Sneezing, bloodshot eyes, drippy noses, along with flowers, sunshine and cookouts are all signs of spring-our world in bloom as plant life grows. Jesus often reasoned from the physical world to spiritual realities. God wants to grow us spiritually-and gives to us so we will grow in each season of life. But how do we grow spiritually? Who is responsible for growth? Are we responsible i.e. "If it is to be it's up to me?" Is it God's job to zap me i.e. "easy does it; or let go and let God?" How does spiritual growth really work? Some have attempted spiritual disciplines in the past, but have slowly let them go. Others see demanding jobs and busy schedules and simply give up, "I work 65 hours per week with long commutes, so I simply can't add anything to my life; I guess you could say I'm stuck where I am for the foreseeable future."
Author Stephen Covey tells the story of a class gathered in front of a glass jar which is brimming with big rocks. One big rock lay on the table beside the big jar. The teacher asks, "Is the jar full?" The class replies, "Yes". The teacher then shakes the jar and fits a big rock in, then asks once again. Again the class replies, "Yes". Then, the teacher reaches under the desk for a container of gravel. Pouring it between the rocks in the jar, she asks again if it's full. The class catches on. Some tentatively reply, "No." She then adds a jar of sand. Next, she adds a glass of water to the jar. Finally, she asks what the point of the illustration is. Students think of time management: "There's always space to squeeze something into your schedule". She says it's not a time management but a priority management lesson: "You must put the big rocks in first, or they won't fit". One of the "big rocks" for any Christian is holy habits or spiritual disciplines, which promote spiritual maturity.
What are Spiritual Disciplines? Spiritual disciplines are "Biblically-based, historically rooted, personal and corporate practices essential to spiritual growth." The Bible confirms that God, circumstances (trials and others), as well as spiritual disciplines all grow us. Disciplines such as reading Scripture, prayer, fellowship, fasting-some even include silence, solitude and friendship-are spiritual disciplines God uses to grow us.
The Bible reminds us of God's Role in growing us to Spiritual Maturity
Romans 8:29- [God] predestined us to be conformed; 1 Jn. 3:2- ...we will be made [passive] like Christ when he appears; Phil. 1:6- ...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Phil. 2:12-13-Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose
The Bible reminds us of Other's Role in growing us to Spiritual Maturity
Other People-Pr. 27:17; Trials-1 Pet. 1:7 These [trials] have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Christ is revealed; Circumstances- Romans 8:28-God causes all things mature us.
The Bible reminds us of Our Role in growing into Spiritual Maturity
1 Tim 4:7- train (discipline) yourself for the purpose of godliness; 1 Pt. 1:15-16- ..."be holy as I am holy"!; Mt. 11:29- Take my yoke and learn from me...; 2 Tim. 1:6-7- For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline; .1 Pt. 2:2-3- Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted...the Lord is good.
Theologian, pastor, and founder of L'abri, Francis Schaeffer, helpfully describes the super-natural way in which God uses ordinary things to grow us-both physically and spiritually. Schaeffer writes, "Well, I think it is something like this in our spiritual life. Because it is the "spiritual area," so many people seem to think it should grow in quite a different way from the normal procedures of life. But this is not true at all, because it is the same God who made the growing of the trees and the growth of our spiritual life. It is intriguing how often Jesus used words from the natural world to speak of spiritual things. And as the plant grows, so our spiritual life must grow. The storms may bend the branches; at times parts are even torn off with the beating of the winds, the snow, and the hail. But growth, as the stem of the plant pushes upward, does follow an orderly procedure. So it is with our Christian life. It we need to eat regularly, we need to read the Bible regularly. [This is the first element.] It should not become mechanical, but there is no reason why it cannot be done so much every day. It does not have to become sheer "law," but nevertheless there is [a proper balance between] something being just a blind duty and something being done in a totally haphazard manner. The second element is prayer - learning to have communication with our Father in Heaven. He speaks to us through the Bible most of all; but also, and surely, in other ways. But there must be the communication from our side or the [relationship] is no longer what it was created to be; that is [in terms of our being] moral, rational beings. So regular prayer is very important and would fall into two areas: prayer as I am walking in the street and working with the materials that I work with; and then longer periods of prayer talking to our Father in Heaven. The third thing is finding a Bible-believing church or Bible-believing group of people and having fellowship with them. This is important too. However, it is better to have fellowship with no one than with someone that calls himself a Christian but in reality pulls us in the other direction. Then, the final thing is speaking to others about the Lord. This is important if others are to know of Christ's saving work; but it is also important for us in our own spiritual life to be willing to commit ourselves anew by speaking to those who do not know about the Lord and all He is, to those who do not know Him. Thus, of course, we are most interested that your spiritual life does go on..."
As you see the sunshine, flowers blooming (or find yourself inhaling more than your fair share of pollen), let me encourage you to go from the physical world to spiritual reality. What is your plan to grow in Christ this spring? Yes. God grows you. Yes. Circumstances and other people grow you. And God uses our spiritual disciplines to grow us. I have personally found certain resources helpful in cultivating my relationship with Christ. Although I typically read and meditate through books of the Bible, I have also used memory verses, prayer walks in the AM, devotional books, and sermon MP3s by (Alistair Begg, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller and John Piper). Lately I have found helpful apps for my iPhone and will listen to Bible.is, Truth For Life, Redeemer, Grace to You, and Mars Hill sermons as I do a home project. Whether on a bus, train or car, you may find these resources helpful to listen on your commute. My encouragement to us all is to fully embrace this spring by embracing the God of all growth-and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!