Remember the game Jenga? It is 30 years old (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-21261956). Wooden, metal, plastic bricks, some small, some large – it even had its own televised competition. My kids loved it, but I think I enjoyed it even more. The thrill of slowly removing a brick, seeing the tower tremble… and then settle. Eventually the scream indicating a collapse!
The word ‘Jenga’ means ‘build’ in Swahili. But it was never about building – more about un-building. This sets me in mind of a spiritual principle. We are either building or decaying. As Peter put it, “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;” (2 Peter 1:5 NIV11-GK). Because if we are not growing we are growing blind instead of growing in faith (2 Peter 1:9).
How do we play spiritual ‘Jenga’? And how can we prevent our tower from collapsing? First, three signs we are becoming a weak tower; then three ways we can become a strong tower:
- Not paying attention to the road. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14 NIV11-GK). Just being on a road is not enough. Being religious, or a believer guarantees nothing. Are we paying attention to the road? Is it narrow? Are we with the minority?
- Not paying attention to the fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18 NIV11-GK). Just as Jesus commands his followers to look at the fruit of false prophets, so should we pay attention to the fruit of our own lives. Are we bearing good fruit, “I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” (John 15:16 NIV11-GK)? Is the fruit there? Is it lasting?
- Not paying attention to the will of God. ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21–23 NIV11-GK). The people Jesus is referring to are busy with what they consider God’s work. But it is done to impress themselves, and is not moderated by God’s word. We have work to do for God, but it must be in line with His teaching, and not our preferences.
- Decide to count the cost. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28–30 NIV11-GK) Before building, count the cost. Someone who wants to be a follower of Jesus must not make a decision based on emotion alone. Decide to study the Bible with someone who can show you what this commitment will cost. A building that is never finished cannot be useful for anything.
- Decide to build with good materials. “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:12–15 NIV11-GK). Find out how to build your spiritual life (and that of other people) using the right materials. No short-cuts. It requires sacrifice, but the end results are well worth the investment!
- Decide to build with friends. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV11-GK). Building alone is boring, tiring and likely to go wrong. When we are in the middle of building something we often cannot see the mistakes we are making. Another set of eyes are invaluable. So it is in the Christian life. Decide to be part of a close-knit community of disciples of Jesus Christ. Go to all the meetings, take part in all the events. Let others into your life.