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And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

-Hebrews 10:24-25

I’ve been in dozens of gyms since the 1980s. Regardless of where you go, every January there’s a HUGE influx of the “resolution crowd.” It’s tough to find a parking space. The front desk is jammed up with people trying to negotiate monthly dues, initiation fees, etc. Newbs, with no clue or care about gym etiquette, often camp out on equipment as they perform bicep curls on a leg machine or attempt leg extensions on the bicep machine. They often leave their DNA on - and their sweat dripping off - stuff. They tend to leave plates and dumbbells wherever as if mommy were going to come and clean up after them here too.

Meanwhile, the “gym rats,” with decades of hard historical evidence, know all of this will only last a few weeks. The "cockroaches" are certain that come February, everything will be back to normal as reality hits the flighty “resolution crowd.” The shiny appeal of new machines and chrome weights will have worn off. Soreness will have set in. The minty mouthwash, granite countertops, big TVs, and new treadmills won't be enough to pry them 'em outta bed anymore. Once they realize actual discipline is required, that there’s no quick fix to poor life choices, and that actual hard work, persistence, perseverance, and dedication are involved... the majority will simply fall right back to their old ways.

Similarly, lots of churches today tend to focus on, and primarily celebrate, the “big” Sundays. You know, the “special” Sundays when the crowd swells at Christmas and Easter, when there’s a famous guest artist, band, or speaker, or when they’re breaking ground on a new building.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas and Easter. Heavens no! God can absolutely use those “big” days to glorify Himself and accomplish His sovereign will. Hey, He’s God. He certainly can, certainly does, and certainly will do whatever, whenever, and however He chooses. But as Oswald Chambers once said, “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound.” My point is that in overemphasizing the “big” days, we actually desensitize people to the glorious and transformative power of the grind.

The joy of the shallow, mundane, and ordinary grind is a thing many churches overlook. In marketing and focusing on the value and significance of the “big” days, many have forgotten how to celebrate the glorious joy and transformative grind of just plain ol’ Sundays week in and week out. The God we sing to and serve, the One True God of eternal Holy Trinity, isn’t any more impressed with our “big” productions and record-breaking attendance than those cold and rainy Sundays when just a handful of the faithful show up to worship in the glorious grind. Like the Pharisees, many churches today are overly impressed with themselves and don't really care anymore about what impresses or glorifies God, i.e. The Grinders.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenged hundreds of prophets of Baal to a contest. They got raucous and rowdy from early morning until Noon, then Scripture tells us, Elijah began to taunt them, saying, “Shout louder, for he (Baal) is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or occupied, or on a journey. Perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened!” So they shouted louder and cut themselves with knives and lances, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them. Midday passed, and they kept on raving until the time of the evening sacrifice. But there was no response; no one answered, no one paid attention.

Those false prophets of a false god were at it relentlessly for approximately twelve hours straight! Then it was Elijah’s turn. We continue reading in 1 Kings 18, At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached the altar and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command. Answer me, O LORD! Answer me, so that this people will know that You, the LORD, are God, and that You have turned their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell facedown and said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!”

The prophets of Baal put on a HUGE production for twelve hours straight - dancing, chanting, cutting, bleeding, screaming, flopping, and flailing… all to no avail. Then, Elijah simply lifted up a simple one-sentence prayer to God.

After such a crushing victory, one might think that nothing could possibly shake Elijah’s faith. But in the very next chapter, we read otherwise. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “May the gods deal with me, and ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like the lives of those you killed!” And Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.

Even after being much more than a witness, but a conduit of God’s miraculous power, Elijah took his eyes off the prize and got to thinking about his personal safety and circumstances. That's precisely when he began feeling fearful and sorry for himself. He got to thinking he was literally the last man standing while EVERYONE else had abandoned the LORD God Almighty. So Elijah said to God, “I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well.” Then the LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD. Behold, the LORD is about to pass by.”

Next, we read in 1 Kings 19, And a great and mighty wind tore into the mountains and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still, small voice. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Just like the prophets of Baal, there are lots of “big” production Christians who can get pretty rowdy for a few hours a couple of times a year. But what about the following Sunday… and the next one… and the next one... and the next one? What about the Sundays when there are no pony rides, no giveaways, no dunking booth, no free snow cones or popcorn, no fog machines, no famous band, artist, or speaker, no mighty wind, no earthquake, and no fire? What about when there’s nothing in it for us and no reason to gather other than simply to celebrate, praise, and worship our resurrected King… no reason other than because Jesus desires it for us and from us?

We can choose to be like the New Year’s “resolution” crowd who flock to gyms every January but are gone come February. We can choose to be “big” production Sunday Christians when there’s something in it for us, or we can choose to be devoted, faithful grinders who show up week in and week out simply to serve, give thanks, and worship in spirit and truth.

Contemporary culture says, “It's better to burn out than fade away.” The prophets of Baal got pretty raucous and rowdy for a time. Elijah trumped all that nonsense with a one-sentence prayer in steadfast faith. Our God demonstrated He isn’t the God of the torrential winds, the thundering earthquakes, or the raging fires. He’s revealed Himself as the God of the zephyr, the still, small, quiet voice.

He revealed Himself not as a crushing, violent, and overpowering military commander, but as a suffering servant. He’s revealed that we need to lean in and be intentional about hearing Him in the painfully mundane, shallow, and everyday moments of life. Those are the very times and moments when He transforms the world one faithful, obedient, devoted, and abandoned grinder at a time.

What about you? Are you a special day, big production, "What's in it for me?" Christian, or are you one of The Grinders?

Grace and Peace,

-Kevin M. Kelley

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