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?
Never lick a steak
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
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
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…