2021: Do you really want to grow?
Dear BPCWA worshipper, Time certainly flies, and even as I began to write this pastoral, it struck me that this is the last pastoral for 2021. Yet another year has passed, a year which for the world was fraught with COVID-19 fears and effects. In the last Seniors Fellowship of the year, I closed off the year with a reflection on our church theme, and I would like to do the same for this last pastoral of the year.
But grow … Spiritual growth is something that doesn’t happen “automatically” – it needs effort. I wonder as we went through the series of messages at the start of the year, at the church camp, and repeated in several messages in between, what was in our heart? Physical growth comes at a cost to our routine. Anyone that needs rehabilitation will also know that to grow and start using those muscles again may involve a lot of pain. On the other hand, we can just continue sitting in our chair (or in the pew) and think in our hearts that “I’m comfortable doing what I am doing, I don’t want to try to do that… it’ll take too much effort”. The patient that does that and refuses to exert the effort to grow will not remain status quo but deteriorates. While initially only minor therapy was needed, more therapy and intervention are needed. Spiritually, we too can be lethargic. We look at ourselves and think that we’re doing pretty ok, and this is about as far as we want and are willing to go. In reality, the backsliding has started. Or we may have put that foot forward, and then when the pain struck, we shrunk back and refused to go any further. What would you say of the athlete who has a mindset of “I don’t care about winning a medal, training myself to do my best, and making sure that I am a good representative of my country, I only want to go to the Olympics”? Salvation is not just a ticket to heaven. Salvation is an acceptance of the Lordship of Christ as Master of your life. If you have absolutely no desire for growth, my dear friend, I urge you in Christ’s love to check your salvation. But for most of you, did you set your heart on a journey of spiritual growth for the rest of your life, starting in 2021?
In the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The first step to spiritual growth begins with God’s Word. This means effort must be put in for that growth. It means reading the Bible carefully in your quiet time. It also means coming to church to learn. This is where the pain and the cost may hinder you to start on the journey of growth. Some may feel “Why should I make the effort to go to church to learn when I am also a Christian and can study the Bible at home? What can going to church offer me that I can’t do myself?”. Some parents would be happy to send their children to schools and tuition classes to study subjects that they themselves may have gone through themselves. Why? Because they value academic growth and because they know that the schools have trained teachers who are well versed in these subjects. Teachers go through training prior to teaching and they spend every week and are dedicated to honing their skills and knowledge on these subjects. Why else would you be so concerned about making sure your children sleep early at night, wake them up every school day, dress them, pay for their books and school fees, and make sure that they reach school early in the morning before it starts? This is where we loop back to the start. “But grow” must be a given in your lives. If you aren’t committed to growing, you will not bother to go through the effort to grow in the knowledge of God. You can spin many excuses, but I hope every honest worshipper will answer first that question of whether they are willing to “pay to grow”.
In grace. Knowledge alone is insufficient. Grace means being like Christ in every part of your life, to everyone you come across, and at all times and in all situations. Who indeed can say that they don’t need to grow in this respect? But simply because everyone is lacking in some area does not mean that we don’t have to try. How would an aspiring Olympian train? To the untrained, that move may have been way beyond anything you’ve ever done. But the coach spots an area or a weakness that yet needs to be worked on further. Would the athlete say “I’m better than my whole family at this sport, I’m already very good, who are you to tell me that I am not perfect”? A good athlete who truly wants to grow in his sport will humbly acknowledge that he needs to do better. They do it for a corruptible crown. We do it for an incorruptible. We don’t measure ourselves against other brethren. We measure ourselves against our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’s standard. Sometimes, growth in grace means that the Christian grace of humility and meekness needs to grow. At other times, it calls for growth of temperance, longsuffering, and patience. And even when we think that all that is already really, really hard, it must be topped with brotherly kindness and charity. Often, even when we think we’re kind of there, God brings across someone or a situation in our life to tell us that we have not yet reached “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph 4:13) and need to grow some more in that aspect. Growing means that at different stages of our lives, we will need to grow in different areas. As a child, with little knowledge, you may have been humble and ready to learn. What you needed then may have been knowledge and perhaps some patience to slowly learn. Then as a young person, with some knowledge acquired, you may need to learn temperance to apply that knowledge to different situations of life. Or you may become impatient with someone who doesn’t have that knowledge that you have. For those that God calls to marriage, another phase comes with new areas of growth. The desire for virtue and godliness must now grow even more, as the physical hurdles grow greater, involving not only bringing themselves, but their children as well to church. They can, at this stage, just step back and say – I cannot grow anymore, I don’t want to grow. If so, then all the growth that they’ve achieved earlier can just take a big step back as their spiritual life slides backward. Ultimately, that growth in grace is a growth in a practical, living faith as we walk the Christian walk.
To Him be Glory. This must be the fundamental reason why you want to grow. All the right things, done for any reason other than this, is not growth. It is not for a sense of achievement of being able to be moral or good, as simply what the Buddhists do. It is not so that living by God’s principles will save you a lot of problems in life (although it certainly will). It is not so that others cannot say anything ill of you. Ultimately, growing is not about me. It is and must always be about glorifying the God who has saved you. It is about living your life in a way that pleases Him. It is about preparing to meet Him who has purchased your body and soul so that you can glorify Him. Once we realise that, growing is not an “if”, “later”, “why must I”, or “but”. Growing is a must. All who have been saved and redeemed and who claim Christ as Saviour must obey Him as Lord. It is our Christian duty, and to not grow is a dereliction of duty.
2 Pet 3:18 But grow in grace, and [in] the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him [be] glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Yours in our Lord’s service,