There is a peculiar phenomenon in professional sports, wherein a “rookie” will enjoy great success in his first season. While this is true across the spectrum of sports, it is often most noted in professional baseball. There may be any number of reasons for such - the player is new to pitchers/hitters/teams in the league, and they don’t quite know how to prepare for him; the enthusiasm of playing in professional stadiums across the country, many of which are legendary in the history of the sport; the drive of youth and enthusiasm which prompts intensity, focus, and adrenaline; the innocence and naivety of inexperience that is not yet tainted by the “business” of the game; etc., etc. These and others factors sometimes make superstars out of unknowns, as young athletes enjoy “breakout seasons.”
However, there often follows another peculiar phenomenon, sometimes known as the “sophomore slump”. For whatever reason, production falls short of the rookie year - less touchdowns; a lower batting average or ERA; a drop off in shooting percentage. Perhaps other teams learn how to defend him/her or find tendencies and exploit them. Maybe it’s an issue of money and fame and satisfaction. Or other factors may contribute to the decrease in production - injury; outside interest; a loss of enthusiasm - maybe the new just wears off. It’s not always an easy thing to identify. But it is a verifiable occurrence.
It seems to me that Christians sometimes go through a similar experience. When discipleship is new, there is in many people a particular enthusiasm. Forgiveness is still a very powerful consideration; gratitude is a “felt” concept; there is a zealous hunger for more knowledge and understanding; the hope of reward is ever-present; the desire to share one’s newfound trust in God is almost unquenchable; obedience, activity, participation, diligence come very naturally. And then, after a while, the new wears off. Perhaps life or Satan throws difficulty and discouragement at the new child of God. Or other disciples who are not so focused and determined unduly influence the young Christian with their apathy and indolence. Perhaps some of the naivety is replaced with the harsh reality that many folks simply do not want to repent and practice the discipline demanded by the Lord. Or maybe old habits and temptations rise up. For whatever reason, it’s not uncommon for newer disciples to lose their way - to succumb to their own “sophomore slump”.
Personally, I think it is often a matter of direction. We are so given to measuring faith by attendance at worship services that we sometimes simply don’t understand what God wants of us. Is Christianity merely a matter of believing the right things, offering a couple of hours of formal worship a week, and then waiting to be transformed into eternally glorious beings? Or does God want something more? Once I’ve understood that I am to put my trust in Him and in the Lord, what next?
It is with these thoughts in mind that we focus upon our theme for 2019. Following Jesus is about more than the right doctrine and the right worship. Make no mistake, those things are vitally important as the Lord addresses such in His own teaching (Mt.7:21f; 15:1f; Lk.6:40-49; Jn.4:22-24) and in that of His apostles (Gal.1:6f; II Thes.2:13f; II Tim.2:1f; 3:14f; Titus 2:11f). But what God ultimately desires of us is to become godly again - the way we were designed to be and the way we were before we sinned (Eph.4:11f; Col.3:10-17; II Pet.1:2-4f). Therefore, we will make it our aim this year to focus upon those qualities of God that we are to develop. He has forgiven us; renewed our spirit; washed us and made us clean (I Cor.6:11). It is ours to work on our character - to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom.13:14). Therefore, in keeping with the directive of II Pet.1:3f, our theme for 2019 will be “Add to Your Faith”. We will give attention to the various qualities of God that we are to adopt as our own. And, as we become more like our Lord and our God, it is our hope that we will not only glorify Him, but that we will seek to help others become followers of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
ADD TO YOUR FAITH...
“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble” (II Peter 1:10).
JANUARY - Faith/trust
MV: Heb.10:38 Reading: Romans 1-5
FEBRUARY - Repentance/obedience
MV: Acts 17:30 Reading: Deuteronomy 5-11
MARCH - Holiness
MV: I Pet.1:15-16 Reading: Matthew 5-7
APRIL - Sacrifice
MV: I Pet.2:5 Reading: John 13-20
MAY - Diligence
MV: II Pet.3:14 Reading: Hebrews 1-6
MV: II Pet.1:2-3 Reading: Ephesians
JULY - Knowledge
MV: Prov.9:10 Reading: Psalm 119
AUGUST - Self-control
MV: Prov.4:25-27 Reading: James
SEPTEMBER - Perseverance
MV: Heb.12:1 Reading: I & II Thessalonians
OCTOBER - Godliness
MV: I Tim.6:6-8 Reading: Proverbs 1-9
NOVEMBER - Brotherly kindness
MV: Rom.12:10 Reading: Philippians
DECEMBER - Love
MV: Matt.5:44-45 Reading: I John