Today, I want to talk about something that every one of us hated when we were a kid, but that worked to build the success of our future. I want to remind you of that which you were tortured by for 12 years or more, but that which developed character and perseverance. I'm writing about something many of us still struggle with daily, but through which we might gain a better stronghold on that which will save us. Peaked your interest?
As a naive and sometimes lazy public school student, I dreaded the phrase at the end of every period, "The homework for today is…" Whatever followed that introduction could not be good. It would mean time and energy. It would mean a sacrifice of something else. It would mean that school didn't end with the three o'clock dismissal bell.
Now, as a public school teacher, the perspective from the other side of the desk is much clearer regarding the reason and purpose for homework. As adults removed from our educational studies, we can see that picture clearer too, if we can only admit it. Homework reinforces lessons learned in the classroom. Homework exercises build foundations of familiarity, on which we construct more difficult and complex concepts.
All right, maybe I haven't yet exorcised the homework demons that plagued you as a junior higher, all too anxious to shoot hoops with your friends in the backyard. In putting it off, you reasoned that it wouldn't count all that much in your final grade, you probably wouldn't be alone in your procrastination, and the teacher had too many other students to deal with to worry too much about your apathy. But what if the principal came down during English grammar class and gave you a personal assignment? Do you sit up in your chair a little straighter? Would you listen closer, pencil in hand? Would that homework be a priority?
What if the Creator of the world gave you an assignment? What if the Master of life and light, suggested a little extra reading? How many of us would refuse? How many of us would procrastinate, thinking the teacher wouldn't mind?
Well, He did, and you do, and you'd better get cracking, because it is a significant part of your life in Christ. The Scriptures are littered with not-so-veiled assignments for everyone who accepts the name of Christ, not the least of these is to go into all the world and preach the Good News.
Now, why do I say all this? Well, I've sat in small groups and led small groups for a good part of my adult life. My father was and is still a preacher and now, I help lead a new congregation. My experience, and scripture confirms it, is that when we emphasize the church events only (including hour and half small group meetings) and not what happens outside the church events (homework), we miss the point of our life in Christ.
Homework creates a readiness to respond, a poise in participation, and a eagerness to enjoy. That said, "The homework for the day (actually for a lifetime) is…":
- Do a little extra reading. Re-read your favorite Gospel, because there's no better example of what, how and who we should be than Christ himself. He is known, even by non-Christian and non-religious people, as the greatest teacher of all time. So it certainly couldn't hurt to take some more instruction from the Master. Dig into a few of Paul's letters. Surely, they are packed with sound advice and sage criticisms that would help us maintain the course. Marvel again at the beginning of the world in Genesis; take a tour of some of God's miracles and promises; re-familiarize yourself with the passion of the prophets. Maybe even take another crack at the revelation of His end times, so that we might better be ready.
- Building off of that one, we all probably need to do some research. Buy a current concordance, which better explains some complex truths of Scriptures. Interview some older, wiser people in your church and small group. Visit the Holy Land. Learn the history. Surf the web for books. In short, root yourself in the truths of God. A plant is only as healthy as its core, its structure.
- Write out your own testimony, not necessarily to be shared word-for-word in a later encounter, but rather to clarify in your mind that which has been true of God's influence on your life, in order to better lead a friend to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It seems odd that anyone would voluntarily write out what they already know, but again, homework establishes foundational truths, upon which bigger and better things might be built.
- Find an off-campus study group. Small group time is great, but find a homework group too, even of one other person. You'll find in that intimacy an accountability to work harder on Jesus' lessons.
Truth be told, homework sometimes means more than in-class lessons. The words of the Teacher need to echo in your everyday life.