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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Maturity’

(www.thecove.org)

 

Have you visited the Billy Graham Training Center outside Asheville, North Carolina? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for retreat, relaxation, and renewal.

Ruth and Billy chose the location well, tucked as it is onto a peaceful Appalachian mountainside.

My husband and I visited years ago and reveled in five days of morning-and-evening teaching sessions under Warren Wiersbe. The afternoons were unscheduled—for the relaxation part.

One day we decided to tackle a long trail-hike and walk off some of the scrumptious food (and nightly, all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream!) we’d been consuming.

A staff member promised the mountain view from the lookout point at the end would be well worth the effort.

But in no time the hike became rough going. The miles we were accustomed to walking back home in the flatland of Florida hadn’t prepared us for the unrelenting incline of this trail.

 

 

I started to grunt and groan. My leg muscles begged for mercy until we had to stop and rest—several times.

For the entire distance trees surrounded us—lovely to be sure, but not once did we catch even a glimpse of the vista to come.

Finally we approached the rail of the platform lookout, and my grunts and groans turned to oohing and wowing.

 

 

Row upon row of gentle peaks stood sentry before us, stretching immeasurable miles to the horizon. Cumulous clouds above produced large patches of shade below—a jigsaw of light and shadow.

The staffer had been right. To see such a grand panorama of God’s handiwork was indeed worth the struggle.

 

 

“God has made everything beautiful in his time,” King Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

“Everything beautiful” certainly includes the splendorous moments on that platform, especially in contrast to the arduous process to get there.

But equally wondrous, God knows how to create beauty out of difficult life-circumstances—circumstances like:

  • A disturbing diagnosis
  • Ongoing frustration at work
  • A hurtful relationship
  • Financial struggles

How can that be? Because those are the times that push us toward maturity (James 1:2-4)—and maturity is indeed a beautiful thing.

 

 

Our problem is, we crave a smooth pathway through life—level, broad, and full of pleasure. But God knows what spoiled, useless creatures we’d become on such a course.

So he allows uphill climbs as the training ground for developing patience, perseverance, persistence, and self-discipline—important facets of maturity.

All the while we can rest assured the day will come when we finally understand how our ugly struggles fit into God’s great and beautiful plan—“a plan so overwhelming, magnificent, and joyful, we will laugh with wonder and delight”—Arthur Christopher Bacon (1).

And how do we know that’s true?

Consider God’s attributes, including his

  • Love and faithfulness (Psalm 117:2)
  • Wisdom (Romans 11:33)
  • Rghteousness (Psalm 145:17)
  • Justice and fairness (Deuteronomy 32:4)

 

 

Such a God does not allow useless distress; there is always purpose.

And note the verse says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

 

Every detail of your life

is fitting together to create

a tapestry of praise.

–Jane L. Fryar (2)

 

Sometimes we do see the details of our lives fitting together in beautiful, praise-evoking ways.

Our stories of struggle-turned-into-beauty can:

  • Inspire someone to start their own journey with Jesus
  • Offer comfort to another who’s struggling on the same stretch of pathway
  • Provide guidance for a wanderer
  • Encourage a hiker-believer to keep climbing to the heights

 

 

But I have a feeling God is saving the best and most beautiful revelations until we’ve reached the lookout of heaven.

For now we can cling to this:

All things are from him—for a purpose (Romans 11:33-36), and we will behold the beauty—when the time is right.

 

Notes:

  1. From Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reimann, Zondervan, 1997, p. 72.
  2. Be Blessed, CTA, Inc., 2009, p. 60.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.thecove.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.bible.com; http://www.canva.com;  http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

 

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White_Oak-15_acorns

 

Elena, almost eighteen months old, loves to collect acorns. A grand oak tree, on the church property across the street from her home, provides perfect hunting grounds. She trundles along the edge of the sidewalk, her eyes on the grassy edge. Now and then she bends over, chooses a prime specimen, and clutches it tightly to her chest.

Yesterday was a banner day for acorns. Way too many shiny nuts with perfect caps. Her little hands couldn’t carry them all. I was given the honor of transporting a few of her treasures home. And this opportunity became the starting point for a train of thoughts.

