The Secret Ingredient of Powerful Living
by ERIC LUDY
Leslie loves to serve our family morning smoothies. She creatively hides all sorts of nutritious goodies inside these power shakes because she knows that I wouldn’t willingly eat kale, fish oil, and spirulina powder any other way.
I must admit, the invention of the smoothie was brilliant. As I imbibe this creative concoction, I am convinced I’m drinking a thick and tasty chocolate smoothie, when the whole while I’m actually guzzling a kale-infested, fish-oil-filled, green-algae-laden, health-food extravaganza.
When our kids were quite young, I remember one particular morning something went wrong with our daily smoothie routine. Leslie accidentally forgot to stick the sweetener into the family batch. All of us sipping at the strange-tasting concoction noticed this terrible oversight, but we Ludys had been trained to eat our food with a smile and sip our drinks with a thankful heart. But this was almost too much for all of us missionaries in training.
The first one to make mention of this desperate problem was a six-year-old Ludy kiddo. Daddy wasn’t about to say anything. I was dutifully drinking away. But the bitter taste of kale was nearly overwhelming my taste buds, and I was attempting to conquer this massive glass with small, courageous slurps. So, even though I did not want to propagate food complaints inside the Ludy household, I silently muttered an amen when the little one belted out, “Momma, this tastes weird!”
It sure did!
The first person Momma looked at was me. She was wanting to know if this was a discipline-worthy situation. Suddenly I found myself in an awkward situation. Do I agree and support this little munchkin in their dangerous discontent, or do I stand up for the kale-infested smoothie and defend it by saying something like, “Naw, this tastes great! Drink up guys!”?
I decided on secret option number three, which was to whisper in Momma’s ear, “I think you forgot the sweetener.”
She gasped and then declared, “Okay, kiddos, hand me your glasses. Momma needs to re-blend!”
For me, modern Christianity is sort of like that particular smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have the smoothie. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the kale, the genuine ability of the fish oil to supply me with unsaturated fats, nor do I desire the spirulina powder’s protein punch to be called into question. But I would say the whole thing is tasting a bit off. You see, it’s missing something. It’s missing the ingredient that sets off the imagination of the Church, amplifies the faith of the twice-born, and triggers the self-abandon and the cross-carrying grit of the saints.
Most of us are staring about the table taking small slurps of this bitter stuff wondering if anyone is going to say something about the awful kale taste in the Church today. We wonder if we are the only ones who think something is off. After a while, we begin to doubt our taste buds. Especially when every sermon we hear and every Christian book we read says, “This tastes great! Drink up guys!”
But something is missing. Something just isn’t right.
There is a bin in the Gospel pantry that for some reason has been overlooked. And when this spiritual stevia is forgotten, the whole smoothie just doesn’t taste right.
So what’s in that bin, you ask?
I call it Gospel Grit. It’s spiritual fervor, soul pluck, and bravehearted faith. Simply put, it’s epic expectations — the stirring movie score that was intended to play in the background of every Christian’s daily life that swells to match the life challenges and the varied intensities of our obedient steps of faith.
Every Christian life was intended to access this bin in the Gospel pantry. And every twice-born saint was meant to be taught how to take an enormous scoopful of this stuff and stick it into their daily dose of kale-infested difficulty.
When a Christian sips at their stevia-depleted smoothie, obedience immediately morphs into a chore rather than a privilege. But when God hands you a smoothie with all the ingredients in balance, the whole drinking experience is transformed. The glass is grabbed without hesitation and the slurping begins, motivated by desire rather than dour-faced duty. Ironically, the kale (difficulties), the fish oil (tribulations), and the green algae (testings of faith) are still present, but they no longer are the focal point of your spiritual taste buds.
Somewhere along the way, this precious bin of sweetener went missing from most Church pantries. And along with it went the beauty, majesty, and power of the Christian walk. That which made Christianity livable was suddenly gone. The heavenly luster of vision and the vivid shimmer of the gold-plated throne room of grace was strangely absent. Bold truth became extinct in the Church. Nobility and honor became distant concepts. Purity and holiness became legalistic notions. Love and affection became sensual. And absolute abandon to the Lamb that was slain became zealous radicalism.
I realize it creates an awkward moment for all of us in the Church to bring up the missing sweetener, for the rules at the modern Church breakfast table are clear.
Rule #23: No one is allowed to complain about the smoothie. Just somehow get it down. Sure, we all know that it has the distinct and bitter taste of kale, but keep your chin up, compliment the chef, and slurp it anyway.
But if there was ever a time to violate the long-held rule of social silence and speak up, it would be now. Where’s the six year old at the table who is willing to cry out, “Hey, people! We are missing the majesty in this recipe!”
Jesus came to this earth, not just to rescue a bride from her eternal punishment for sin, but to liberate her from living under the thumb of sin. He came to fashion a bride who would display a bold and beautiful picture of His majesty and glory. He came to build a Church that would turn the world on its head — that loved like He loved, lived like He lived, and died with the same passion, power, and sense of purpose.
But none of this is possible without unearthing the missing bin from the pantry. There have been many names for this special ingredient over the centuries of Church history, but Gospel power is probably the most simple and easy to understand. Grace is the term often utilized throughout the New Testament. Long and short, it’s the additive of God’s empowering presence that makes the rigors of Christianity so delightfully drinkable.
With this punchy ingredient mixed into the Christian life, prison cells are turned into song recording studios, chains are turned into worship instruments, beatings are turned into badges, and tribulations are turned into trophies. Somehow this amazing ingredient of God’s grace completely alters the entire taste of the Christian life, shockingly transforming false accusations into opportunities to leap for joy and crucifixion on a cross into a great work of salvation.
It makes me want to cry out in prayer, “Oh, God, please dump the sweetener into our Christian living! Transform our ashes into breathtaking beauty, our bitter kale into a delicious chocolaty flavor.”
Many modern Christians feel guilty saying that something is missing from the current mixture of Church and Christian living. The breakfast table rule is clear to everyone. They feel that it is unkind, judgmental, or unloving to suggest that the smoothie isn’t perfect “as is” without mixing in God’s empowering presence. They say things like:
“This smoothie is super tasty!” Or, “Wow! That’s one great-tasting smoothie!”
Meanwhile, nearly everyone that can still be considered a child at heart in the faith is struggling to get this stuff down. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the health benefits of the current concoction, it’s that we know that the smoothie was meant to be so much more.
I appreciate the good manners that you have shown in not complaining about the distinct taste of kale in the morning smoothie. But I also wish you to know that the distinctively bitter taste you have experienced is not what your spiritual taste buds should expect.
If you really want to experience what a chocolate smoothie is supposed to taste like, then let’s add the spiritual sweetener. Christianity is desperate for the return of the majestic air, the regal brow, and the noble countenance of triumph to the smoothie blender.
If you have felt a longing in your heart for more in the Christian life — epic expectation, heavenly tenacity, and majestic living — you can know that this is a longing placed in your heart by God Himself. For when we dig deep into the bin of Gospel power and begin stirring this powerful stuff into our daily devotional shake … watch out world!