It was unusual for foot soldiers to play a major role in the Middle Ages. Harold II of England’s 7000 infantrymen were an exception. He marched them from London to York, about 216 miles, in a week. The rate of the march was 30 miles per day for an entire week! “A sustained rate of thirty miles per day for seven days was in most circumstances unheard of. A sustained twenty miles per day would have been considered extraordinary.” The army moved faster than news of its approach. This helped turn the Battle of Stamford Bride in 1066, known as “Harold’s Lightning March” (Hackett, Jeremiah. World Eras, Vol. 4: Medieval Europe, 814-1350, p. 128). What seems lost to history is how Harold motivated such rapid movement. To build such resolve and determination in so many people, in unified purpose, must speak to Harold’s leadership ability.
All of us are marching with rapid pace toward the end of life and eternity. Hasn’t it been going by so quickly? It truly is a “lightning march.” At the end of the march, will we have won the battle? The church of every generation, and not just individuals, are making this march. What impression are we leaving on the world around us, what battles of significance will have been won? Think of the first-century church. They “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). They “preached to every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23). They permeated their immediate communities, surrounding communities, and the remotest communities (cf. Acts 1:8-11). Think of those brave, sacrificial Christians during the 19th Century who rallied together around the principle of restoring New Testament Christianity. With a great reverence for the pattern of Scripture, they sought to imitate the faith and practice of that first-century church. In their wake was growth and influence.
In both cases, profound as their influence was, they rapidly left the scenes of time. Their influence remained, but succeeding generations of the Lord’s Army—for whatever reasons—slowed their pace considerably. We may glorify the church of the 1950s, at one time known as the fastest growing religious group in our country. But most of them have gone and those who remain have grown slower in their pace. What about the church of the early 21st Century? How will we be remembered? Never forget that, in part, this is influenced by what you and I are doing as soldiers under the Lord’s direction. We could not want for better guidance and a better Commander. We should have ample motivation. It is high time we pick up the pace! Victory awaits (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
- I attend because I want to honor God in the special way that occurs when the church assembles to worship Him
- I attend because I want to encourage others and be with them every opportunity I can
- I attend because I find the acts of worship so meaningful
- I attend because there’s so much of the Bible I have yet to master, and I want to hear what the teacher and the other students may have to say about it
- I attend because what I do know and have learned I feel compelled to share when given the opportunity occasioned by the assemblies
- I attend because I often meet those searching for truth, those new to the area, and those brothers and sisters visiting from out of town during those times
- I attend because I think it sets a good example for my family, friends, and neighbors
- I attend because the very exercise of what’s done in assembling, if my heart is engaged, helps me grow in my Christian walk and strengthens me for the week ahead.
- I attend because I want to rise above the bare minimum expectations
Certainly there are many more and probably better answers regarding the motivation for attending every time the local saints are assembled. But these are enough to move me, when I am able, to join my spiritual family in both study and worship. I try to prioritize the assemblies above the unnecessary things and the things that will not endure beyond this life. The same reasons will draw me to come when we have seminars, gospel meetings, Vacation Bible School, lectureships, and the like. When I can attend, I want to attend and will attend! I’m thankful that so many others must feel the same way. There’s always room for more!
We often point to the wrong place on our bodies when we refer to the heart. Frequently, when we mean the thoughts, the inner self, or the mind, we gesture toward our chests. The more proper place to point is at our heads. That’s where intentions, desires, and purposes originate.
Scripture sometimes mentions the heart “turning,” whether for good or bad. For example:
- Hearts could be turned away from God by human substitutes (Deut. 17:17; cf. 1 Ki. 11:2).
- Hearts could be turned back to the world (Acts 7:39).
- Hearts can be turned toward sexual immorality through seduction and temptation (Prov. 7:25).
- Hearts can be turned back toward righteous conduct (Luke 1:17).
- Hearts can be turned toward one another in unity (2 Sam. 19:14).
The Bible says similar things with different language, but the point is dramatic. Hearts can change. Negatively, they can grow dark, callused, hardened, and rebellious. That appears to have happened through various influences in the current culture. The hearts of men embrace and defend what would once have been widely rejected and condemned. Such hearts have no tolerance for what God’s Word says on a variety of eternally important matters—abortion, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, pornography, true worship, the exclusive salvation through Christ, etc. Positively, hearts can be softened, opened, and receptive, too. The gospel is still the power of God (cf. Rom. 1:16). The saving message of the cross still reaches hearts (1 Cor. 1:21). Many hearts may ultimately be unreachable, but our task as Christians is to turn as many hearts to Christ as we can! Hearts won’t be changed without our getting out the message.
All the while, each of us has a stewardship over our own hearts. We cannot allow the darkness of sin to eclipse the Son. We must keep our hearts sensitive and soft to the voice of God through Scripture, dependent on Him through prayer, and trusting in Him as He providentially leads us each day. God through Moses promised blessings if His people were obedient to Him, “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish” (Deut. 30:17-18a). May we take this to heart!
Irene Sax is an award-winning cookbook author, food critic and food writer whose work is often syndicated. One of her best known articles, run in the huge Newsday newspaper, was a feature on Jean Nidetch. Nidetch was a 214 pound housewife who met a friend in the supermarket, telling her how good she looked and asking her when the baby was due. Not pregnant, Nidetch allowed this to motivate her into action. She went to the New York Department of Health to get a diet plan to treat her obesity. She was losing a little weight, but it was when she decided to invite six other overweight women to her apartment that everything changed. The meeting was a hit and snowballed into the global success and household name, Weight Watchers. Over a million people in 24 countries are members of the nearly half-century-old program.
Nidetch told Sax how she succeeded with Weight Watchers. When she was a teenager, Nidetch crossed a park where young mothers were sitting and talking together while their toddlers just sat in swings with nobody pushing them. Nidetch would give them a push. She said, “And you know what happens when you push a kid on a swing? Pretty soon he’s pumping, doing it himself. That’s what my role in life is–I’m there to give others a push” (Irene Sax, Newsday Inc., n/d, and Nanci Hellmich, USA Today, 3/27/10).
One purpose for our assembling together as the church is to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). God knew that we would all need a push–to do what is right and stay away from what is wrong. We can get stagnant and stuck when we try to go it alone. But, God has given us each other. As we each battle Satan, we need each other’s help (cf. Eph. 6:10-17). With your help, I stand a better chance of resisting the devil (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9). Find a brother or sister, get behind them, and push!