Here are some quotes from inspirational leaders about learning, developing and growing. Which one do you like the best?
- “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future” (John F. Kennedy).
- “Sail away from the safe harbor” (Mark Twain).
- “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals” (Zig Ziglar).
- “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday” (Abraham Lincoln).
- “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” (Albert Einstein).
- Definition of insanity: “Doing the same things exactly the same way each time and expecting a different result” (Alcoholics Anonymous).
Compare these to what the Bible says about growing. “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come … Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (The Bible — 1 Timothy 4:8,15).
I’m going to lump all of the previous quotes together under “physical training.” As true and inspirational as they are, they are earthbound. They definitely have “some value” but there is much more value “in all things” from spiritual training and growth called “godliness.”
Now, let’s press the pause button here and ask this good question: Do Christians really have to grow? Doesn’t Jesus love little children? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit ignite faith in babies through baptism? Weren’t some of Jesus’ disciples uneducated fisherman? Doesn’t grace require nothing of a sinner to be forgiven?
Yes! All of these are true. Jesus loves you enough to accept you, by grace, just the way you are. But he loves you too much to let you stay that way. We must not use the free gift of salvation as an excuse, because it is everything but.
We are not required to grow in order to be saved, but when we are saved then we are required to grow.
It’s still grace. It’s still a gift. God is still in it. By grace we are saved. And by grace we are God’s workmanship to do good and grow.
I see many Christians—and I am tempted myself—to put my faith in neutral and coast through the day or through my life because Jesus loves me and forgives me, because salvation doesn’t depend on me, because I don’t dare claim that I contribute anything to my salvation.
But then why pray? If there’s nothing to do when it comes to your salvation, why are you here? why worship? Why teach your children about Jesus once they’re baptized? If the entire Christian life is an “I don’t do anything when it comes to my salvation” then what do you do with the verse that says, “continue to work out your salvation” (Philippians 2:12)?
And why would the Bible list a bunch of Christian traits, including “godliness,” and then say, “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8)?
Christians don’t graduate. We grow. The grace of God saves us, and the grace of God keeps working in us as we put our faith and salvation to work for our growth and his glory.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for your grace that saves me, and the same grace that improves me, pushes me, strengthens me, and develops me as a growing disciple. Tune me as an instrument for your praise! And help me play my part well in the bigger band of people at home, church, school or work. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: List 3 people in the Bible who grew up in their faith and godliness. They learned to believe more fully, to see God’s way more clearly, or to put their faith into action more boldly. What do all 3 have in common, along with you?