I’m amused by the opening scene in The Simpsons movie. (Actually, I’m amused by every scene in The Simpsons movie. But the opening scene serves as a great beginning to this particular post.) The Simpsons are arriving late for church. They screech into the parking lot just as Reverend Lovejoy is welcoming the congregation to the service. And all the people inside can hear Homer loudly and clearly as he complains on his way from the car to the church door: “I don’t know why we have to come to church. Why can’t we just live our lives the way we want to and then pray really hard on our death beds like everybody else?”

Are you nurturing your relationship with God? Are you intentionally, today, right now, paying attention to your walk with Jesus? While things are going so well for you right now, are you praying? Are you listening? Are you reading and meditating? Are you today seeking our Lord and his holy will?

Our God is not a vending machine. Our Lord is not leaning up against a wall somewhere just waiting for you to come by and push in the right combination of coins or words so he can give you exactly what you want when you want it. He’s not a Magic 8-Ball that you put up on a shelf in the corner and take down and dust off and consult when you get into a bind. When it comes to your relationship with God, you don’t just flip a switch.

Being a man or woman of God doesn’t happen occasionally. It doesn’t happen automatically. Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t happen accidentally. And it certainly never happens at your convenience.

Think about football players or any big-time athletes. You can’t just show up for the game without being prepared. Can you imagine? If you never practice, if you never lift weights, if you never condition, if you miss all the team meetings, you won’t be able to play when the whistle blows. They won’t even let you on the field. Ask any coach: If you don’t practice, you don’t play. In order to be ready for that big moment, you have to prepare your mind, you have to prepare your body, you have to practice, you have to study.

We encourage that, right? We praise it! In sports, in academics, in business, in music; we admire it.

Drew Brees is the first one on the practice field every day and the last one to leave. We celebrate that kind of dedication. Van Cliburne practiced the piano eight, nine, ten, twelve hours a day every single day of his life. We praise that kind of sacrifice. The successful CEO of the big corporation goes to all the seminars and conferences. He keeps a cot in his office because he works so many late nights. We admire that kind of commitment. The strong politician knows his constituents and spends valuable time with the voters. We confirm that, yes, that’s the way to live. We all acknowledge that, yeah, that’s the very best way to go through life. It’s the only way to handle the really important things in life. We encourage that kind of dedication, we celebrate that kind of sacrifice, we watch movies and sing songs about that kind of commitment.

But we act like it doesn’t matter in following Christ.

We have fooled ourselves into thinking that we can live every single day just like every other person in the world and then, when the crisis comes, we can act like Jesus. And when we fall flat, we wonder why God let us down.

You don’t just flip a switch.

We’re establishing the pattern every day. Living our lives every day, we’re setting the course. Where do you seek guidance? What gives you comfort? Where is the source of your strength? Are you seeking God? Or not? You can’t wait until the crisis comes to answer those questions. You practice it every moment of every day and, when the crisis comes, by God’s grace, it’s already your instinct. It’s already your second nature.