Summary: What does it mean to be a high maintenance Christian?
Iliff & Saltillo UM Churches
September 12, 2004
“Are You A High Maintenance Christian?”
INTRODUCTION: In a small town there was an old doctor who, when he wasn’t saving lives, was planting trees. Doc Gibbs didn’t look like any other doctor. Most of the time he wore overalls and a straw hat with a front brim of green sunglass plastic. He had a smile that matched his hat--old and crinkly and well worn. He never yelled at the neighbor kids for playing in his yard. Actually he was a much nicer person than circumstances warranted.
His house sat on ten acres and his life goal was to make it a forest. He had some unusual theories concerning planting trees and caring for them. One was that he never watered them. He said that watering them “spoiled them” and that if you water them, each successive generation will grow weaker and weaker. So you have to make things rough for them. He talked about how watering trees made for shallow roots. He contended that trees that weren’t watered HAD to grow deep roots in search of moisture.
He would plant an oak; and instead of watering it every morning, he’d beat it with a rolled up newspaper. Said it was to get the tree’s attention.
Did his theory work? It must have because trees that were planted twenty five years ago are standing granite strong, big and robust. Adversity and deprivation seemed to benefit them in ways that comfort and ease never could.
On the other hand his neighbor planted a couple of trees in the front yard and carried water to them every night for a solid summer--sprayed them and prayed over them--the whole nine yards. Now two years of coddling has resulted in trees that expect to be waited on hand and foot. Whenever a cold wind blows in, they tremble and chatter their branches. They have become high maintenance trees.
What does this have to do with Christians? Are you a high maintenance Christian?
High Maintenance Christians refer to people who need a lot of attention in order to keep going and remain faithful. They require constant encouragement and constant support from others all the time in order to survive. They are up one day and down the next. Some Christians never seem to progress from BEING SUPPORTED to supporting themselves. Unless constantly being nurtured, they fall by the wayside or become very lukewarm in their Christianity. They become weak and shallow because their spiritual roots are very shallow.
Today’s scripture talks about high maintenance both when it is NECESSARY and when it becomes DETRIMENTAL. Let’s see how we can apply these truths to our individual lives.
1. The Two Sides of High Maintenance: Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” The Message Bible says, “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. However, a few verses later in verse 5 it says, “for each one should carry his own load.” Is this a contradiction? How should we look at the idea of HIGH maintenance versus LOW maintenance in our Christian life?
There are times when high maintenance is necessary. For example, when people first come to Christ, they need the support and help from others to get them established and grounded. Look back to the time you were a brand new Christian. You may not have known much about the Bible, or how to pray about things. People helped you in your learning and growing process. Other times when you were going through a spiritual crisis someone was there to pray with you and help to encourage you. We have all been in situations where we need the support and prayers of other people. Often it is necessary to meet with new Christians on a regular basis to study the Bible and pray together. Hour of attention and care are often needed.
The other side of high maintenance is where we have a responsibility to become strong Christians. Romans 14:12 says, “we will be held accountable for our own actions.” Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” The subject of that sentence is YOU. YOU strengthen. YOU make level paths. It is our responsibility to pick ourselves up when we get discouraged--to let our spiritual roots SEARCH OUT the refreshing water of the Word that our roots go down deep--that we will become strong like Old Doc Gibbs’ trees. This doesn’t happen when we remain dependent on other people, waiting for their constant encouragement and nurture.
Hebrews 6:1 tells us to “...go on to maturity...” While high maintenance is crucial to the survival of brand new Christians, or necessary in crisis situations, we don’t stay at this point. We are to “go on to maturity.” We should reach a point where we are not always looking for someone to support us but that we are able to support others who are in need of it. When our spiritual roots begin to grow deep, we gain strength from God. Paul gave a good example of the strength that comes from God when he said, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and of all comfort, who COMFORTS US in all our troubles so that we can COMFORT THOSE in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God” (II Cor. 1:3-4).