The Key to Growth in Christ
Did I grab your attention? Is there an easy way to become who we say we are? In this life where nothing comes easy, wouldn’t it be great to find an instant pill that was easy to swallow?
So here is the part where I let you down easily. I haven’t found a pill. I haven’t found an instant method. I can’t even say I’ve found a sure fire daily plan that works for everyone, every time. After being a Christian for 60 years, however, I can offer some advice and guidelines to help you avoid some pitfalls that have come my way and even surfaced this morning.
TIME and TRUST
The huge secret I’m about to unfold is no secret at all. If you want your relationship with God to grow, spend time with Him. Think about the hours and experiences you have been through with your closest friends. If you had said to your BFF upon first meeting, “I’m going to be your best friend” and then only talked and hung out together a few times a month/year, would you now be best friends? Any relationship takes time to get to know each other–who they really are, can you trust them, can I relate to them? There are no shortcuts. Building a relationship means time.
It is the same with our relationship with God. You grabbed hold of the salvation offered at some point in your life. At that point, you only knew Him as someone who could save you from hell and would take you to heaven someday. You learned to pray to him occasionally and learned more about Him when you went to church. Over the years you were taught more and more about him–He loves us, we can trust Him, He has made lots of promises to us in the Bible, etc. All true. But learning ABOUT someone is totally different from KNOWING him.
My son has shaken hands with George W Bush on two occasions. He has read books about him–his life, personal stories, and more stores from those that know him. Does that mean that Matt knows the former president? That would take time from both people to establish that close relationship. The good news is that our God is available daily to spend that time with us so that closeness can grow. Remember what Job said after going through unfathomable heartbreaks and trials. He questioned God, searched for answers from Him, and finally, after hearing God’s resounding answers said:
“I KNOW that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides without knowledge? Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful to me, which I did not know. Hear, and I will speak; I will question you and you make it known to me. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).
This was from the man that God had bragged about to Satan. “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:7). Even Job did not have the relationship that was possible for him to have with God until he was forced to turn to Him when everything was stripped away. Even “blameless and upright” people who “fear God and turn away from evil” may be missing out on a close relationship with God. Just think of all of us who God may not be bragging about. What are we missing out on? I’m preaching to the mirror now. It is a struggle at times for me to consistently spend the time needed to let God speak deep into my heart. Retirement has been a great challenge since I’m not forced to find a set time every morning before I rush to work. However, I have come to believe it is the secret to growth and a dynamic relationship with our Lord. If you know someone or have read or studied about a person with a dynamic Christian walk, dig deeper and discover it starts with time with God. Conversely, anyone who consistently spends time with God will have an enviable walk with Him.
After spending time with God and asking deep penetrating questions, I love Job’s statement about how his relationship with God had changed. The Good News translation says:
In the past I knew only what others had told me,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I was 25 before I saw God with my own eyes. I had struggled with wanting to have the life I saw in others. Their Spirit -filled lives reflected a relationship with God I did not have. Some glimpses of walking close to the Lord had drifted through my life over the years but when I had asked God to fill me the way their lives were filled, I was still the same old Kathie. But sitting on my couch 40 years ago, I pleaded with the Lord to tell me why my prayers were never answered. A VERY clear answer finally came–one of the clearest answers I’ve ever received from God: “You are pretty proud of the job you are doing without me directing your life and you also are afraid I will turn you into some religious weirdo you won’t like.” A huge piercing Truth finally broke through. I was afraid the God who made me and knew me better than anyone would mess up my life. How dumb is that? I asked Him to take my controlling, prideful attitude away and fill me to the brim. I get emotional just typing this because of the huge, pivotal moment it was in my life. I finally saw how putting God as the driving force in my life was the answer to all my questions. “Blessed are those who mourn” described the blessings poured on me as I mourned the years wasted because my pride wouldn’t let God take control of my life. For the past 40 years, the graph line of the highs and lows of my life has been at the top of the page instead of closer to the bottom. I am far from perfect, as anyone who knows me will gladly Amen. However, I do like the person God is molding me to be. Satan continues to lie to others about how God’s plan is scary or something we would not like or enjoy. Just last weekend, I was teaching young people on trusting God. Most said they did believe and trust God. I asked them to imagine a big, magic, red button on their laps. Then suppose that God would magically change us into the person He created us to be IF we pushed the button. Some quickly raised their hands saying they would gladly let God change them into who He wants them to be. Others struggled with trusting God with that much power in their lives. It is a great picture of our daily struggle. Even if our trust level is up there today, tomorrow we may question whether God really knows what He is doing when it comes to sickness or trials. So how do we build trust? Déjà vu–We are back to the need to spend time with our creator again. See the cycle? The more we trust the more we are willing to turn over our life to Him. The more we turn over our life to Him, the more time we want spend in His Word and in prayer. This builds trust as we get to know Him in a deeper relationship and makes us more willing to turn over our life to Him.
So somewhere in the last few paragraphs I should have posted a new title to shift to the second key to Christian growth-giving God permission to control your life. It’s hard to separate the two, however, because just saying we give God control of your life without spending time with Him is just as ineffective as reading the Bible, praying, and listening to sermons without letting them change you.
Our big red button doesn’t say “easy” on it. It is life-changing, time consuming and an ongoing, constant process. There ain’t nothin’ easy about it. The good news is it is, by far, superior to life with you behind the wheel. So what are you going to do with your big red button?
Kathie grew up in a Christian home on a cotton farm near Hale Center, Texas. She met Mike while attending Wayland Baptist University and took her first teaching job in Perth, Western Australia shortly after they were married. After a few years, they returned to Texas and raised their three children in several towns around the Panhandle as Mike took jobs as principal and then superintendent of schools. Kathie retired 3 years ago after teaching science and math for 25 years. The freedom of retirement has enabled her to be involved in several ministries and gardening as well as be involved in the lives of their children and 10 grandchildren spread across the US and overseas. Kathie says her life sermon is the Peace and Power that is available to all believers through our relationship through Jesus. “I lived my early years thinking and belonging to Christianity as a club with fire insurance. In my mid-twenties, I caught a glimpse of the relationship God wanted with me if I would only trust Him with all of my life. I gave it all to him and my life has never been the same.”