Friday, June 14, 2013

God Gave the Increase

When my daughters were babies, I dreaded going to the pediatrician.  Neither one of them grew as fast as the doctors thought they should.  Both of them hovered just over the line of the dreaded "failure to thrive" diagnosis.  As much as I told myself that they were growing at their own pace, I still got scared when I saw their little dot at the bottom of (or below) the line for normal growth.  I was doing all the right things for them to put on the ounces, but in the end, I was not in control of their growth.  When I learned to leave the growth up to God and just do my job of feeding them, I was a much happier mommy.

Sometimes I think I would do well to take the same attitude with my spiritual life.  As long as I am getting the nourishment I need in the form of Bible study and prayer, I can let God take control of my growth.  

There are several metaphors in the Bible that uphold this theory.  Jesus and Paul both used botanical imagery when speaking of Christians.  When we read about the lilies of the field that Jesus told us to consider, we immediately think of how beautiful they are.  But notice that Christ also pointed out that they grow.  God owns them. Just as they don't have to work to put on their beautiful garments, they also don't have to strive to grow (Matthew 6:28).

In the same way, Paul is adamant that our mentors don't cause us to grow. In 1 Corinthians 3, he is addressing a church that is fractured because each wants to follow a different man.  In frustration, Paul reminds them that although he and Apollos planted and watered the seed of the Word, God caused the growth within his people. 

Knowing that God is in charge of my growth should make me humble.  Just as a lily can't take credit for its beauty, I need to cast out any sense of smugness I may feel for bearing spiritual fruit.  That's hard.  We live in such a competitive world.  It's easy to look at others who may be further behind in their spiritual walk and feel a sense of superiority.  "I'm so glad I'm not like Donna.  She has no self-control."  "Just look at what was given in the offering plate today.  If everyone gave like we did, we would exceed our budget every month."  Have you had thoughts like that?  I know I have.  In times like these, we should stop and remember that our growth is not because we are so good but because God is.  

Remembering God's goodness will also help ease my heartache over not being the perfect woman.  Do you ever read Proverbs 31 and despair?  Sometimes when I measure myself against the standard of Christ, I feel like I'm a Lilliputian next to a giant!  My growth seems pitiful.  Now, there may be times that stagnation may be my fault (more on that next week), but if I am getting the proper nourishment, I can leave behind the anxiety.  I belong to God.  He is in charge of my growth, not me.  Despair and worry didn't make my daughters into chubby babies, and they won't make me a spiritual giant.  

Giving God the credit for my spiritual growth will also help me have healthier relationships with other Christians.  I can neither put them on a pedestal as the Corinthians tried to do nor blame them when I'm not growing as fast as I think I should.  I've had trouble with both in my life.  As a child, I had the bad habit of following the man in the pulpit instead of following Christ.  I believed every word the preacher said, and I was devastated when he showed the least amount of human frailty.  I may have matured a little in this regard, but as a married woman, I have also put too much pressure on my husband.  His role as spiritual leader does not give him sole responsibility for my growth, but I have often unfairly put that burden on him.  Only God can shoulder that load.  Only God deserves the credit.  He can overcome the stumbling block of a sinful husband, and He is responsible for giving us righteous husbands too.  We can praise them when they are leading us well, but our Heavenly Father deserves the ultimate glory.

Despite being skinny babies, both of my girls are in the middle of the growth chart now.  I didn't do that.  If I had been able to control their growth, they would have had fat rolls! I made sure they had nourishment, but the rest was up to God.  Do you know what? I think they are perfect.  While I can hardly say that I am the perfect Christian, I am content to feed on the Word of God and let Him control my growth as a Christian woman too.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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