Sometimes slothfulness seems insurmountable. Increasingly the inertia of an aging body at rest seems impossible to overcome. The overstuffed recliner may well be the greatest hazard to geriatric health. That malady effects the codger mind as well. Sometimes the most powerful sermon is insufficient to hold up ancient leaden eyelids. In my younger days I was a whiz at multitasking. Today I cannot even remember to deep breathe—my drowsing antidote—and process the sermon at the same time. Sometimes the hardest pew can become the softest bed. I think that’s why there were no pews in ancient Israel’s synagogues. Modern gentiles have it reversed—the preacher stands and the congregation sits. Our pastor told us last Sunday that “of course” he notices we have trouble paying attention. Like Kipling’s British soldier, “Tommy ain’t no blooming fool—you bet that Tommy sees,” but pastor said it in much kinder terms.

As I learned in last Sunday’s sermon, Puritan preacher Thomas Watson had a solution. He called it “holy violence.” He said, “The exercise of the worship of God is contrary to nature.” It takes self-inflicted holy violence to redirect our thoughts to the worship of the Most High God. Pastor said “the call to be a Christian is a call to holy violence.

How does an attention span conditioned by soundbites and tweets absorb a forty-five minute sermon? Holy violence. There is no such thing as a sanctified sluggard. Kingdom living means fighting against the natural inclination of our hearts. “We have to fight our sinful nature. We have to fight our tendency to distraction.” The aging clutch that keeps my brain engaged is worn and the mind keeps dropping out of the focus gear. My mind is prone to wonder, Lord, I know it. Thank God there is no limit to the number of times I can stop and back up a YouTube video of the sermon on Monday morning … or as many mornings as needed.

Our gracious God has given the true Christian the best solution—an indwelling Dutch uncle. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate Dutch uncle. He knows your thoughts, motivations, equivocations and puny excuses before you do. The third person of the Trinity is your tactician, your arms supplier, your motivator, your prime mover for “holy violence.” He will speak truth to your soul. Listen to him.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to do according to his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

“…take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11b).

See you in church.


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