The soccer games of young children are truly a sight to see! Lacking the experience and physical coordination of older children, when very young children play soccer they look more like a swarm of "buzzy bees" chasing after a bouncy illusive ball than a group of athletes! When professional soccer players perform their activity, it is not uncommon for a finely tuned athlete to bounce a soccer ball off of his head and into the goal. When very young children perform their activity, it is in constant fear that coaches, concerned mothers, and siblings of the players, gaze at the field waiting for the entire mob of players to collide, bonking heads and getting tangled in a goal net! The uncollected gaggle of players moves about the field as they dart at the ball is if to sting it. Occasionally they do make somewhat discernable passes to one another, straight kicks, and score goals.
Young athletes need time to develop their skills for the full enjoyment of their sport. No doubt over time, some of these children will even go on to play at higher levels of competition with great success. In the meantime, these children find great enjoyment in the game and great reward from the physical activity, comradery of teammates, and they are learning the value of sportsmanship. While there is much to be gained in the present moment, even before maturity comes, the process of growth is but collections of necessary steps on the journey of development. If, after many years of playing soccer, these children still play the sport as a gathering of "buzzy bees" we would say that their development must have been stifled somewhere along the way and that they had not developed properly. We would likely say that their training in the game of soccer had been ineffective.
In the book of I Timothy 4:7, the Apostle Paul tells his "son in the faith" to "train himself for godliness." Godliness is not something which happens by mistake. It is not something which is often gifted to the very young, nor is it something which comes purely by a decision of the will. No great soccer player ever "willed" himself into being great. He trained, often day and night, on the fundamentals of the game. He trained his mind to stay focused throughout each game. Further, he trained his body with rigorous exercise to be strong, have stamina, and endure. So it is with spiritual maturity and godliness. Do you desire to have the fruit of godliness in your life? Do you desire to be spiritually mature?
Dear Child of God, won't you decide today to return to a life of prayer, mediation, and the reading of the Holy Scripture? So many believers are like buzzy bees bouncing through this life longing for a more rich and meaningful spiritual life. The great trouble is that as we constantly seek to experience a deeper life of peace, a greater degree of trust in God in the very real and often difficult conditions of this life, we hope for maturity but fail to train. We long for spiritual athleticism but we lack the willingness for spiritual discipline. Growth is the natural occurrence of time spent with God in His word through regular study of the Scripture and in His presence through regular prayer and worship.
Fellow buzzy bees, let us choose today to recommit ourselves to a life spent training ourselves in godliness! Amen.
Chris Surber is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Peru, Illinois. A graduate of Liberty Theological Seminary, he is known for his compassion for people and his passion in the pulpit.