Oct11WedOctober 11, 2017
Our children are in a phase of life where we can almost see them growing. One of our twins already rivals the kitchen counter with his height. The other develops a broader vocabulary almost every day. Often, I tell our daughter to stop growing. She laughs and tells me “No,” but then we silently recognize that she couldn’t stop growing even if she wanted to. Physical growth continues until the age of 25 (or so) whether we like it or not. It’s automatic, amazing and preordained by God as the designer of life. Yet, spiritual growth does not happen in the same way.
Jesus describes people as plants in Mark 4 and Paul picks up the analogy in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. We, like plants, need good soil, water and roots. In other words, we need soft hearts, gospel-teaching leaders and a growing faith in Jesus. These elements require some degree of work to maintain, in part because there are external pressures like birds (Satan), a scorching sun (affliction) and thorns (the love of wealth) which can hinder growth. Because of this struggle, the Apostle Paul changes the spiritual growth analogy to one of an athlete competing for a prize. “Run that you may obtain the prize…I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Cor. 9:24, 27a). In other words, growth can be very hard work!
However, in our text from this past Sunday, the Apostle Paul provides insight on how he grew in maturity. “Jesus we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29). Paul grew by 1) depending on the Lord for strength and 2) being burdened by the spiritual growth of others – which led him to diligently teach, warn and pray for believers – even those he hardly knew!
Oddly, it appears as though spiritual growth happens best when we think of ourselves less! Remember when Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be first among my disciples, must be the servant of all” (Mark 10:44)? How simple! Yet, it is neither automatic nor easy. Our sinful nature easily gets in the way to convince us to venture into independence from the Lord and think very little about the spiritual lives of others. Overcoming these two spiritual realities is a daily battle – one in which we would fail (as I often do) without being controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Currently, I’m doing my best to “toil and struggle”, as Paul did, to encourage environments for you to mature in Christ – beyond Sunday worship. We have four very different Sunday morning adult classes, an excellent inductive study for women on Tuesday mornings (through Bible Study Fellowship), an upcoming Men’s Retreat (Nov 11-12), small groups lingering from this summer’s study and more to come. There is also a discussion guide in the Library to accompany each Sunday’s message for those who would like to dig into Scripture with friend and NO PREP! These are some great resources, but depending on the Lord (through prayer and His word) and investing in people (Paul’s strategy) cannot be neglected. However, this is work which you must choose to do. No one, including myself, can make you grow in this area. Therefore, as the seasons change, I encourage you to consider how you are growing in maturity. Let’s keep growing together through “His energy that he powerfully works within [us]” (Col 1:29).