I felt a small sense of relief when I read this title. Perhaps because I usually feel like I’m the slowest person on the planet to cotton-on to what God is teaching me. Also because I’m never at the level of spiritual ‘maturity’ I would like to be (or think I should be at). Does this resonate with anyone else?
As always, God’s thinking is so much bigger than ours and because He looks at our lives from an eternal perspective, He’s in no rush to ‘grow us up’ – He’s much more interested in the depth, strength and completeness of our growth (a lot like this beautiful oak tree).
I often find myself asking God why my growth takes so long. Why do I have to go over this issue again? It’s so hard, it hurts and I’ve already been here! Well, Day 28 has answered a lot of my questions.
Why does spiritual growth and maturity take so long? (abbreviated)
- We are slow learners. We often have to relearn a lesson forty or fifty times to really get it. The problems keep recurring and we think, “Not again! I’ve already learned that!” – but God knows better. The history of Israel illustrates how quickly we forget the lessons God teaches us and how soon we revert to our old patterns of behaviour. We need repeated exposure.
- We have a lot to unlearn. There is no pill, prayer, or principle that will instantly undo the damage of many years. It requires the hardwork of removal and replacement. The Bible calls it ‘taking off the old self’ and ‘putting on the new self.’ While you were given a brand new nature at the moment of conversion, you still have old habits, patterns and practices that need to be removed and replaced.
- We are afraid to humbly face the truth about ourselves. I have already pointed out that the truth will set us free but it often makes us miserable first. The fear of what we might discover if we honestly faced our character defects keeps us living in the prison of denial. Only as God is allowed to shine the light of His truth on our faults, failures and hang-ups can we begin to work on them.
- Growth is often painful and scary. There is no growth without change; there is no change without fear or loss; and there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind: You must let go of old ways in order to experience the new. People often build their identity around their defects. We say, “It’s just like me to be…” and “It’s just the way I am.” The unconcious worry is that if I let go of my habit, my hurt, or my hang-up, who will I be?
- Habits take time to develop. Remember that your character is the sum total of your habits. You can’t claim to be kind unless you are habitually kind. A husband who is faithful to his wife most of the time is not faithful at all! There is only one way to develop the habits of Christlike character: You must practise them – and that takes time!
The Purpose Driven Life also suggests that we don’t be in a hurry. It recommends we:
- Believe God is working in our life even when we don’t feel it.
- Keep a notebook or journal of lessons learned (and regularly read back through it).
- Be patient with God and with yourself.
- Don’t get discouraged.
I love looking at the beautiful oak tree above. It used to be a tiny seed, then a sprout appeared. It grew into a tiny tree and each year grew to be taller and taller. Look at it now! Sometimes it would’ve seemed like there was nothing happening, no growth at all.. but there were always small changes. And that’s what life it like – one small change at a time.
How do you feel about your spiritual growth? Frustrated? Weary? Encouraged? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
PLEASE NOTE: Quotations in this and other posts relating to The Purpose Driven Life (usually entitled Day:?) are sourced from The Purpose Driven Life book by Rick Warren unless otherwise stated. This is an independant study and is based on my opinion and experience only. Copies of The Purpose Driven Life book are available for purchase from all good christian books stores, including Koorong. The first seven chapters of the book can be downloaded FREE from Rick Warren’s official site here.