Preparing to Grow
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 12, 2003



How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? Let me give you a short quiz to test your intelligence and reasoning ability.

Q. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?
A. Open the refrigerator, put the giraffe in and close the door. Simple. Don’t try to make things more complicated than they are.

Q. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?
A. Open the door, take out the giraffe, put the elephant in and close the door. Remember, there are repercussions to your actions.

Q. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. What animal does not attend?
A. The elephant. He’s in the refrigerator. This tests your memory.

Okay, last question.

Q. There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?
A. Just swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting. This tests if you can learn and grow.


There are areas in which we all have grown. We all learn and improve and mature, at least to some extent. What are some things I’ve learned? I’ve learned:

  • Never lick a steak knife.

  • Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
    (These aren’t necessarily things I’ve learned from personal experience)

  • That tap-someone-on-the-shoulder-while-you-stand-on-the-opposite-side-and-they-turn-around-and-no-one’s-there thing is really annoying.

  • Avoid driving in downtown Charlottetown in the summer.

  • fatal error and illegal operation are not really fatal or illegal.

  • You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

  • Wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers follow me.


Those are some of the things that I’ve learned. We all learn and grow. We have to if we’re going to survive. And this morning we’re going to talk about growing spiritually. Originally I had planned on beginning our “Disappointment with God” series today. We’re going to start that next week instead, but this week we’re going to talk about growing spiritually. Many of you have indicated to me that you have made spiritual decisions of one type or another over the past four or five weeks. You’ve begun a new relationship with Jesus, or you’ve expressed that you have a relationship with Jesus but it’s not all that it could and should be. So some of the things we talk about this morning should help you right where you’re at, and help you to grow as a Christian. In fact, I think you’ll find that much of what we talk about can help you grow spiritually, professionally, grow in your marriage, grow in your relationships, and grow as a person.

The passage we looked at earlier in the service talked about growing and maturing. Here’s part of what it said…

Hebrews 6:1 (NLT)
So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.

It is God’s desire that we don’t remain infants in the faith. He wants us to grow, to learn, to improve, to mature.

So let’s start by talking about some of our false assumptions about what it takes to grow and mature as Christians, and then we’ll talk about some facts about growth and some practical applications.



Four False Assumptions About Growth:



a. Growth is automatic.

I loved to read Archie comics when I was growing up. I remember one page in particular out of a book I read years ago that showed Big Moose in Ms. Grundy’s classroom, taking a test, and he was sleeping on his desk. When Ms. Grundy noticed him, she woke him up and asked what he was doing. His response: “Well, you told me that if I had trouble on a question that I should sleep on it.” Wasn't quite what she meant.

Growth does not happen automatically. You cannot sit back and wait and expect it to happen. It takes planning, commitment and work.

Every once in a while we focus on the state of amateur sports in Canada. Especially around the Olympics or other world championships, like the World Junior Hockey Championships that took place last week. And when we focus on amateur sports, a big part of what we discuss is the need for more funding. Why it that important? Well, with a lack of funding it means that our amateur athletes have to find jobs, and can only train on the side. With funding, they claim they’d be able to devote more time to training and improving. They need to be able to put the time and energy into it that it takes. This doesn’t happen automatically. And you don’t grow as a Christian automatically.



b. Growth comes with experience.

That’s not true. In fact, some people stop growing because of their experiences. We all have experiences, but they don’t necessarily cause us to grow. We can all attend church regularly, go to conferences, read good books, and take part in ministries, but that doesn’t guarantee growth. These things are all important and can add to growth, but they don’t guarantee growth. We must decide to learn and grow as a result of our experiences.



c. Growth is the result of age.

But I know some teenagers who are more mature than people in their fifties. Chuck Swindoll, a preacher and author in California, stated: “There is an enormous difference between growing old in the Lord and growing up in Him. One is automatic and requires no effort at all... just aging. But the other is never automatic or easy. It calls for personal discipline, continual determination, and spiritual desire. Churches are full of sleepy saints who are merely `logging time’ in God’s family.”



d. Growth comes from information.

We’ve touched on this before. If I knew everything there was to know about inner workings of a piano and understood all the theory behind how music is put together, but I had never touched a piano, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to just sit down and play. Gaining information is important, but it’s not until that information is applied that growth occurs.

There’s a story I read that apparently originated in Psychology Today. As the story goes, a number of years ago the prince of Grenada, an heir to the Spanish crown, was sentences to life in solitary confinement in Madrid’s ancient prison. The dreadful, dirty, and dreary nature of the place earned it the name, “The Place of the Skull.” Everyone knew that once you were in, you would never come out alive. The prince was given one book to read the entire time… the Bible.

With only one book to read, he read it over and over again. Hundreds of times he read it through. Until finally, after 33 years of imprisonment, he died. When they came to remove his body and clean out the cell, they discovered notes that he had written on the soft stone walls using nails. They were notes like:

  • Psalm 118:8 is the middle verse of the Bible

  • Ezra 7:21 contains all the letters of the alphabet except the letter J

  • The ninth verse of the eighth chapter of Esther is the longest verse in the Bible

  • No word or name of more than six syllables can be found in the Bible

He had spend 33 years studying the greatest book of all time. But from all we know, there’s no indication that he ever made any religious or spiritual commitment to Christ. He just learned a lot of trivia.

