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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Wasp and the Church Member

Once while walking among the hills of a southeastern state I noticed a piece of white paper lying by the roadside.

Its presence there was,under the circumstances, so unexpected that it aroused my curiosity. I picked it up and found written on it in a clear, legible hand these words: "In all the world there are only two creatures that are larger when they are born than when they get their growth; one is a wasp and the other is a church member."

Whether this was a lost gem taken from a sermon delivered in church somewhere among the hills or in the nearby town, or whether it had been placed there by some friendly philosopher who had observed my approach and dropped it there for my edification I will probably never know, but I found it more than a little interesting.

Not being an apiarist I am unable to judge the truth of the statement that a baby wasp is larger than an adult one; but that part about the church member I find too true to be amusing or even comfortable.

Knowing the good people of the hills as I do, and being familiar with their religious terminology, I am sure that the writer of the epigram meant the term "church member" to be understood as synonymous with Christian, and intended to say that his experience had taught him that the average Christian lost "size" and became less a Christian later on than when he was first converted.

Why do so many enthusiastic new converts later run out of steam and settle down to a life of dull religious routine? Why do they lost their zeal and accept the dead average of subnormal spirituality they see about them as the best they can hope to maintain in this present world? Why are they often "smaller" after they have been on the way for several years than they were when they first started on their journey toward the Celestial City?

Now I do not insist that my description applies to all Christians. In fact I think our epigrammatist was covering too much territory when he gave the impression that all church members get older. I do not think they all do, but the fact that some do is enough to disturb one who loves the church and carried the welfare of the saints on his heart; and the fact that any do calls for prayer and careful investigation.

Could it be that after a joyful conversion many have without knowing it become enamored of their experience instead of fixing their eyes upon the Lord? Then when the novelty wears off their experience the joy and enthusiasm go out of their lives. What they should be taught is that a true Christian is converted to Christ, not to peace or rest or joy. These things will come in their time, but they will go again unless the gaze is fixed upon Christ who is the source and fountain of all spiritual delights.

Every emotion has its reaction and every pleasurable experience will dim after a while. The human organism is built that way and there is nothing we can do about it. It is well-known that the second year of marriage is often the most critical, for then the first excitement has worn off the relationship and the young couple has not had time to acquire a new set of common interests and to learn to accept a more stable if less emotional kind of life.

Only engrossment with God can maintain perpetual spiritual enthusiasm because only God can supply everlasting novelty. In God every moment is new and nothing ever gets old. Of things religious we may become tired; even prayer may weary us; but God never. He can show a  new aspect of His glory to us each day for all the days of eternity and still we shall have but begun to explore the depths of the riches of His infinite being.

If we offer our converts something beside Christ or something in addition to Christ, we  should not be disappointed if they do not run well or long. Novelty soon wears off everything, no matter how precious. When the interest begins to flag, we try to recapture it by fiery exhortations. I for one admit that I am weary of the familiar religious pep talk. I am tired of being whipped into line, of being urged to work harder, to pray more, to give more generously, when the speaker does not show me Christ. This is sure to lead to a point of diminishing return and leave us exhausted and a little bored with it all. And from there we may easily grow backward and become smaller and less fervent than when we were first converted.

I have spent many uncomfortable hours in prayer meetings listening to my brethren begging for blessings, but all the prayer is comfortable when the heart is having fellowship with God and the inner eyes are looking upon His blessed face. I have suffered through many a dull and tedious sermon, but no sermon is poor or long when the preacher is showing me the beauty of Jesus. A sight of His face will inspire love and zeal and a longing to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God.

The sum of all this is that nothing can preserve the sweet savor of our first experience except to be preoccupied with God Himself. Our little rill is sure to run dry unless we keep it replenished from the fountain. Let the new convert know that if he would grow instead of shrink he must spend his nights and his days in communion with the Triune God.

~A. W. Tozer~

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