A Long Journey in the Same Direction
Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2016 Aug 08
A spiritual life is a long journey in the same direction. It begins with a single step, but it only progresses as additional steps are taken. And those who go the furthest are those who are most committed.
One of the top stories for the end of the nineties was Michael Jordan’s retirement from professional basketball. I once heard someone talk about going to the United Center in Chicago to watch Jordan and the Bulls play a basketball game. He got there pretty early and when he arrived, he saw something pretty interesting.
Forty-five minutes before the team practice and shoot-around, Michael Jordan – arguably the greatest basketball player that has ever played the game – was practicing.
All alone on the court, Jordan was working on something that he thought needed work. Nobody made him do that. Just Jordan. And that’s why he’s made such an impact. Because if you know anything about Jordan’s career, you know that he didn’t start off as a successful player. In fact, he was cut from his high-school basketball team.
What made the difference in Jordan’s life?
Only within the context of a committed relationship does Jesus promise to reveal Himself to us and show us the innermost secret of who He is. We want that intimate disclosure without being serious about the relationship.
But Jesus is not indiscriminately intimate.
So what will you choose for your life?
You know what God is asking you to do, you know how God is asking you to live, you know what this is about, and you know what it will take. What’s your decision going to be?
Are you going to be quick to say, “Sign me up” but then ignore the cost? Will you just pay lip service to the whole deal and then bail at the first sign of sacrifice? Are you going to say, “Maybe later” and then walk away, thinking that there will be some time in the future when it’s convenient for you to work God into your life? Are you going to say, “Yes, but…” and then fill in the blank with whatever it is you don’t want to change, give up, do, or become?
Or are you going to follow Him?
Make no mistake: Only one of those responses will give you the life you really want to live. Because your spiritual life is not just another aspect of your existence, nicely situated alongside your financial life or vocational life. A spiritual life is simply another way of talking about life itself – every moment and every facet of it – from God’s perspective.
Years ago, I spent a week in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio is rich in American history, holding what is perhaps the most famous battleground in the West: the Alamo.
The Alamo was a Spanish mission. After Mexico won her independence from Spain, Texans wanted to be liberated from Mexico and join the United States. When they declared their independence, the Alamo went from a mission to a fortress, and Texans took their stand within her walls.
The Mexican dictator, Santa Anna, marched toward the Alamo to crush the rebellion. Only 188 men were inside, but they included such legendary figures as Davy Crockett and Sam Bowie.
Those men held off nearly four thousand Mexican troops for almost two weeks.
When you visit the Alamo, you can still see the holes made by bullets and cannon blasts. All 188 men were inevitably killed, but their resistance gave Texas time to assemble an army that would eventually defeat Mexico and give Texas her independence.
The battle cry during the war was, “Remember the Alamo!”
But there is a side to the story that many don’t know.
The men of the Alamo knew they were fighting against the odds. Their leader, Colonel William Barret Travis, gathered them together and told them they had a choice. They could leave the fort while there was still time, or they could stay and meet certain death.
Then Travis unsheathed his sword, drew a line on the ground, and said these words, “Those prepared to give their lives in freedom’s cause, come over to me.”
Without hesitation, every man except one – which is how we know the story – crossed the line.
Colonel James Bowie, inventor of the Bowie knife, was ill with typhoid pneumonia and couldn’t walk across the line, but he asked that his bed be carried over.
For every one of us, there is a line drawn in the sand – the line of commitment.
You can grow in your relationship with Christ, achieving increasing levels of intimacy with Him. You can experience life change, becoming a walking reflection of how God can impact the character and habits, lifestyle, and attitudes of a human being.
You can make a difference with your life by giving your resources and putting your spiritual gifts into play. You can have the life you’ve always wanted – but not without the final ingredient: commitment.
You have to cross the line.
Purpose it in your heart.
Seal it with a vow.
Decide to follow Jesus – no turning back.
And when you do, you will experience the greatest journey available to the human soul: the spiritual life.
James Emery White
Adapted from James Emery White, You Can Experience a Spiritual Life (Word Publishing). Available on Amazon.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.