Old Harness in a New Field   
Copyright 2002 by William Meisheid

Sometimes "mature" Christians, those who have been in the faith for a number of years, hit a kind of wall, which at first is comfortable and inviting and soft. If our everyday lives are comfortable enough, we sometimes begin to take God and our Christianity for granted. Everything is OK and we are to a large degree satisfied. In many ways this mirrors what happens to married couples and families, which over the years grow satisfied with each other and begin to take much of what they have for granted. God, however, can almost be guaranteed to wake us up from this complacent slumber and challenge us to new growth. This can be a painful experience for those of us who have gotten into contented patterns of living. Change, especially God's correction or pruning, can be unsettling at best, and often is an agonizing experience.

This year my life has been turned upside down. I severely contracted my business, dealt with a large amount of debt, and have been suffering full body hives, a recurrence of a problem previously faced in 1990. I sort of handled the business and debt problems, but when the hives roared past simple inconvenience, I remember thinking, "Oh no, here we go again." As the problem proved resistant to any remedy, including prayer and laying on of hands, I decided maybe God was trying to get my attention, maybe there were some things He wanted to change.

Young Christians look at older, mature Christians and sometimes think, with a teensy bit of envy, that they have it made, that the elder members of God's family have gotten past the serious struggles in their spiritual life. Not so. I am reminded of Paul's words in Philippians 3:12-14: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Paul presses on, straining toward what is ahead. I imagine a plow horse in harness, straining toward the unbroken ground ahead. Not an image of a comfortable, complacent life.

Suddenly God takes us off the same old field, with its regularly plowed rows, and tells us to break new ground. Replowing an old field is relatively easy; breaking new ground is hard work. I think God is asking me to break new ground. I also think I am not the only one. I think God is challenging many of the "mature" Christians at St. Timothy's to break new ground, He is not just reconditioning our harnesses so we can work in the same field.

If you look at the history of St. Timothy's over the last 30 years, you can see that God moved in powerful ways to encourage ministry at this church. Out of that commitment to ministry came an active concern for God's truth that, over time, brought us into conflict with the "world" around us, whether secular or ecclesiastical. However, also over time our ministry waned, while our conflict intensified, until almost all we had left was conflict. Then there was a purgingósome believe by God, others are not so sure. Regardless of its cause, the result was that conflict receded, leaving us with a recent period of relative calm, an almost complacent time.

Now it seems that God is stirring us up to ministry again. He is calling mature souls to plow new fields, to make commitments to new ministry. I know He is doing that to me, and as I look around the church I have loved for over 25 years, I see Him doing that to others also. Is God turning your life upside down? Is He calling you to new ministry? I think He is. I invite you to join me in asking God to guide and direct our first steps into these new fields, to help us strain toward what is ahead, pressing on toward the goal He has set for each of us.

The old days and the old fields were a wonderful planting of the Lord. But I believe He is calling us into new fields, for new plantings, which means new ministries for each of us. I believe He is calling us to break out of our complacency and comfort zones to something energizing and exciting, even for older, mature Christian bones. I would ask you to pray with me to see if I am rightly divining the Word of truth and, if I am, to join me in responding.