Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Philippians 3:15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
I have a tendency towards competitiveness. Some of you have just verbally addressed your screen and said, “That’s an understatement!” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with competition, there are times when it is wrong to be competitive. I have discovered the truth of that in grandchildren. I have eleven of them, and each one of them is the greatest grandchild in the world. It all depends on which one I am holding at the time I make my assessment. But each one of them is so different, and each one has developed skills and abilities at a different pace. Some crawled, and one never did. Some walked early, while one waited a long time. But that same one who wouldn’t crawl has an incredible ear for music and at age 2 could carry a tune. Each child is unique and gifted by God with certain skills and abilities that are not a competition with siblings or cousins, but are an expression of God’s great diversity. In His time, He will complete the work that was started at fertilization, and the timing will be for His glory.
We need to apply that principle to our relationships with people within God’s family. In Philippians 3:15, Paul urges all of us on to maturity, but then offers us the grace of God to grow at different paces. Notice I did not say to grow at our own pace. It would be tragic to turn over the ultimate control of our growth to ourselves. I know for myself it would be horrible. I know how easily distracted from long-term goals I get with the urgency of the immediate. If the process of spiritual maturity were left up to me, I would be equally distracted by the world’s influence. If not for the constant influence of God the Father on my life to push me toward the goal, and His loving discipline in my life when I get off track, I would be living the life of a junior high student all the time. The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way:
Hebrews 12:7 – 11 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness…it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
However, we don’t always recognize the hand of God shaping our lives. Think about it…God is constantly at work to complete the work He started in you when you were born again. You are growing, and God is shaping you and molding you into a vessel of His choosing to accomplish a glorious and eternal purpose. Praise God!
There are two lessons for us to grab a hold of in Paul’s incredible statement, “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”
First, we are not to compare our growth with someone else’s growth. Our flesh seems to manifest itself in a competitive spirit which draws us into a comparison game with others. I see that sometimes in parents. When a child has accomplished something of significance, there is a tendency towards one-ups-man-ship with other parents. We can’t wait to tell a better story to bring more attention to our kids.
We tend to do the same with each other in the body of Christ, with an added deadly twist: we don’t just listen to their stories and then try to tell a better one, but we seem to have perfected the sin of finding fault with others to make our story better. It would be terrible to hear one of my children putting down one of their nieces or nephews just to make their child look better. How shameful that would be! Yet we do that to one another within the body of Christ. How shameful that is! When you want to know your current growth status, compare yourself to Christ, not to others.
Second, God is in control of each person’s growth. As a parent or grandparent, it is hurtful to require every child to learn new things at the same rate, and to judge their value based on their accomplishments. This especially applies to my ministry as a Pastor. I agonize at times over the people who just don’t seem to grow up and who don’t apply what they are learning. But then I remember Who’s in control of their growth. Just as each grandchild is developing different skills and developing some of the same skills on different timetables, so God has a unique skill set and timetable for each of His children, and He will not fail to complete His work. I know I need to let go and trust God with the outcome. How about you?
So, as mature believers, what can we do to help others grow?
- First, surrender control of the outcome to God and acknowledge His control over their life.
- Second, pray for them diligently.
- Third, encourage them to listen to what God is saying.
- Fourth, encourage them to observe what God is doing to shape their lives.
- Fifth, keep encouraging them to grow.
It is the prize at the end of the race that motivates us. It is hope that makes us strong and gives us perseverance. All immature Christians need encouragement to press on towards the prize. Criticism and punishment don’t motivate. Be an encourager. God will make it clear to them in His time!