What Prevents Us from Growing Spiritually and How We Can Move Beyond
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 30, 2006
Hebrews 5:11-6:3 (NLT)
Captain Hanson Gregory.
I never met the man, but I certainly like his name… and I appreciate
his accomplishments and his contribution to society. I’ve told some of
you about him before, but do you remember? Let me tell you a bit about
Captain Hanson Gregory.
At the age of nineteen, Hanson Gregory was in command of his own
vessel. While he was still nineteen, he was decorated by Spain’s Queen
Isabella for saving the lives of an entire Spanish shipwrecked crew.
But that’s not why Hanson Gregory is remembered today. He is remembered
today because he invented… absolutely nothing. Confusing? Let’s
Two decades after the death of Captain Hanson Gregory, a furious debate
took place in New York. It was late November, 1941, and the judges were
Clifton Fadiman, Franklin P. Adams, and Elsa Maxwell. The leaders of
the opposing sides were Fred Crokett of Camden, Maine, and Henry Ellis
of Cape Code, Massachusetts.
The heated discussion revolved around whether or not Hanson Gregory had
indeed invented nothing.
Lawyer Ellis maintained that he had not. Lawyer Henry Ellis claimed
that it was, in fact, an American Indian from Yarmouth (Maine?) who
invented nothing during the seventeenth century. But despite Mr. Ellis’
splendid courtroom tactics, there were many inherent weaknesses in his
case – among them, the difficulty to prove anything three centuries
On the other hand, Mr. Crokett, seeking to prove that Captain Hanson
Gregory had invented nothing in 1847, presented for examination an
array of affidavits, letters and other documents.
In the course of the debate, the story of Hanson Gregory’s life
unfolded. He was born in Clam Cove, Maine, in a charming colonial home
overlooking Penobscot Bay. As already mentioned, at nineteen he assumed
command of his own ship, making him one of the youngest sea captains
ever to sail from the coast of Maine.
In that same year, he became an internationally acclaimed hero, as he
was decorated by Queen Isabella for saving that shipwrecked Spanish
Yet it was not for his bravery on that occasion that Hanson Gregory was
discussed in 1941. It was for an invention that comprised of nothing
more than thin air.
Debater Fred Crockett, attempting to ascertain the circumstances of
this invention, acknowledged the blurring of much folklore with the
truth. Hanson had not, as some said, invented nothing by accident
during a storm at sea. He had invented it on purpose as a boy of
fifteen in his mother’s kitchen.
Mr. Crockett’s evidence was sufficiently persuasive enough to win a
unanimous decision from the debate judges. Today, sixty-five years
later, the Smithsonian Institute confirms that nothing was invented by
Hanson Gregory just the way that Fred Crockett said it was.
It all started 159 years ago when Hanson Gregory noticed that his
mother’s fried cakes were soggy at the center. The fifteen year old
picked up his fork, and poked it through the middle of one of the
cakes, and invented the something that will forevermore comprise of
absolutely nothing: The hole in the doughnut.
[above illustration from
Now let me ask you, why
would Hanson Gregory’s mother make cakes that were soggy in the center?
I don’t think she did it on purpose. I think she fully intended for
those cakes to be cooked completely. I think the cakes had soggy
centers because, for whatever reason, they didn’t get cooked through.
Oh, they were placed in the oven. But perhaps they were too thick,
perhaps the ingredients were imbalanced, perhaps the oven didn’t
distribute the heat correctly… whatever the reason, it would appear the
circumstances prevented the cakes from turning out like the maker
So this morning, I want to about soggy centers. I want to talk about
the soggy centers that people have in their relationship with Jesus
Christ. What keeps people from maturing and attaining their full
potential in their relationship with Him? Why are there inconsistencies
in our Christian lives? What prevents us from turning out like our
Earlier, we looked at a passage from the book of Hebrews. One verse in
particular jumps out at me…
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...”
What is it that keeps people from going on to maturity? What holds you
back from reaching your full potential in your relationship with God?
Well, there could be several answers. But I want to suggest to you just
two reasons in particular which I believe keep people from going on to
maturity and leaving them with “soggy centers.”
And you can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow
along and fill in the blanks. Okay?
Two Hindrances to Growth:
1. Crisis Mode
VIDEO – My Dad: Juggling
Crisis Mode Living. This is when you’re trying to keep all your plates
spinning and all your balls in the air while your RPM’s keep climbing
higher and higher until your needle is pegged in the red and it just
stays there. It’s when your prayers are reduced to cries for help and
your worship of God is reduced to cries of thanksgiving for getting you
through just one more week.
And let me tell you, this is a dangerous way to live… because what
happens is, you start to rationalize a sin here and there and you lose
your intimacy with God. The busy-ness of your life impairs your
relationship with Him.
