Life has a lot of routine stuff. Boring even. It’s full of those things you don’t like to do but have to. Let’s just call them ‘eating your sprouts.’
Like those Brussel sprouts that taunt you with your Christmas dinner, spoiling the perfect plate.
But I want to turn a negative into a positive and share with you the amazing spiritual benefits of ‘eating your sprouts’.
It’s a truism that ‘everybody wants to save the world but no one wants to help Mom with the dishes’ (P J O’Rouke). Time then to do ‘the dishes’ and do them in glory.
Because there are surprising ways we can come closer to God by simply doing the mundane and boring, faithfully.
I’ve listed the ‘sProut virtues’ as patience, presence, preparedness and perseverance.
Let’s just call them the 4 Ps of sprout spirituality.
(Please stop me now before I overstretch this analogy).
Eating your sprouts: the spiritual benefits of patience.
Now imagine a task you have to do but don’t like.
Not fun is it.
Maybe for you, it’s something like a household chore, a boring part of your job such as report writing or reading pointless emails.
That’s a common one.
But have you ever considered this as a way for a character to be formed in you? Even the very character of Christ?
Patience is a spiritual gift from God and we all need more of it at times in our lives.
And it’s remarkable just how many stories there are in the Bible (Old and New Testament) where individuals have had to wait until God’s timing to fulfil their purpose.
They had to learn patience.
Abraham and Sarah: a lesson in patience.
Abraham and Sarah are one example. God had promised Abraham a child but Sarah wasn’t able to conceive, especially given both of them were so old. (Genesis 17).
Sarah doubted that God would actually fulfil His promise through her, so she thought it would be better if someone else would carry Abraham’s child. And that was Hagar.
Abraham agreed and Hagar bore them Ismael. But before too long it all got very confused and messy.
The family had become dysfunctional.
Abraham and Sarah had lacked the patience and trust that God would do as He promised through Sarah. They thought they could do a better job themselves.
The lesson for us then is to let God have His way before ours. If we try to second guess God or imagine we can do things better before God’s timing, then it will be messy.
Patience then is a valuable opportunity to grow and trust in God more.
We should keep persevering with it, no matter what. And then who knows what surprises He will reveal?
For Abraham and Sarah, it was baby Isaac and the beginnings of an amazing nation.
Eating your sprouts: the spiritual benefits of presence.
I know I should be more aware of God’s presence, daily. The reason I don’t is that I’m distracted.
I’m sure we all are.
But doing the things that you don’t like for a time is an opportunity to focus on His presence, right where you are in that moment.
Ever considered doing the dishes as a meditation on God?
Here’s an example of someone from Church history, a humble monk by the name of Brother Lawrence. And what he did with the lowly and mundane tasks assigned to him transformed his relationship to God immensely. It even profoundly impacted the community around him.
His reflections were put into writing in the Christian classic, Practicing the Presence of God.
But what Brother Lawrence had ‘discovered’ actually wasn’t that new. Many believers have been doing this before. But Brother Lawrence had expressed it and lived it so beautifully in his life.
He realised the presence of God in whatever he was doing in the present moment and turned it into an act of worship.
I believe this is exactly what the apostle Paul was pointing at when he exhorts the church to ‘pray constantly.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
What is praying if it isn’t consciously being in the presence of God?
Now there’s a wonderful challenge, to realise His presence in everything we do, no matter how mundane.
Eating your sprouts: the spiritual benefits of preparedness.
‘Be prepared’ was drummed into me as a boy scout.
I believe it’s a wonderful principle.
Does God think so too? Does He prepare His people for a task ahead?
Yes, absolutely. Especially in the tough times (as well as the boring and mundane).
These times can be an essential time of spiritual preparation. And in hindsight, we can see it as being ready for the challenges of life.
It was there in the life of Christ.
There was an essential time of preparation for Jesus when he fasted and was tempted in the desert for forty days. (Matthew 4:1-11).
It was right after his baptism and before the beginning of his public ministry.
Jesus had to be ready for what his Father in heaven had prepared for him and also for what the world was about to throw at him. The good, the bad and all the temptations that could have to lead him to abandon his purpose.
It’s an important example for all of us.
There may well be a time of preparation required in our lives too. And it could be in a time when you least expect it or even realise that you’re in the middle of!
This preparation time isn’t about attaining some kind of superhero spirituality either. We’re just lead to being surrendered and ready to follow God where he calls us.
And that could be in the most humble of circumstances.
Do you think you are being lead to be prepared? Should we ask ourselves the question more?
Eating your sprouts: the spiritual benefits of perseverance.
‘Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.’ James 1:12.
Of all the people in the Bible that embodied perseverance, I would have to pick the apostle Paul as among the most inspiring. The sheer distances he travelled and the mission work he did was truly astonishing.
It was nothing short of a miracle how God powerfully worked through him.
Paul’s life is a master class in perseverance.
We know from the historical accounts in the book of Acts and from his own letters to the churches just what he had to endure.
‘Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,’ 2 Corinthians 11:25.
That’s perseverance for you. Right there.
Paul and his life of perseverance.
Paul’s determined character no doubt helped. But it was God who chose Paul for who he was (and regardless of who he was) to inspire and guide the early church.
That’s an incredible measure of God’s grace that he’d powerfully reveal himself to a man who violently persecuted the very followers of Jesus.
Paul knew this very well, in a way that deeply touched him. Yes, he had the right drive, personality and learning to be a leader. But that would also be to miss out on something very important that enabled Paul to persevere through so many challenges. Both physical and emotional.
The very thing that we need to know for ourselves today.
Paul credits all his power and strength to the very power of God in his life.
‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’. (Philippians 4:13).
And that’s exactly how we can persevere with our own struggles today.
But what is so encouraging for us is that we don’t have to have the personality of Paul, or to be like anyone else. God can work powerfully through any and all of us to achieve His purposes.
Even in the boring and routine or when we’re experiencing struggles, doubts, trials and deprivations of our own.
And yes, failures too.
But God uses our mistakes and our weakness. It keeps us reliant on Him. ‘For my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Are there areas in life that you find hard to get through? Times when you feel like you want to give up?
Hold fast, remain in Him and keep persevering. God who is faithful and true will pull you through.
The thing that you don’t like doing or the times that are a struggle often prove to be the most helpful for us to grow.
So high time to revisit ‘sprout time’ and live the benefits of patience, presence, preparedness and perseverance in our lives.
Life can have wonderful highs but also lows and an awful lot of flatness to it too.
But whatever happens;
‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Deuteronomy 31:6.
And think twice about the sprouts.
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Jeremy – Not Only Sundays (About Us).
© Not Only Sundays, June 2018. Images CC0 Public Domain – sourced on pixabay.com under a creative commons licence CC.