The Basics

Every discipline has a set of rituals or actions that are the building blocks of everything else done in that particular discipline. In music, it’s the scales. In cooking, it’s dicing garlic and onions. In football, it’s blocking and tackling. On and on the list goes, and you get the point. In every discipline, there are a series of basic actions you have to master in order to get better at your desired task. Until you master these basics, you’re stuck and you won’t be able to develop in your chosen field.

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Walking with Christ is the same way. There are some fundamentals—some basics—that we have to master if we ever want to grow fully into the person we’re created and called to be. In 1 Kings 19, God gives the prophet Elijah some very good gifts. It comes at a particularly difficult time in Elijah’s life. Jezebel is looking for him and has promised to kill him when she finds him. He’s tired. He’s depressed. When God comes to him, God gives to Elijah the simple gifts that should be part of all of our lives.

First, God lets Elijah sleep. Most of us live sleep deprived lives. We don’t get enough rest and because of that, we’re irritable, sloppy in our work, and generally inattentive to our lives. Lack of sleep leads to all kinds of physical problems and depriving someone of sleep is considered a form of torture. So, here’s the first basic: Keep Sabbath. That means finding one day a week where you disconnect from the world and reconnect with God and the people that you love (like your spouse and your children). Our world keeps us constantly frazzled and frantic. There’s literally no time to think. No one makes good decisions under these conditions. No one likes living like this. So, unplug. Rest. Worship. Literally, this is God’s will for you. Keep Sabbath.

Second, God gave Elijah fresh bread and water. For Christ-followers, Christ Himself is the water and bread of life. For us, prayer and Bible study are as important as breathing and eating. We can’t know Jesus as deeply as we want to without a disciplined life of prayer and study. This means finding a time of day where you step away from the world and into the presence of our Savior. The radical teaching of Christianity is that our Rabbi is alive. Our Teacher is still working with His students. Nothing excites a teacher more than an eager student. Pray. Read the Bible. They’re the basics everything else is built on.

Lastly, if you keep reading, you’ll see where God gave Elijah a friend. He called Elisha to serve along with Elijah. The last basic you have to keep? Finding true spiritual friends. In American Christianity, we have this myth of the Marlboro Man Christian. You know, a person who lives his or her life in solitude—as one against the world. I don’t know who started this myth, but it’s simply not true. Following Christ is too hard to do by yourself. You need friends. Remember, it was always Paul and Silas (or Barnabas). It was Peter and John. Pray Jesus will bring into your life true friends who will encourage you and hold you accountable to your best self. It’s a basic. You can’t do more until you first do this.

And no, you never outgrow these fundamentals. They never change or lose their importance. There’s a reason we talk about our faith in terms of a journey. We never get there. We’re always on the way—one step after another. It is, after all, pretty basic.

Staying Free

British general Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown in 1781. With that victory, Washington secured the freedom of the colonies from British rule. Yorktown was the end of the war for liberty.

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But it wasn’t the end of the battles. The Constitution wasn’t finished until 1787, and it wasn’t finally ratified until 1788. If you are familiar with the history of our nation during these half dozen years, you will remember how close we came to not being a nation at all. Why is that? The hard part—the war—was over.

Not so fast. While the fight for independence was indeed bloody and violent, the fight to stay free was just beginning. Here’s the hard truth: staying free is harder than getting free. On more than one occasion, our nation has had to fight to protect the liberties so preciously won by those who fought the British in the Revolutionary War. The War of 1812, the Civil War, World War 1 and World War 2, Korea, and many others were fought to protect the freedoms we hold so dear. The price of liberty is indeed eternal vigilance.

And what is true of our nation is also true for us as individuals. In the freedom Christ has given us, we must be on constant alert not to trade the liberty He gave to us for the false gods of safety and security. We are always tempted to trust something else or someone else to take care of us “no matter what.” The only price required is our allegiance and with that, we end up enslaved to a lie that sucks the life out of us.

Paul told the Galatians Christ had made them free and they were not to submit to the yoke of slavery again. It’s a good reminder during this week we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day.