“Are we reading the Bible in such a way that it brings us alive to relationships with Christ, even a God experience? Are we reading the Bible in such a way that Christ—His love, His joy, His grace, His peace—is being formed in us?”
~ Leonard Sweet, AquaChurch p. 59

He also wrote;

“It is theologically incorrect to talk of making the word ‘come alive.’ It already is. We’re the ones who have tried to kill it… we’ve drained it dry with boredom, banality, and mediocrity.”
~ Leonard Sweet, AquaChurch p. 57

There are a lot of people in this world that know a lot about the Bible. They know a lot of theology about God. They know a lot about church history. But that doesn’t make them mature. It just makes them informed. It’s the application of the information that leads to growth.

Okay. Let’s move on to…
 


Four Facts About Growth:



1. Growth Takes Time.

No children are born full grown. I’m not a mother, and I don’t expect I ever will be, but I think it’s safe to say that every mother is glad that children aren’t born full grown. No, children need time to grow. They need to learn to walk and to talk, to recognize shapes and colours, to be polite, to acquire social skills. As they grow, they learn to study, to drive a car, to play sports, to play a musical instrument. Then they learn how to drive a car, to survive on their own, to find a job, to do a job. They learn to build relationships, to raise a child, to mentor people, to give and to love. The truth is we never stop growing. Even as Christians, there’s never a point that we can say we’ve arrived.

Hebrews 12:10-11 (NLT)
For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

An oak tree can take up to hundreds of years to grow. By comparison a squash takes only a few months. The question is, do you want to be a squash or an oak tree? There are no shortcuts. You’ll need to be in it for the long haul.

"The purpose of that apple tree is to grow a little new wood each year. That is what I plan to do."
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Growing old is marvellous, so long as you are still growing.”
~ Vincent Price



2. Growth Takes Effort.

Butt Prints In The Sand
A.C. Rose

One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.

But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?
Those prints are large and round and neat,
But, Lord, they are too big for feet.”

“My child,” He said is somber tones,
“For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.”

“You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt.”

“Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.”
 


James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, wrote;

“You should set your goals high and direct your energies toward achieving them. Train your mind. Develop your skills. Discipline your appetites. Prepare for the future. Work hard. Go for it! You can’t steal second with one foot on first.”
~ James Dobson, Life on the Edge, ch. 4 p. 59

Let’s take a look in the Bible at what Paul told Timothy about the effort it takes to grow.

1 Timothy 4:13-16 (NLT)
Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.
Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecies spoken to you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you.



3. Growth Takes Change.

Change. Everyone’s favorite subject. For the most part, people don’t like change. We avoid it if at all possible. We’d rather stick to our old ways and our old traditions. For example, take the standard keyboard. Have you ever noticed how far apart the keys that we use most often are? Originally, this arrangement of the keys was to slow down typing speed. Back in the 1800’s, typewriters used to jam if the typist went too fast.

But then, about 45 years ago, the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard was invented. On this keyboard, the most frequently used keys were placed in the same home row, and it was designed so that the right hand would o 56% more work than the left hand. Being left handed, I would find that annoying and almost insulting, but in general it was a pretty good design. In fact, typists could type up to five times faster with no increase in errors. But most of us including me still use the old keyboard designed to be inefficient. Why? Because we don’t like change.

So why do we find change so hard? Because it involves “leaving.” Leaving behind people, places, positions, comforts, relationships, things. It involves loss. Loss of things we don’t want to give up.

In the Old Testament, Abraham had to make major changes in his life in order to obey God and to continue on his faith journey. And it literally was a journey. In Genesis 12, it says:

Genesis 12:1-4 (NLT)
Then the LORD told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”
So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.


Change does not necessarily equal growth, but growth always equals change. There can be no growth without change.

“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to have changed often.”
~ Winston Churchill

So what changes will be required to grow as a Christian? Well, it depends. Maybe you need to change your schedule around so you can consistently spend time reading the Bible and talking with God. Maybe you need to work some form of service or ministry into your life. Perhaps you need to implement some spiritual disciplines such as fasting, worship, and solitude. Perhaps it’s something specific that God impresses upon you. I don’t know. All I know is that if you want to grow you will have to change.



4. Growth Takes Help.

  • From others

    Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
    Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

    We need each other. We need to minister to each other and care for each other, and as we do we will help each other to grow. We need to be accountable to each other, and we need to support and encourage each other.
     

  • From God

    Romans 12:2 (NLT)
    Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

    This is what it all comes down to. The spiritual growth that really matters isn’t the growth that we achieve on our own, it’s the growth that God Himself works in our lives. This means we need to be open to Him, obedient to Him, and available for Him to o whatever He wants to do in our lives.


Okay. Just as we finish, let me give you five practical tips to help you grow as a Christian:
 


Growth Tips

1. Read your Bible

Don’t read it only on Sunday. Make it a part of your week. Many people read a part of the Bible everyday. If that’s too hard for you, if you’ve tried this before and become discouraged, don’t be intimidated by it. Set attainable goals for yourself. Even something like 5-10 minutes a day five days a week. You’d be amazed at how much you’ll get out of it.



2. Talk with God

Spend time in prayer. Figure out when this will best work for you… first thing in the morning? During a break at work? Driving in your car? Before going to bed? Feel free to pray sporatically during the day, but pick a time during your day to spend more than a few seconds talking with God. And perhaps black out a day on your calendar every couple months to spend a concentrated period of time… a morning, an afternoon or a whole day… talking with God.



3. Use Other Resources

Read books that will help you grow. Such as The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
Listen to tapes or CDs. Check out what’s on the Internet. – OnePlace.com
Attend conferences or workshops.



4. Participate in the church.

Don’t just attend… participate. Worship God, listen, take notes, give feedback, discuss topics, attend a LIFE Group…



5. Establish Growth Habits

- Prayer, Study, Fasting, Worshipping, Confessing, Silence, Service…


 

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