Go on to maturity

Hebrews 6:1 NLT

We all get the same 168 hours in our week. But if the only time you devote to your spiritual growth is the time you spend in church on Sunday morning, you’ll never move beyond spiritual infancy. Think about it. An infant can’t feed itself; it chooses candy over carrots; it constantly falls down and has to be picked up; it keeps wandering off and getting into trouble; it’s basically self-centered and needs to be disciplined and trained. Are you getting the picture? The new birth is exciting, but it’s supposed to be your launching pad, not your crib. The Bible says, “Let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.” Note the words “Let us.” That means it’s up to you! At some point you’ve got to say to yourself, “Starting today I’m going to do what it takes to grow up spiritually and discover God’s plan for my life.” One day at the end of World War I, General Louis Lyautey asked his gardener to plant a particular type of tree on his estate. The gardener informed him that the tree, being unusually slow to grow, would take nearly a century to reach maturity. “In that case,” the general replied, “there’s no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon!” Here’s a fail-safe plan for growing into spiritual maturity: “They delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:2-3 NLT).

Soul food: Gal 4-6; Mark 12:13-27; Ps 101; Prov 13:20-23

Relationships: Growth

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

When we’re in a relationship, we’re one half of a team. And that team, through commitment, love and communication, can be really strong. We’re not two individuals competing with each other, but a team working together. We bring our own individuality, and we shouldn’t lose who we are, but we become part of a team which is all about support, comfort and encouragement. And that doesn’t only apply to our day-to-day lives and stresses. This also applies to our faith. In Hebrews it says: ‘Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds’ (10:24 NCV). So how can we help each other to grow in our relationships with God? There’s the obvious answers like pray together, read the Bible together and go to church together. But we can also be honest and accountable about our faith, pray for each other and share what God tells us, lovingly point out where something is not quite God’s best and help them to look to God for answers to the things they’re struggling with. But we must remember that we’re not responsible for the spiritual growth of our partner, we’re only responsible for our own. God can use us to help them on their journey, but there should be no pressure and no judgement. The Bible tells us to ‘encourage one another and build each other up.’ So in our relationships, let’s be people who encourage and help people to grow in their relationship with God. But let’s also not forget that our relationship with God comes above everything else. Our relationships shouldn’t be preventing our own individual spiritual growth.

Exo 20:12; Jer 35:1-19; Prov 1:8; John 19:25-27

Spiritual growth (1)

Galatians 6:9 NIV

Sometimes spiritual growth can feel like two steps forward and three steps back. Sometimes we can feel that we’re not growing at all. Spiritual growth doesn’t come easily; that’s why Paul encourages us not to give up. When we look in the mirror each day we can’t see much change, but when we look at photos from when we were younger, we can see how we’ve grown and matured. And it’s the same for our spiritual lives. Day by day we can’t see our progress, but when we look back we can see how far we’ve come. The Bible says: ‘And we all…are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV). But transformation and growth aren’t always easy. So when we get discouraged, we need to be reminding ourselves that we’re on a spiritual journey, we’re making progress even when we can’t see it, and that the devil will always look for ways to remind us how far we still have to go. But we shouldn’t listen to the devil. Jesus said, ‘he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44 NIV). If we get discouraged and give up, Satan wins. The Bible says we need to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). And that means we need to learn to not live by our emotions alone, but dig down inside to where God’s Spirit lives. We don’t need to rely on feelings, we need to rely on God’s truth. So when we feel like giving up, that we’re not getting anywhere and that we’re not good enough, we need to take those thoughts captive, remember God’s truth and carry on our journey of spiritual growth.

Exo 17:1-7; John 4:1-42

Spiritual growth (1)

Galatians 6:9 NKJV

A high-rise construction worker slipped and fell from a scaffold forty floors up. As he was plummeting past the twentieth-floor window, a woman in an office shouted out, “How’re you doing?” The man replied, “So far, so good!” Seriously, some days spiritual growth feels like two steps forward and three steps back. It doesn’t come easily; that’s why Paul encourages us not to lose heart. Generally speaking, you don’t notice yourself getting older physically until you see an earlier photo, then it hits you. And it’s the same with spiritual growth; it’s hard to gauge how far you’ve come until you look back and see where you were before Jesus turned your life around. The Bible says, “As the Spirit… works within us, we become more…like Him” (2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB). But growing up involves growing pains! So when you get discouraged, remind yourself that you’re on a spiritual journey, you’re making progress in spite of your problems, and that the Devil will always look for ways to remind you how far you still have to go. Don’t listen to him! Jesus said, “Everything he says is a lie” (John 8:44 CEV). If you get discouraged and give up, Satan wins. The Bible says, “Capture…rebellious thoughts…teach them to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT). Learn to live beyond your feelings, to dig down inside to where God’s Spirit lives. And take heart: It may not always look like it, but each day you’re maturing and growing stronger in Christ. So don’t even think about quitting.

Soul food: Exo 17:1-7; John 4:1-42

Live a balanced life

Mark 6:31 NIV

The Bible says, “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty” (Psalm 90:10 NIV). If you’re blessed to live that long you’ll typically spend an average of twenty-four years sleeping, twenty years working, ten years in church and on vacation (mostly vacation), seven years eating, six years traveling, four years dealing with sickness, and two years getting dressed. Kierkegaard said: “The press of busyness is like a charm…seeking to lay hold of ever-younger victims so that [we] are scarcely allowed time for God to develop in us Christian character.” It’s a mistake to think that rushing through life buys you more time. It doesn’t. Apart from keeping your adrenaline pumping and perhaps making you feel and look important, busyness can be the enemy of your soul. It can rob you of spiritual growth by preventing you from reflecting and examining your heart. We’re not talking about the number of things you manage to get done every day, but the quality of your life’s product. You can be busy, yet not be balanced. One Bible scholar said, “Solitude is the furnace of transformation.” There are three kinds of solitude: (1) Brief intervals experienced daily. (2) Longer ones involving a few days or more away from it all. Despite His hectic schedule, Jesus made a habit of withdrawing from the demands of the crowd to spend time with His Father. (Did He know something we don’t?) And He told the disciples, “Come with me…to a quiet place and get some rest.” (3) Forced rest. “He maketh me to lie down” (Psalm 23:2). Don’t wait until God makes you lie down! Endeavour to live a balanced life.

Soul food: 1 Sam 20:30-23:29; Mat 23:23-39; Ps 110; Prov 17:15-17