Many folks, who know me well, know that Halloween is my favorite holiday; but very close behind it is Christmas. Now, I think we can all agree that Christmas is certainly a more demanding holiday to celebrate than most (and probably why, for me, it comes in second place to the more-relaxed Halloween). Christmas can be a very special time for friends and family, but let’s be honest: a lot of preparation is required to celebrate our traditional American Christmas in a proper fashion; for me, though, preparation has never been my strong suit.
This plain fact is never made more evident than in my yearly struggle with the outdoor Christmas lights. Don’t get me wrong, though, I like to hang the lights. Actually, I think that’s the main reason why I am not very good at it. Let me explain why: I like adding new elements and new configurations to change my display from year to year. I like shopping for new lights, and once I get them home, it is difficult for me to refrain from setting them up immediately. It is here where I run into problems.
While I certainly have plenty of zeal, and enthusiasm and motivation to hang the lights, I have no practical plan to accomplish what I set out to do. Most years, this is what invariably happens: since I do not measure anything, I usually end up being a strand or two short (a second trip to the store required), or having too many lights (money and time wasted), and sometimes I will buy the wrong kind of lights I need (another trip to the store required for the return). If I do manage to somehow guess correctly, and end up with the right lights and the right amount of lights I want, I always seem to start or end at an inconvenient spot for getting power to them.
Building or constructing anything requires motivation; but most importantly, it requires a plan; and it requires preparation. This is true of physical endeavors, and it is just as true, if not more, when it comes to spiritual ones as well. Make no mistake about it, ladies and gentlemen; we construct our lives as Christians. Our service to God doesn’t just happen. We all have to be builders. And, as we observed, building things the right way requires not only zeal and motivation, but it also requires preparation; and that preparation, in this case, means: practical knowledge, wisdom, careful planning, and the acknowledgment that there will be a price to be paid.
Jesus instructed us all in such matters when he said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:27-31)
Building a Christian comes at a cost; a cost that is too dear for many to even consider: the sacrifice of self. No earthly building project of immense and far-reaching proportion ever gets off the ground without builders who can stay motivated, follow a plan, and count the cost. But, since great achievement requires great sacrifice, many are content to never lift a finger to build anything, great or small. While it is true that subscribing to this strategy requires very little: no plan, no preparation, and no sacrifice; we should also consider that, at the same time, it holds no rewards for a job well done.
Now, hopefully my Christmas light display this year will somehow find a way to work despite my pitiful efforts and poor planning. That would be great. But we should all remember that taking such chances with the important things we construct in this life—the most important being our right relationship with God—is a strategy that will always fail. Don’t leave matters like this to chance; don’t just “hope” things will work out; don’t look for “luck” to save you, because it won’t.
If you haven’t already, start building a Christian today, because a lot of the work has been done for us: we already have the plan laid out for us by the Master Builder; and we already have the cost counted for us (no troublesome mathematical calculations necessary). All we need to do is decide to build. Then do it.
“For we are His [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
— Paul Seely, December 2, 2012