Sunday, May 31, 2009

Use it or Lose it

It seems that everybody who has lived for more than 30 years can validate the familiar adage "if you don't use it you lose it". For those of you, like me, who have not attended college for more than 25 years, the mere thought of doing differential equations again makes the reality of this well known axiom painfully obvious. The principle rings true not only in the class room, but also on the golf course, in the exercise room, in the sewing room and in the spiritual realm. There are countless examples that one could cite to drive home the point that one must use learned information in a practical way in order to retain it and benefit from it.

This principle can be seen in several places in the New Testament. I will cite two. In the span of 4 verses in the first chapter of Peter's second epistle, knowing that he would soon depart this world, frankly told them 3 times that he was reminding them of truths that they had already learned (1:12-15). He was distressingly aware of the potential for believers in Christ to neglect and forget crucial information that would affect their spiritual condition in Christ. Peter knew the principle: “If you don’t use it, you lose it”

The writer of the book of Hebrews offers a rebuke to these believers with these words:
Hebrews 5:11-14 Of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

These believers' unwillingness to "use" the word of God indicated that they were "dull of hearing". Their sluggish response to the Word of God is where their spiritual slide began. Had they been "using" the Word of God, they would have been able to teach others by this time, but instead they were spiritual babes in need of being taught the basics of the Christian faith once again. Since they “did not use it, they lost it”.

The consequence was spiritually devastating: Their ability to discern good from evil waned and their service to Christ faltered. They were not going on to maturity and not redeeming the time for their Savior

"Using" the word God is essential to spiritual growth and success. It requires diligence to learn, understand and apply. God gave specific instructions to Joshua when he took the reins of leadership from Moses:

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

In other words, “use it and be successful, lose it and fail.” Spiritual success for you and me is no different than it was for Joshua. It requires reception, meditation and application of God’s Word by faith.

So, dear believer, with respect to the Word of God, are you using it or losing it? Are you "meditating" on it or have you become "dull of hearing"? Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of the Savior or are you retrogressing to spiritual babyhood? Is your spiritual discernment increasing or decreasing?

I leave you with the words of the Savior communicated with His disciples that provide the means of “using it and not losing it”:

John 15:4-5 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

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