Today's lesson comes from the pen of Gerald Cowan, a faithful brother and proclaimer of the gospel of Christ. Though written for the congregation which he serves locally, his article deals with a serious problem that affects a number of Christians in almost every congregation. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (cf. Matt. 13:9). The article is copied below almost verbatim, with some emphasis added.
Something must be wrong--terribly wrong, perhaps fatally wrong when we cannot have all the members of the church in attendance at all assemblies, including Bible study classes. Just look around and you will see very quickly how erratic and sporadic the attendance is at this place. Something must surely be wrong with members who neglect or refuse to regularly attend at scheduled services of the church.
- If one is too sick to attend, something is wrong with his health. He should consult a doctor to get proper treatment. He should also contact the church so that others will know how to pray for him.
- If one is too busy to attend, something is wrong with his schedule. A person whose business keeps him from serving the Lord may have too much or the wrong kind of business.
- If other matters are more important to one than his service to God, something is wrong with his priorities. Excuses which put honorable necessity upon work, family, and so on are too often just a crutch which attempts to justify putting God in second place (cf. Matt. 6:33).
- If one sleeps late and "just can't seem to get up the energy" that church activities require, something is wrong with his initiative. He may be just plain lazy, and ought to study carefully Proverbs 6:6-11.
- If one allows friends, visiting family or other visitors, unbelievers, or hypocrites to keep him away, something is wrong with his courage. He should be brave enough to serve the Lord properly even when it may offend others or hurt their feelings.
- If his clothes aren't good enough, something is wrong with his pride. People who use this excuse usually go anywhere else they want to--school, work, restaurants, theaters--in the clothes they have, and do not seem to feel out of place.
- If one has no interest in church services, something is wrong with his attitude. Indifference is inexcusable.
- If one thinks he does not need or benefit from Bible study and worship with other Christians, something is wrong with his education. He hasn't yet learned what he really needs, what is really good for him.
- If one thinks happiness and satisfaction in this world are more important than eternity and he spends his time and energies enjoying the present and ignoring the future, something is wrong with his values. Who could be considered wise if he traded away something eternal for something he knew would soon be worn out and useless?
- If one thinks God doesn't care whether or not he is faithful in attendance and participation in Bible study and worship activities of the church, something is wrong with his concept of God, and more than that, something is wrong with his respect for the word of God. Please read Hebrews 10:23-31. Study that whole passage carefully in its own context. The first three verses read - "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
Suppose the Lord used the same excuses you use to justify failure to be with you, to bless you, to listen to your prayers--or even your cries for help.
If I have made you angry with these comments and you decide to punish me--not to say punish the Lord or the church, but punish me--it may only be evidence that something really is wrong with you and I have touched the nerve that exposes the problem. If what I have said is valid, something is wrong between you and the Lord, not between you and me. Take up the problem with the Lord, not with me.