Monday, May 16, 2016

How to (not) grow: Expect the Christian life to be easy

Written by Matt Wooley

In the Parable of the Sower (or Soils), Jesus describes the different reasons people do or don’t receive the gospel, as well as what gets in the way of growing in the gospel. For followers of Jesus, anything that gets in the way of spiritual maturity is worth looking at more closely! 

We’ve already talked about the overall purpose of spiritual growth and the difference between growing and maturing.  And we’ve talked about the lesson from the first soil in the parable-- the hardened path-- which is: don’t ignore the spiritual battle

Another way to not grow, from the second soil, is to expect the Christian life to be easy
And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture…  …And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.  Luke 8:6,13 

That may seem like a weird barrier to spiritual maturity, but if we expect the Christian life to be easy… if we expect that by following Jesus that God will make everything in our lives good… then when that doesn't happen there will be an unavoidable and uncomfortable tension. 

That tension can shipwreck a person's faith. 

That tension forces us to answer the question-- usually again and again-- why am I following Jesus? Is it because I am loved? Because the gospel gives life and hope? Because it's true? 

Embracing the fact that following Jesus doesn’t make everything good or easy all the time, gives us permission to endure any “times of testing” and to do so with God. And this perseverance through the struggle is where God does some of his best work in us and matures us as followers of Jesus.

Sometimes other people just say it better. Here is James Bryan Smith: 
  Jesus never promises that our lives will be free of struggle. In fact, he said quite the opposite: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 KJV).
  We should expect to go through heartache and pain, suffering and loss, because they are part of what it means to be human, and they can be useful in our development. As James said, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
  I have grown much more through my trials than I have through my successes. I do not ask for trials… but I am learning to trust God in the midst of them.
-- James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God 

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