ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THOSE WHO GIVE IT
The Rev. Ralph McCune
“The Benefits of Spiritual Maintenance”
A few weeks ago I received the kind of news which devastates anyone who owns an automobile. Most of us have had this experience, and many of us have had it too many times. It’s the news that comes from the service technician at the car dealership that your car, which has just exceeded its warranty, will require hundreds of dollars of unexpected repairs. In my own case it was going to cost over two hundred dollars to replace a faulty window regulator. But that wasn’t all. Something had been making an irritating noise somewhere in the dash or console; I wanted them to locate and take care of this troubling problem. I told them that I thought a small screw had perhaps come loose when they had repaired the radio about six months earlier. At least that was my diagnosis, and since this was probably the case I felt they should perform the service at no cost.
To get to the point of this short story, let me tell you that it took the mechanic seven hours to locate the problem of the noise. It was not a small screw at all. Somehow a small golf pencil had fallen down through a vent opening in the dashboard. I was delighted that he had found the cause of the problem--but at eighty dollars an hour that little pencil had suddenly become very expensive. Between this pencil and the repair of my window I was facing a bill of some eight hundred dollars of labor charges alone. I was in no mood to shout, “Praise the LORD.”
And then the big surprise--the special gift. The service technician told me that he had talked to the service manager, and because I had been so faithful in the maintenance of my car at their dealership, the company was going to absorb all the charges. This enormous and expensive service would cost me nothing. Was I hearing things? No. Now I was ready to consider that “praise the LORD” business, with a few “wows” thrown in as well.
It dawned on me several days later that there is a great spiritual application here. The faithful maintenance of my car had reaped enormous financial benefits. And even though it may sound somewhat stock and trivial, the same thing is true in our relationship with Christ, because that too demands serious and steadfast “maintenance.” We may not like that term in talking about the Christian life, but call it what you like, our walk with God is a serious matter and must be cultivated every day. The value of this is seen in Psalm 91:1, which says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (NASB).
The Christian leader cannot afford to lose sight of the constant nurturing of the LORD’s presence in his or her life. Having served almost forty years in full time vocational Christian ministry, I have learned that if I want to know God’s power, I cannot allow the cultivation of this relationship to become mediocre. I must spend time with him in the quiet place. I must dwell “in the shelter of the Most High.” Such activities as prayer and time spent in God’s word are conduits, channels for God’s power to flow into our lives, and into our ministries. The leader who does not seek God in this way will be spiritually impotent. This again may sound rather trite or simplistic, but we need to makethe maintenance of the Christian adventure a top priority or it will cease being an adventure at all. And if we are faithful in maintaining that relationshiop, it will be easier to fix things that go wrong.
The maintenance of physical things is important; and it is no different in the spiritual realm. When discouragement comes, and it will, that spiritual power that infused our hearts when we were dwelling “in the shelter of the Most High” will strengthen our spirits. The psalmist goes on to say, “For it is he who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, and from the deady pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions; and under his wings you may seek refuge. His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark” (Ps. 91:3, 4; NASV)