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I think one of the main things that discourages people from growing is a secret belief that they can’t. You admit you need change, you try, you pray about it, and it doesn’t work. How discouraging! “To fail at this means hopelessness; true failure” you think to yourself…so you forget about it and secretly stop caring. Ask any 4 foot tall child if he/she would like to grow and they would… Ask a thirty year old who’s below average height, and has no hopes of a growth spurt, if he or she would like to grow and they’ll tell you they’re fine the way they are. That’s like a lot of us – a lot of the time! You think you’re fine the way you are – spiritually – but only because you don’t really think you CAN grow… If you really thought you could change and grow – you would. Well you CAN. There’s a bit of a trick to it. It’s in Ephesians 4:16…
In Ephesians 4, as the whole body works and exercises its gifts (especially spiritual gifts), THAT is how you grow… Think about this. In order for a baby to grow to adulthood – it will need two things: (a) for his parents to act on him and on his behalf to help him grow…(feed him, clothe him, keep him safe and fed). But then he will also need (b) to run and play and challenge himself as kids are supposed to…
In the same way what the Bible is saying is here is the ONLY way you will grow spiritually: if you use your gifts for other people, AND they use their gifts for you.
Think of it this way… Some people get a lot out of a good sermon or lecture. But other people need to learn in a hands on sort of way. Still, other people pickup their political views and beliefs, attitudes from their peers. How can all these people grow in their understanding of God when their learning needs are so different? As each member of the church uses his/her gifts to benefit others, some with a teaching gift, some with a gift of friendship, some with leadership, some with organizational hands-on things – each person can learn the same truths in the ways they need. But the only way this works is if (a) the members of the church are using their gifts, and (b) you are finding and developing your gifts as well.
Make sense? The other (more individualistic) ways we try to grow don’t work. God tells us what we need for real substantial growth. It’s not a collectivist approach, nor is it an individualistic approach – it’s both. We’re part of a larger body, and growing requires us to act like one. As GK Chesterton once said, ‘it’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it’s never truly been tried…’