You already know that this is a real danger. Just consider what
crisis-mode living can do to a marriage. Many marriages break down
because one or the other or both of the people involved in the marriage
live in crisis-mode. It’s usually the man who falls into this trap, so
I’ll use the man as the example. Plus, I’m a guy, and it’s just safer
to pick on your own gender. But consider this… when you first get
married, things are going great. You take time for your wife, and that
relationship is a priority. But over time you start to get involved in
more and more things in the community or at church and you dive into
your work and before you know it you’re spending late hours at work and
neglecting your family. You’re scrambling to meet deadlines, and as you
do so, you lose intimacy with your wife and with your kids and your
relationships break down.
You know what? The same thing can happen in your relationship with God.
You can get so wrapped up in everything else that your relationship
with Him suffers. And what’s really scary is that this can happen even
in the Church. People can get so wrapped up in the busy-ness of the
Church… even doing good things… that they neglect the most important
thing. Jesus warned us of this…
Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT)
“On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord,
Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and
performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew
you. Go away…”
So basically, these people are saying, “Jesus, look at all the good
things we’ve done for You.” And Jesus tells them, “You may have done
some good things, but all the good deeds you could ever do could never
replace a relationship with Me.” Don’t allow the busy-ness of life to
keep you from maturing in Christ.
Do you member Mary and Martha in the New Testament? When Jesus came to
visit, what did they do? Well, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and just
listened to Him talk and speak into her life. Martha, on the other
hand, was hard at work in the kitchen trying to get the meal ready and
she became rather frustrated with Mary for not helping. And she stewed
about that until she couldn’t take it any longer and she decided to do
something about it. Let’s look at that passage from Luke chapter 10…
Luke 10:39-42 (NLT)
Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet,
listening to what he taught.
But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came
to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister
just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all
these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned
about. Mary has discovered it--and I won’t take it away from her.”
Mary understood that what was truly important was found at the feet of
Jesus, and so that’s where she planted herself. Martha wasn’t doing
anything bad… I mean, they did invite Jesus for dinner. Shouldn’t
somebody cook it? What she was doing was good, but she was missing out
on the very best. Instead of investing herself solely in the meal, she
should have invested herself in the Saviour.
David in the Old Testament understood this, and so he wrote…
Psalm 39:6-7 (NLT)
We are merely moving shadows, and all our
busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth for someone else to
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
So I think the keyword
here is “balance”. We need to balance the different elements of our
lives so that we don’t burn out and so that we have time for the most
important. We can’t allow the good to crowd out the best.
So if you’re living in crisis mode, then ask yourself these two
You’re Living in Crisis Mode, Ask…
What put me here?
Why did it happen? How were your priorities out of whack? Why did you
begin to neglect your relationship with Jesus?
What radical change will be necessary to get out?
And it may be a radical change. You may need to cut out some good
things in order to make time for the best things. Now, that doesn’t
mean cut out everything. There are good things you’re involved in and
you should be involved in them. But if they’re crowding Jesus out of
your life, then those good things are no longer so good.
Crisis Mode living. It
can stunt and even suffocate your relationship with Jesus.
Another reason that people are kept from going on to maturity is at the
other end of the spectrum: Laziness.
Some people don’t mature
and they remain soggy in the center simply because they’re not willing
to put in the effort to grow. It’s too hard, it’s too much work, and so
they’re content to stay just like they are. But the problem is, even
that will disappear.
The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament has a lot to say about
laziness. A lot of warnings. Here’s one…
Proverbs 24:30-31 (NLT)
I walked by the field of a lazy person, the
vineyard of one lacking sense. I saw that it was overgrown with thorns.
It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down.
Let me ask you, what happens to the plants in a garden when the garden
becomes overgrown with thorns and covered with weeds? The life is
choked out of those plants. The same can happen to you and me, if we
aren’t willing to put the time and energy into tending the soil of our
relationship with Jesus. All these other things will spring up and will
choke the life out of that relationship.
Proverbs has more to say. Check out these verses…
Proverbs 26:14-15 (NLT)
As a door turns back and forth on its
hinges, so the lazy person turns over in bed.
Some people are so lazy that they won’t lift a finger to feed
And read these verses with me…
Proverbs 19:15 (NLT)
A lazy person sleeps soundly--and goes
Proverbs 13:4 (NLT)
Lazy people want much but get little, but
those who work hard will prosper and be satisfied.
