We live in a culture where instant results are demanded and expected. It could be a new product that promises to make customers fluent in a foreign language in less than a month for only fifteen minutes a day or a new diet that makes outlandish promises of losing over twenty pounds in twenty days without exercising or changing eating habits. “We want it our way NOW!” is the cry of the American heart. Sometimes, our culture tends to influence our relationship with God and we get disappointed with our relationship with God because of unrealistic expectations. We tend to want to grow in Christ painlessly and instantly. After all, if it works (or so we think) in other areas of our social-media and instant-everything world, why won’t it work with the Lord?
God tends to grow people in Christ in extraordinary ways through very ordinary means. Most of us are looking for a quick, painless solution for the lack of speed of our growth in Christ. We know that God’s plan for our lives is to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) and that He desires for us to grow into full maturity, even giving us pastors and teachers to assist in the process (Ephesians 4:11-16). With correct motives for fulfilling the plan of God for us we often stumble in our approach to completing the task. While we look to God for our destination, we don’t look to God for our road map.
In our hurry to complete the task painlessly and in as little time as possible, we come up with a variety of quick fixes. We imagine (especially around the New Year!) that if we go to this retreat or conference, read this book, or try this spiritual discipline, everything will change immediately. Many of us have tried to find the magic formula for growth in Christ (sanctification), only to be frustrated that the formula we are looking for seems to vanish like a mirage before our eyes.
I will let you in on a little secret – there is no easy, quick growth in Christ. My father had a quote that he heard from someone and passed on to me: “There are no shortcuts to success. The hard way is the quick way!” So often in my life as a youth, like many of my generation, I sought to find the shortcut to success only to be left frustrated and having to start over. In my desire for speed and to put in as little effort as possible to complete the task, I always ended up doing it the correct, difficult, mundane way – and it always worked when I did it the way I was supposed to!
There are no shortcuts to our sanctification, but instead, God tends to grow His people through very ordinary activities done repeatedly over a period of time. Pastor Eugene Peterson calls this “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” The path to growth in Christ that the Bible lays out is a path of slow, painful, promised success. Let me, as your trail guide, point you to the words of Jeremiah 6:16: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”
How then does God grow His people? God grows His people through ordinary activities like reading and meditating on the Word of God, prayer (private and corporate), fasting, giving, serving, fellowship and spiritual conversations with other believers, and worship. Lord willing, over the next few weeks we will look at a variety of the ordinary methods for growth in Christ that God has promised to provide extraordinary growth to your soul through.
TO BE CONTINUED…