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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Maturity’

 

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).

 

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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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