Adapt . or Miss the Joy

Blind Faith (No. 27, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for July 6, 2017
Adapt . or Miss the Joy

Getting up on a single (slalom) water ski at least until I am 65
years old has been my announced goal for about the past decade. I delight in
any water skiing, whether on two skis or on one, but slalom will always be
the goal. Now in my 65th year (the “odometer” rolls to the magic number in a
couple of months), achievement of the goal has appeared in jeopardy. For the
past two skiing seasons I have barely made it to a planed-out standing
position on a single ski. I remained up for only a short distance, not
really counting as a slalom ski run. Something was wrong..

When I was snow skiing this winter I had a morning when I simply
could not perform right turns. I could turn left just fine. To turn right
requires that a skier shift weight to the left leg. I understood the
principle and was able to apply it with my right leg, but my left leg just
would not cooperate! My adaptive ski instructor confirmed that I am right
handed, indicating that my dominant leg also would be my right one. She
conjectured that my left leg was not as strong as my right one and that she
had observed other people having trouble with fatigue and loss of proper
control before. I told her about my incident with a mild TIA about 15 years
ago that impaired my left leg for less than a day. I wondered if some
neuro-muscular degradation could be unnoticeable in ordinary pursuits but
revealed by the uncustomary exertion of snow skiing. She thought that my
speculation was plausible. We had talked about my avid water skiing and the
difficulty I was having with getting up on slalom. I told her that I had
always slalom skied with my left foot forward, causing my weight to be
primarily on my left leg. She suggested that I might try putting my right
foot forward, letting my stronger dominant leg carry my weight. Working on
building strength in my left leg also might help my snow skiing – and
perhaps my water skiing – for future outings. She suggested some exercises
isolating strength-building for my left leg.

This summer I tried again to get up on slalom the way I have
skied for 50 years – left foot forward. After the third unsuccessful pull I
decided to try the right-foot-forward counsel I had received on the ski
slope at Vail. The antic pull should have been preserved on video, but I did
get up on slalom and complete a bona fide ski run! Since then I have kept my
right foot forward, getting up on my first pull, and have logged more slalom
ski run distance than in the past two seasons combined. The power of the
boat is the same; the same skilled boat driver is towing me; the principles
of hydraulic physics are unchanged. Although I have skied on a single ski
for many decades, I had to adapt my approach in order to fulfill my goals
for slalom skiing.

Analogies in the theology of water skiing kicked in at this point. Sometimes
we look back on years of successful, enjoyable practice of our faith in God.
We give thanks for opportunities we have had to learn about God’s love and
grace. We feel blessed to have had faithful Bible teachers who laid solid
foundations for our faith in God’s word. We relish stories of the “good old
days” with 2-week Vacation Bible Schools, week-long revivals, regional
stadium-packing evangelistic crusades, adventurous mission trips, and many
other ministries that were highly successful and enjoyable. But, we may
lament, something seems to be wrong. The events we treasure from our past
and expected to continue enjoying well into our future are hard to come by.
Goals for church growth and participation in ministry seem to elude
attainment. We may despair that the vibrancy of our faith is fading away.

But there is still hope that our goals for life-long faith
development can be celebrated. We might have a long history of practicing
our faith behind us, but making faithful adaptations in order to meet the
needs of today more effectively may be key to bringing us renewed joy. God
remains absolutely faithful in showering us with grace. The Bible continues
to be the reliable authority for what we believe and practice in relation to
God and to one another. But conditions beyond our control – history,
culture, technology, etc. – may make previous practices inadequate for
effective proclamation of the gospel or ministry in Jesus’ name. Often wise
counsel can help us to find a more effective new approach. Changing how we
communicate the essential truths for following Jesus offers new vibrancy for
proclaiming the gospel of Christ.

Adaptation of his message was vital for Apollos to reach the
heights of effective proclamation of the gospel. Luke tells the story
concisely as he tells about the spread of the gospel in the book of Acts:

A man named Apollos came to Ephesus. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria,
Egypt, and a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the
Scriptures. He was well-educated in the way of the Master and fiery in his
enthusiasm. Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a
point, but he only went as far as the baptism of John. He preached with
power in the meeting place. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took
him aside and told him the rest of the story.
27-28 When Apollos decided to go on to Achaia province, his Ephesian friends
gave their blessing and wrote a letter of recommendation for him, urging the
disciples there to welcome him with open arms. The welcome paid off: Apollos
turned out to be a great help to those who had become believers through
God’s immense generosity. He was particularly effective in public debate
with the Jews as he brought out proof after convincing proof from the
Scriptures that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah. (Acts 18:24-28 MSG)

Apollos had an admirable resume of faith. A Diaspora Jew, he
grew up in one of the academic centers of the first century world. He was
well-educated and eloquent. Apparently people enjoyed hearing him speak and
found his words to be beneficial. He was knowledgeable about Jesus. But
something was missing. For his rich experiences, he was not yet all he could
be. Wise counselors Priscilla and Aquila heard his impressive preaching and
invited him to their home. They shared with him the full story of Jesus that
Apollos had been missing. Once he embraced the faithful message he learned
from Priscilla and Aquila he adapted his preaching. He continued to new
heights of gospel proclamation in southern Greece. Paul considered him a
co-equal in growing followers of Jesus and the Kingdom of God (see 1
Corinthians 3:4-8). But reaching that lofty achievement would not have been
possible without Apollos recognizing his short-coming about the gospel of
Christ, accepting the wise and faithful counsel of Priscilla and Aquila, and
adapting his preaching. Then his zeal and joy flourished as he led others to
become followers of Jesus, now with greater accuracy. He continued to draw
upon his excellent education, his winsome public speaking gifts, and his
personal faith in God. But attaining his reputation as a preacher required
him to change the approach that had served him in the past.

Adaptation of our methods of “how we do church” may be
crucial for us to continue in the vibrant joy of serving Christ that we have
known in the past. Keeping on practicing our faith is vitally important.
Recognizing the need for change, heeding wise counsel, then testing and
proving the adaptations we can discover can be a pathway to enduring success
and joy in living our faith. I invite you to validate the concept either
behind a ski boat with me or in practicing your faith in Jesus. Your choice
. just adapt!

– J. Edward Culpepper

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