Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it. Proverbs 16:22
We're in the 28th chapter of Meeting God in Quiet Places: the Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith, and the question we want to considerer is: What activates the transition between reading or hearing the gospel and actually becoming a person of faith?
What does that have to do with cricket? Cricket has rules that are so difficult for us to understand that we simply don't enjoy the game. For most Americans, the rules and even the actual playing of the game--where the same player may be at bat for hours and the game may go on for days--leave our emotions cold. But that isn't the way cricket fans see the game. As one lifelong cricket fan said, "Cricket is a contemplative game which has inspired poetry, art, and music." That was an eye-opening statement for LaGard, who realized that there must be more to the game than simply understanding the rules. Surely there is something about thespirit of the game that is very special.
The word that strikes a cord between Christianity and cricket is contemplative. In fact, LaGard says that this may be the key to the mysterious process of transforming someone who has biblical knowledge into a person with genuine, enthusiastic faith! In other words, we don't want to simply know about God technically, we want to know God personally. LaGard says: "There is so much more to appreciate about our faith, so much more tofeel and to be! What is it that instills the passion? What is it about Christian faith that becomesobsessive? What is it that would cause a person tolivefor its teaching anddie for its truths?" Can you believe that it's the working of the Holy Spirit?
No, the Holy Spirit isn't a magic wand to be waved, so that we suddenly burst into a fiery faith. Nor does the Holy Spirit overwhelm us and turn us into miracle workers. And being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn't help us find an open parking space or "hit for six" in a game of cricket! So what does the Holy Spirit do to make God come alive in our hearts? LaGard explains: "He awakens us! He stirs us! He enlightens us! If faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, it is the Holy Spirit who makes sure we actually hear the truths that transform."
But reading or hearing the Word of God is only the first step in our learning process. It's the Holy Spirit's role to say: "Wake up and catch what God is saying to you through His Word!" He awakens us andstirs us to seek God with intensity. And because knowledge alone isn't enough, the Holy Spirit enlightens us like a good teacher. As a law professor, LaGard says he aspired to be the good teacher that Jesus spoke of when He said, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." And that is exactly what the Holy Spirit does.
Most of us have re-read a familiar scripture which we've studied many times before, but this particular time a new understanding was gained--a light was switched on in our mind. Could it be that the Holy Spirit actively reached out to make sure we got the intended message--perhaps for a particular need? The Holy Spirit could well have blessed us with enlightened eyes. Not a new revelation, but an understanding of "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of openness to receive and understand God's revelation for our own individual lives.
This kind of enlightenment makes God real to us; His love is no longer an abstract concept, but gives us motivation to serve others, to sacrifice for others, and to live a morally pure life, just as Christ did. When we're enlightened through the Word, our passion is kindled and transforms us. And at this point, having God in our lives begins to make a difference.
Being enlightened means that we no longer just follow the rules as in a cricket match. Our victory is not simply in a game, but is victory over sin, over insurmountable circumstance, even over death! But our most important victory is over disbelief. When we ask God to help our unbelief, God transforms us from spectators into participants. How it happens exactly remains a mystery. But for people watching our lives, let us hope that the Holy Spirit can use our transformed lives as a means of illuminating them as well.
This lesson will not only give you something to think about for the moment, but will remind us all that contemplating spiritual truths is the most important thing we can do to make the world a better place for ourselves and others.