"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
When I started out as a Christian in my 20th year I remember going to a conference in Atlantic City. This is before they put casinos there. I remember sitting in a ballroom at the Howard Johnson's Hotel. Funny the details you'll remember after 30+ years. The sponsoring group must have gotten a "deal" on the conference because there were about 2000 of us shoehorned into a room designed for far less. I don't remember even what the speaker was talking about, but I remember he told us to look to our left and to our right. Unless we were sitting on an aisle, how many of us were adjacent to each other? Three. Just three. He said that statistically speaking within five years two of the three of us would not be living for Christ. That has bothered me from that day until this. I think of it nearly every day. I told the Lord that day back in 1974 that I was going to be the guy that stuck with it. I was going to be the steadfast one.
But what does that mean? I've always shuddered to read the next words because they sound so like I need to "tow the line" and "do the right thing". After all, there must be a set of rules somewhere I can follow in order to become "perfect". So let's look at those two words for a second:
The greek word "teleios" is translated here perfect and means "complete" in areas of labor, growth, moral and mental character. The root word is "telos", which means the end of something or the completeness of something. A teleology is the study of evidences of design in nature (ie: finding an holistic system that explains the design of the universe -- a completion). The second word, "holokleros" means being complete in body as over against being complete in spirit or mind. So my understanding is that it took these twin terms put together to give the 1st century mind an understanding that we are describing the complete person here.
But is that really something that can be arrived at by making a list of dos and don'ts? What if making me complete and lacking in nothing means a journey of pain and wrestling with God? Surely that's what happened in the patriarch Jacob's life. What if some of the standard admonishments of Scripture, while very much an expression of the character of God and his desire for his followers, are things that I will need to come to terms with through painful experience rather than simple obedience (ala the prodigal son)? That is the "full effect" of steadfastness. I will make mistakes. I will intentionally, willfully sin. And yet Christ is with me (Immanuel) and God is working his will in me (Philippians 2:13), and I can always look back and say, "God brought me through that."
I am, in the end, what the Bible calls a "broken cistern". And there are areas where water keeps being poured in and it just won't HOLD. There are empty places in me only the Holy Spirit in the timing of his good pleasure can fill because the bottom of them is a sieve and there is no natural way I will ever repair it.
So I keep looking back at that day in 1974 and I sigh. And I sit here leaking a little less every day for the love of Him.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.