You’ve no doubt noticed this yourself:  Acorns do not appear capable of producing oak trees.  They’re too small and too hard.  How can the seeds inside even escape those tough shells?   Yet given the right soil, the right climate, and plenty of time, the miracle of growth occurs.  White oak trees can reach the height of 150 feet, growing twelve to fourteen inches per year.  Acorns do not appear until the twentieth year.  In the end, the majestic giant provides hundreds of benefits (www.arborday.org and http://www.ehow.com).

 

white_oak_5036-320

 

Now a few tall plants, like bamboo, grow very quickly. But not tall, strong trees.  I wonder why?

We humans are also slow-growing–in body and spirit. And I wonder about that, too.  Why didn’t God make us more like bamboo, able to reach maturity quickly? Instead, we progress through a protracted, sometimes painful, learning process to become “mature, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

Perhaps God willed our development to happen slowly so we have many opportunities to follow his chosen path and fulfill the potential he’s especially prepared for each of us. A false step in the wrong direction can be corrected, just as a crooked tree can be straightened if attended to promptly.

 

 HardMaple1

 

Yes, there are those who choose not to mature, not to participate with God.

But we know that God is good, that what he does is good. I want him to train and teach me (Psalm 119:68). My guess is you feel the same.

Day by day, choice by choice, we can progress along the spectrum from self-centered to selfless, from impatient to patient, from lesser to greater.  But we have to realize: it happens slowly over time.

Here’s another possibility, even better than just accepting slow progress.  Let’s embrace it.

You see, our culture tends to look at time as a thief who steals away our youth, worth, mental acuity, and energy.

But what if we view time as a gift–a gift of countless opportunities provided day by day, choice by choice–to grow into the mature and gracious people God ordained?  Instead of regretting the passage of time we can celebrate:

  • Our progress to become rooted and built up in Jesus, strengthened in our faith (Colossians 2:6).
  • The growing ability to bear fruit (the fruit of the Spirit, exemplary living, glorifying God to others)–even into old age (Psalm 92:14).
  • Becoming “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).

Oh, I like that last verse especially, don’t you?

And it can happen through  slow and steady perseverance, with God as our guide.

 

(Photo credits:  www.bio.brandeis.edu; http://www.treetopics.com; http://www.awesometools.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not long ago I came across these words in Acts 14:22: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

I don’t like the sound of that! Especially the word must. And considering the recent converts Paul was speaking to that day, it seems awfully harsh. Shouldn’t Paul have softened his message a bit by saying, “We might go through hardships?”

Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yet Paul was saying nothing that Jesus hadn’t warned his disciples about: “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33, emphasis added).

The reality begs the question why. Why is hardship inevitable? God Almighty is sovereign over all. It’s well within his power to protect us from difficulty. So why doesn’t he?

Here are some possibilities:

1. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Paul could have said his troubles were heavy and ongoing rather than light and momentary. He had been falsely accused, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and more. But Paul’s focus wasn’t on his earthly life. He was already focused on his future life in heaven. Every time he endured suffering, it meant the glory yet to come would be all the more splendorous by comparison. Paul understood:  Problems focus our perspective.

English: Saint paul arrested

English: Saint Paul arrested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Hardships remind us of what Jesus endured for us. Anything we might suffer cannot begin to compare to what he suffered on the cross—the extreme pain, the loathsome humiliation, and the unbearable separation from his Heavenly Father. Problems foster appreciation for our precious Savior.

3. “Faith must be tested because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest). Faith does not grow without testing. Trials provide the best opportunity to become intimate with God. And what could be more valuable than an intimate relationship with our loving, wise Heavenly Father? Therefore, we need to remember: Problems draw us closer to God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for caring so deeply about me that you discipline me. I want to reach that level of maturity where I rejoice in problems because of the growth opportunities they provide and the intimacy with you that will result. Continue to chip away at the hesitancy and obstinacy in my spirit that stands in the way.

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Living Our Days

Gaining a heart of wisdom

Heartful Faith

For a Heart Filled with Gods Word

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Shelly Miller

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and devotions by Heidi Viars

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions