Sunday afternoon we celebrated the Fall birthdays for my side of the family. The "meat game" was at another level with smoked brisket, fried chicken, spicy sausage, and buffalo chicken dip. My plate was full, and there was more where that came from.
But like I said on Sunday, you can tell who was taught as a child to eat all the food on their plate and who was not. Cleaning up from the meal revealed that while all of us ate our fill, many of us did not eat all that we had been given. Some of the kids had even left plates for their play time with half their portion still to be eaten! These people had willfully and tragically left savory pieces of meat on their plates, taking for granted the excellence of the meal.
Sometimes we do the same thing with God's plan for his gospel and the church: we eat our fill, but there is still more left on the plate. We are too easily satisfied with our experience of church when God has yet more for us to pursue. We have a generally correct idea of what the church is to be and do, but we miss the depth and beauty of our purpose and activities.
What is the spiritual equivalent to your mom saying "eat all your food?" What are some ways we can make sure not to leave any spiritual nourishment on our plate when it comes to the church?
Eat All of Your Blessings - We have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Because the blessings are "spiritual" and "in the heavenly places," we can easily miss them due to present suffering, or even physical blessings that are more tangible. Therefore, we must pray to see them, and learn to see what God has done and is doing through eyes of faith. We must remind one another of how blessed we are in Christ and express our thankfulness together.
Eat All of Your Singing - Self-consciousness will most often keep us from finishing this course of our meal, but recognizing God's gift of song can make room in our hearts for more. Singing is designed by God to be an interactive body and soul experience in which our heart and voice are uniquely connected. Singing is also designed to be an expression of our unity where we come together in one voice to God. Remind yourself that we are both "addressing one another" and "making melody in our hearts to God" (see Eph. 5:19). Acknowledge your role as a worship leader in this way, and envision God as delighting in his children's praise.
Eat All of the Word - Because the word comes through a finite man to finite people, we can get easily downplay the preaching moment. But as we acknowledged in one of our recent sermons, wherever the word of God is heralded and clearly explained, God himself is speaking, and therefore we must listen on the edge of our seats. The Holy Spirit is interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. He is ready and eager to use the mundane moment of preaching to produce eternal fruit in our hearts.
Eat All of Our Prayers - It can be easy to let our minds wander when someone else is leading us in prayer. Our train of thought doesn't always seem to be on the same track as theirs. But realizing what is happening in that moment, that the family of God is boldly approaching the throne of grace with confidence, can awaken us to the wonder of this privilege. Nothing of eternal value happens apart from the power of prayer. I find it helpful to both repeat the leaders words in my mind, and to verbally affirm them in order to stay engaged.
Eat All of Our Fellowship - When you interact with someone else on your way into our church gathering, it's not just because you happened to have arrived at the same time. When you meet at the coffee pot, you aren't just there to exchange pleasantries. Learn to see these moments as God-ordained interactions that can leave the other person encouraged and ready to worship God. As often as possible, "stop, drop, and pray" together to remember that you have not been talking alone, but with the God who created both of you listening in.
What are some practical ways you will "eat your plate clean" as you interact with Christ's church this week? Realize that even when you do, he still has more in store for you. Your plate may be clean now, but another course is available and coming: eat and be filled.