Am I Growing?
Recently I ran into some old friends of ours and realize how big their kids are and how fast time flies. The conversation between my wife and I about Nehemiah (our 12 year old) is all-too-typical. “Is he growing? Is he getting bigger? Why is he still so little?”
He stand next to his 10 year old sister, which stands about 3 inches taller than him and stands next to his 8 year old younger brother who stands an inch smaller than him. One day he stood next to them both and he stood up straight to make himself taller. Then he stood up on his tiptoes and says “see I am taller”
We reply with, “Don’t worry buddy. You’re growing even though you can’t tell. One day you’ll just burst and grow to be tall like your daddy or your uncles. You have to eat more and get plenty of sleep”
Why Am I Still Struggling?
Although I’m his father, and he doesn’t complain much about it, I can still see what he feels and understand this little guy’s concerns. In fact, there are times when I’m just like him; both spiritually and physically. I’m a certified trainer and have been involved in the fitness field for a while now and I look around at others and see them explode off the gate. In the same way, I’ve been a Christian for 20+ years now and I still look around at other believers and wonder, “Am I growing? Will I ever get big? How come he/she’s so spiritual and I’m still struggling?” I look at my life and then I look at theirs and I think, “Will I ever grow?”
“If God has justified me, he certainly won’t condemn me. Why would I condemn myself?”
Then sometimes, when I’m at my lowest, I start searching through my “good deeds,” the stuff I’m good at and trying to stand on my tiptoes so that I can feel happy about myself. I so want to know that I’m doing better. I really do want to approve myself, but the more that I try to detect growth in my heart, the more discouraged I become. Others are growing and changing. I’m still fighting with the same weaknesses. Sure, some of the outer obvious stuff is gone but my heart, oh my heart, is still so weak, so selfish, so unloving. So I find myself back at the Wall of Self-Approval, failing miserably. I know I need to refuse to be enticed by self-improvement’s allurements, but when I realize that I’ve been at the wall again, I feel even worse.
Our God Comforts
What do I need to hear? How does the Spirit speak to me? Like my loving wife and I, the Spirit continually reassures me, “You’re growing, because I’m at work. I’ve got this all well in hand and even your sin, your weakness, the failures that make you think you’re shrinking, are the products of a soul that is being fit for heaven. After all I’ve done to make you my own, would I leave you now?”
Here’s how Paul finds a way to encourage our timid little hearts: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
If he would do that, wouldn’t it make sense that he will grow me in the way I need to be grown, when I need to be grown? He’s already graciously given me everything I need to be pleasing in his sight. So I can rest in his work and wait for the fruit of it to appear in its season, in his time. I can trust that even when I fail he’s using my failure to make me more like him–more humble, more dependent, stronger, and more thankful for grace.
“God has already graciously given me everything I need to be pleasing in his sight.”
Who is going to bring any charge against me? If God has justified me, he certainly won’t condemn me. Why would I condemn myself? Is my opinion more important than his? And then, when I’m tempted to run to the wall, here’s where I really need to focus: Christ Jesus is the one who died, who was made small in the human form and even smaller in the crucifixion. Then he was raised and sits now at the right hand of God, interceding for me. He’s there for me. Now!
Do I Still Struggle?
Do I struggle in my growth? Yes, all the time. Further, the sad truth is that sometimes I want to grow so that I can be like Nehemiah and be happy about my growth as I compete with my siblings.
“The desire to grow is a good thing but our motives are frequently so sinful.” ~Pastor Josh
But even then, even when my motives to please him are wrong, I can rest because he’s interceding for me. Right then, in my unbelief and pride, in my desire to save myself and avoid being little (a weak, unbelieving sinner), he’s praying for me.
So, let’s put our pencils and rulers away and rest in his promise to complete the work he’s begun in us. And then, on the days when we pick them up again, let’s remember that he is interceding for us at the right hand of the Father who gave all so we would be his. We don’t need to stand on our tiptoes any more. We’re standing in his righteousness.