Right now, the sporting world is watching the National Football League Draft. Without Major League Baseball, the NBA Playoffs, or any college sports, this weekend’s draft is literally the only game in town!
One thing that stands out watching the draft is that so much of the NFL is about “measurables”: how tall, how heavy, how fast, etc. As much as any sport out there, in football, a tenth of a second difference in the 40 yard dash, or 2 inch difference in the length of your arms, can make a difference between a hall of famer … and Uncle Rico.
While watching the stories of those drafted, however, we are consistently reminded of how these measurables can change. The offensive lineman who went from an “out-of-shape” Freshman to a dominant “senior” because of the time spent in the weight room (and abstaining from ordering Pizza Shuttle at 11PM every night.) The wide receiver who grew 8 inches between his junior and senior year in high school. Those 12 months made a huge difference! These stories reminded me that we do not always grow at the same pace in every season of life. Some eras might be fairly static … and then we hit a growth spurt!
Not only is this the case with our physical bodies, but it also is the case with our spiritual lives. The spiritual life of every Christian is designed to grow over time. This is the process of sanctification (the process by which God’s character is increasingly revealed in our lives), and God is absolutely committed to it. In Paul’s letter to his friends in Philippi, he writes, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). That’s right, Jesus is committed to completing the process of our growth in Him! Now, HOW that process plays out, though, varies from Christian to Christian. By God’s grace and in His providence, He allows us to participate with Him in our spiritual development. He wants us to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In other words, we are to put in the time in the “weight room” of our spiritual lives – NOT so that we might be drafted onto His team, but so that we might grow into the potential He is building within us. After all, Philippians 2:13 continues, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Why do I say all this? I say this to remind us that we are designed to grow over time. We are not destined to be spiritual infants forever, but to GROW UP as followers of Jesus Christ. When we see a grown man or woman acting like a child, we know something has gone terribly wrong … and when we see an experienced Christian “still drinking only milk” (as Hebrews 5:12-13 so graphically puts it), something has slowed the maturing process in that person.
So, what does it look like for us to grow in our relationship with God? Well, the Apostle Paul once reflected on his friends in Thessalonica and the spiritual growth he had seen in their lives. I think his comments are instructive. He says in 2 Thessalonians 1:3, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” The spiritual growth that God will work in us over time is revealed through an increasing faith in God and love for others. Two things to note there: (1) Paul was able to NOTICE this growth. In other words, while the growth happened internally, it was observable to the outside world. It was a “MEASUREABLE.” (2) Faith in God and love for others sounds a lot like the greatest commandment that Jesus gave (Matthew 22:37-40) – “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now, just as in our physical lives, our spiritual lives do not always grow at one consistent and steady pace. Sometimes there are seasons of dynamic and rapid growth. AND, these growth spurts happen at different times in our lives. Interestingly, when I look at the Bible I see evidence that our spiritual growth spurts often happen in moments when times are tough: when we are in the “wait room” of illness or job search or (dare I say) … a global pandemic. James says in James 1:2-8 that we are to “consider it all joy when we face various trials” BECAUSE of what they produce in us: spiritual growth.
That’s right, there is hope that in the midst of this pandemic you will grow. Not just grow in:
- years until you can retire
- your waistline
… but GROW UP in Christ. Grow in your faith in God and love for others as you are spending time “working out” your salvation in the “wait room” of this trial.
Over the next two Sundays at Wildwood as a part of our Sunday livestream, I will be preaching on how we can grow spiritually in this season. This Sunday, we will focus on growing our faith in God in this trial. Then, next week (May 3), we will talk about growing our love for others. Can’t wait to dive into God’s Word with you all in this short (but important series.) Make plans to join us at 11AM Sunday at wildwoodchurch.org/live … and invite others to join us as well!