship in Christ happens when there is a whole-life dedication to being a servant of God, of tossing one’s own agenda into the trash so the only controlling factor in one’s life is Jesus. Prayer becomes a time of relationship building with God; going to church is transformed into an opportunity to celebrate and worship God with others of a like-minded faith, and reading the Bible is an adventure of discovering more truth than any human brain could ever fully comprehend.

Christian faith only works one way — fully committed. Sure, there will be, as the Bard of Avon once opined, the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” all through life, and those times will come when the hectic pace of being in the human race tends to fill up the schedule to the point where prayer may, at times, become an afterthought, church service is missed, and not much has been read during the week, including the Bible. This times need to be the (few and very, very, very far between) exceptions, not the routine, and some would argue there is never a reason to not pray, to not go to church or to skip Bible reading. Let me say much here has to do with the attitude of the heart. When I was in a physical rehab unit after my knee surgery, I couldn’t get up and go to church. I could barely walk. But as I wheeled myself around the facility, I could pray under my breath or in the Spirit, and the bedside tray table worked well as a place to set my Bible so I could read with ease. My point is simple: taking the time to ensure one’s faith if firmly grounded in Christ, that one is fully “plugged in” with the Lord is a matter of the attitude and the desire of the heart. When practiced continually there is a much less likely chance of faltering when those slings and arrows come flying every which way.

Life happens. No doubt about it. For the Christian, life must become transformed by the Spirit of God so that the normal aspects of life are not the crisis points or the easy times, but rather defined by one’s pressing forward to develop more intimate relationship with Christ through such as prayer and so on. God has given to believers all they need to live in victory, even in the sad and discouraging times. The secret (and it really isn’t much of a secret) is to ensure the plug is pushed all the way in.