Good morning my friends. It is nearing the end of our week off from school and thoughts start going back to the work that will be waiting for the teachers on Monday. The truth is, the teachers' work starts this weekend as they prepare their lessons for their classes next week. I am very thankful every day for the sacrifice and maturity of each of the staff God has given to me at the school. It is not often that a person can find such great spiritual maturity in such a diverse group of Christian workers but it is found in this group that has had to face and overcome so many professional and personal mountains. Yet, such maturity should never be a surprise among Christian workers because it is the goal of our life.
We know what it is to be emotionally and socially immature because we encounter it all the time in family, friends and co-workers. Somewhere in their growth and development some people fail to learn vital lessons. These lessons are what move a person along in the maturing process. Often these lessons come in the form of adversities that we have to face and learn to overcome. If we have parents who never allow us to try to solve some of our own problems or do not come alongside to teach us and instead constantly rescue us and do it themselves, we fail to grow. If we learned to constantly avoid and run away from our problems, we have failed to grow and will follow the same pattern as an adult. Some of the lessons on the path to maturity are hard ones but they are necessary for our growth. Good parents understand this and will teach it to their children. Now, apply that same understanding to our spiritual growth and maturity.
Much of what we read from Paul in this area speaks of a process we are going through:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Take note of the idea of "producing". The adversity that we face has the benefit of producing great things in us which build on each other. James also made note of this:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
There is the goal of our life, to be mature and complete. This does not happen when you run away from the "testing", when you avoid the hard times, when you fail to persevere through the ugly moments of your life. What good is faith if it cannot carry you through difficult times? One of the saddest passages in the Scriptures is found at the end of Hebrews 5:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
I do not doubt that if you were to survey every pastor in North America about their sermon topic this week you would discover baby food stuff and very little meat. It is hard to give meat to people who are still struggling with loving their neighbour and the importance of supporting the work of the Church financially. That is baby food stuff and we should be moving on to the greater work of the Spirit in the Church. As the children of God we have to start trusting that he is going to see us through the adversities of our life. We have to let go of the values of this world and grab a hold of the values of the Kingdom. We need to face our trials with joy and gladness, understanding what they are producing in us. We need to recognize that envy, jealousy, malice, pride, unforgiveness, avoidance, and many other bad character flaws are signs of immaturity in our lives.
I find a good starting point in this stand against such immaturity in our lives is to take on the attitude that Paul expressed for his own life:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
It is hard to lose something that you have already counted lost. All that should matter to us is Jesus, knowing him and serving him. As we grow in our relationship in Jesus we will come to know ourselves better and will understand where we are on this road to spiritual maturity. He is our only measuring rod as we live to become more like him. No matter our age or number of years on this road we must recognize that there will always be things to improve on, always further steps of maturity to take. This is the reason we never give up and are known for our perseverance and determination; we understand that these things are changing us and making us more like Jesus.
Regardless of the cost to you today, do not turn away from your path. Great things are being accomplished in you and through you. It is often our joy in our perseverance in the most adverse conditions that attract people to Jesus. He is using you like a lightening rod at the same time as he is developing good things in you. Stay the course, do not give up because we will soon reap a harvest far greater than you can possibly imagine at this time. To God be the glory.