“There has never yet been a person in our history who led a life of
ease whose name is worth remembering.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt
How many of you have been watching “America’s Got Talent”? What have
been some of your favourite talents? Some of them have been pretty
interesting. Like Bobby Badfingers, the finger-snapper. I’ve never seen
anyone snap their fingers that fast. I’m sure he must have practiced
his way through hundreds of blisters. This past week, there was a girl
who plays the glass harmonica. Only 13 people in the world can play
that instrument. There was a magician on the show this week who talked
about doing his first magic act when he was in grade four, and he
talked about how bad it was. None of the tricks worked. But now, he’s
amazing. All of these people with talents… and I can pretty much
guarantee you that everyone who makes the finals has put a lot of time
and energy into improving their talent.
Donald Kendall, the co-founder and former CEO of PepsiCo, put it this
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
~ Donald Kendall
To get better at anything takes effort. It’s true with sports, it’s
true with your job, it’s true with your marriage, it’s true with your
schooling, and it’s true with your talents. And it’s true with your
relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, we live in a society where we
want everything quickly. Email, cell phones, fast food, the Internet…
they’ve only increased our “want it now” attitude and have made it more
difficult for us to devote ourselves to anything where we don’t see
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant
satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today
is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people,
but for deep people.”
~ Richard Foster, A Celebration of Discipline
So if you’re going to be deep… if you’re going to be mature… it’s going
to take some time and effort. And there are practices or habits which
you can instil into your life that will help you grow. I’m going to
quickly list 12 of them, and if you want more information there are a
couple of books listed in your notes which you may want to check out.
[For more, read…
With Unveiled Faces: Experience Intimacy
with God through Spiritual Disciplines by Keith Drury
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to
Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster]
12 Habits of Growth:
This is prayer. You can talk with God, tell Him about your successes
and failures, share your concerns with Him, ask for His help, thank Him
for all the ways he has blessed you, and give Him the praise that He
“You are the same today that you are going to be in five years from now
except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books
~ Seminar speaker and author Charles “Tremendous” Jones
If you want to grow spiritually, then you need to associate with God
and read His Book. Some of you are already doing this and working your
way through the entire Bible in 2006. You’re over half way there now,
so keep it up. If you’ve fallen behind, then don’t give up. Keep going,
even if it takes you into 2007. Some of you may even want to start now.
15-20 minutes a day and you’ll finish up sometime next summer.
meditate on God’s Word
This is more than just reading it. This is really diving in… reading
other books that help you understand certain passages, maybe using a
good Study Bible with added notes at the bottom of the page, checking
out the cross-references if your Bible provides them, and dwelling on
certain verses or passages and contemplating what they mean for you.
This can come right out of your reading or studying, or you may use the
one that is provided in your Sunrise Update. Everyone here could
memorize one verse a week without too much difficulty.
fasting (once a week or month)
This is basically reducing or eliminating your intake of food for a
specific time for a specific purpose, and it should be accompanied with
a more intense time of prayer. Maybe you have a major decision to make,
and fasting could help you sense God’s guidance. Maybe you need God to
unleash His power and perform a miracle, and fasting can demonstrate
the depth of your desire. I don’t claim to fully understand how or why
fasting works, but it does. And the Bible makes it clear that Jesus
expects His followers to fast, at least periodically.
[For more, visit
by serving others
Get involved in ministry.
private and with others
It’s important to be with your church family each week in this kind of
a setting to join together in worshipping and praising our God. But
your worship should not only be here on Sundays. You should worship
privately, as well. And it doesn’t have to be music; worship can be
anything that expresses your heart of love to God.
wait on God
We spend a lot of time talking to God; so designate time to allow Him
to talk to you. Just spend an hour or an afternoon in silence, so you
can hear His voice.
Reduce the clutter, limit the distractions, and decrease the stress.
Because those very things are what can lead to that crisis-mode living
we talked about earlier.
Give to God
and to others
Giving a percentage of your income to God is a form of worship, it
honours God, and it reaffirms that God, not money, has first place in
your life. And giving generously to others shows His love to them, and
helps form the heart of God in you. God is generous, and so to be
godly, you need to be generous, too.
Last week we talked about identifying God’s leading in our lives. Well,
when you know what God wants you to do, then do it.
growth in a journal
Kind of like a spiritual diary. You could use a notebook, you could do
it on the computer, you can buy a specialized journal from the
Christian book store which would include reflective thoughts and
readings… but just write down someplace how you’re growing, and in a
year or so go back and see how far you’ve come.
There. Now that’s quite
a list, and you may feel a little overwhelmed. But you don’t have to.
I’m not saying you have to incorporate all of these all at once. Some
of them… like talking with God, reading His Word, worshipping, giving,
obeying, serving… those are the ones that you should work toward making
a regular part of your life. The others… try them from time to time.
Maybe one or two of them you’re going to do regularly. Maybe the other
ones you only do once in a while. That’s fine. But I would encourage
you to try them all at one time or another. And I think you’ll be
amazed at the growth that will occur and how God will work in your life.