I participated in triathlons when the sport was in its infancy in the U.S. and Canada. At that time a typical cycling leg would find athletes riding on all sorts of bikes including: classic 10-speeds, early versions of mountain bikes, but also some impressive racing bikes. The top triathletes at the time had early carbon-fibre framed racing bikes with aero handle bars, disc wheels and even specialized cycling outfits. Typically, you could watch a competitor loading their bike and equipment into the biking transition area and have a reasonable idea of their competitiveness.
However, I recall one race where a competitor came with the most incredible equipment I had ever seen. Not only was his bike the best you could buy, but he also had an aerodynamic helmet and a body hugging cycling outfit (this was back when you actually changed clothes in the triathlon transition areas). I thought that, at a minimum, this guy was going to smoke the cycling course. I was rather shocked therefore to see this guy during the race after a turnaround, near the back of the pack, riding upright on his bike (rather than down in an aerodynamic position) and clearly having no idea of how to use the incredible equipment he owned. It was obvious that this individual hadn’t put in the thousands of hours necessary to effectively make use of the incredible equipment at his disposal.
That cyclist reminds me of how we as Christians can be. When we go to church, listen to Christian music, read our Bible, take in devotionals, yet we don’t change and we don’t put into practise what we read or heard, then we are like the athlete with all the greatest equipment, yet not using it. Like this cyclist, we actually look quite foolish. What is the point of spending the majority of the week in “Christian activities” if you aren’t going to put into practise what you learn?
I recall listening to a pastor from Africa who was speaking to a group of us gathered at a North American church. He said that so many Christians on his continent long to have just one Bible or just one of the hundreds of Christian books so many of us possess. Yet we have all this at our disposal, but he asked if these resources are changing us? We can turn on Christian radio and listen to 5 successive sermons by world-renowned preachers, yet not be changed. He suggested we’d be better off listening to one sermon, take one point out of that sermon that God brings to our attention, and endeavour to change that one thing.
How about you? When is the last time you acted on what you read in the Bible or what you heard in a sermon? There is no value in your hearing these messages if you don’t act. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22). This scripture reminds us that just hearing the word of God is of little benefit. We deceive ourselves into thinking that these activities are what it is all about – an end in itself. I challenge you to pray the next time you read a devotional, your Bible, or the next time you take in a sermon, to ask God to highlight an area in your life that needs changing, or an area where you need to act on behalf of God. Become a doer of the word, not merely a hearer.