Living the Christian life according to Biblical principles is counter-intuitive. Living a life that is reasonably pleasing to God flies in the face of what I naturally think is the way to live. There seems to be seven ‘wisdom’ mile stones that are involved in changing from doing things my way to doing things the way God intended me to speak and act.
- Healthy things grow.
- Growing things change.
- Changing things are a challenge.
- Challenge forces trust.
- Trust leads to obedience.
- Obedience leads to health.
- Health produces fruit.
My youngest daughter Teri is a gourmet cook. When I go to her house I can count on a marvelously tasting meal. Walking through the door creates anticipation as a plethora of delicious aromas just makes my mouth water. However, walking into the kitchen is to be met with what appears as confusion. It is a mess. Multiple used measuring spoons and mixing bowls piled in the sink, flower scattered over the counters and floor, pots and pans litter the counters and stove. It looks like a cyclone came roaring through the kitchen. Raw meat, partially prepped vegetables and uncooked dough is not what the meal will look like. But I have learned something. I have to wait. Out of this seeming mess comes something incredibly yummy.
When we come to the point in our natural lives where we realize that we need Jesus in our lives, we rarely realize that we are starting a counter-intuitive life. God is going to want us to change. That is an immutable fact. We essentially have two choices in living with God. When God produces the opportunity for change so we can become more like Jesus, we can either love it or fear it. Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” It is the ‘remaining’ that is the change agent for our healthy growth. Let me unpack this a bit.
First, healthy things grow. Only healthy things can produce healthy fruit. Unlike plants, we are not just a physical being. We have this mysterious part of us that we call our spirit. Whether it is physical or spiritual conditions, there must be a healthy environment to maintain our health. For plants, there needs to be the right combination of fertilizer, moisture and light. For us, we need the right combination of emersion in the Bible [fertilizer], prayer [moisture] and fellowship [light] with other believers.
Second, growing things change. My growing will require my changing. Growing spiritually means expanding.
Third, changing things are a challenge. My changing will introduce challenges to my growth. Time is measured from one point to another. Any change in biology takes time. Want to change a habit? That takes practice. Practice takes time. Maybe you have heard the prayer of one Saint who asked: “God, please give me patience. And I want it now!” I have found the biggest challenge to my growth is being willing to endure the delay. I want the change to happen now, not tomorrow. Consider for a moment the oak tree.
An oak tree is a magnificent thing to see in the forest. But think about its beginnings. It starts life as an acorn, an insignificant small seed in a hard little shell. God never intended that acorn to stay as it is. God causes a wind to blow and at the right time it loses its grip on the branch. It falls to the ground. It is no longer connected to it past life. It dies. It get stepped on and pushed into the earth. Over time the right combination of fertilizer, moisture and light causes the hard shell to soften, a new life to grow and a healthy tree that produces some of the most durable wood stands tall amongst other trees. Down through the ages in stories and poetry, the oak tree has stood for might, strength and endurance.
Forth, challenge forces trust. In order to meet the challenges of growing I am forced to trust Jesus. How I handle delays in the process of changing will determine the way I experience coming to maturity in Christ. Let’s take a closer look at that acorn. This acorn had a brother. Imagine with me this conversation taking place between these two acorn brothers named John and Peter. They are hanging out on a beautiful sunny day.
“I love it that we have relatives nearby. It so homey and comfy here” remarks John.
“Yeah, I often think to myself that I want to be just like them someday” says Peter wistfully.
“Not me! I am staying right here.”
Peter looks at his brother in shock. “You cannot do that. That’s not natural.”
“I made a decision last night that I do not want to go through the process of maturing. I just want to be a magnificent oak tree that everyone will admire.”
“That is insane John. Acorns do not become might oak trees hanging around on twigs. They fall down to the ground. That is when they become like our relatives in the future.”
“I do want to be tall and durable someday. I just do not want to die. I have watched some of our cousins. That is a long drop and you can hear them thud on the earth. Horrible! Don’t even want to think about it!”
A Gently Breeze stirred though the branches whispering “You are designed to let go.”
“Did you hear that Peter?”
“No. I just felt a gentle touch of the Master’s hand. It time for us to let go.”
“No! No! No! Not yet. Life will be better not facing the challenge of change.”
“Change is necessary if we are going to produce what the Creator intended for us John.”
“I can’t! I like life as it is, hanging on a twig high above danger is better. If I let go I going to die.”
“You will be a mighty oak if you just let go John” the Gentle Breeze whispered.
God speaks to that little acorn words of encouragement. Did that little acorn listen? You be the judge.
Fifth, trust leads to obedience. Learning to trust Jesus will produce obedience in me. An acorn looks nothing like the oak tree it becomes. The same goes for us. The growth process that God has us go through is not what we will look like in maturity. God will introduce all sorts of things into our lives to help us grow healthy.
Sixth, obedience leads to health. Obedience to Jesus makes me healthy for further growth. Obedience teaches me that the natural things that I am inclined to do are health destroyers. Obedience is trust in action. It is listening to God and trusting that what He says, while counter-intuitive, doing what He says is the healthy thing to do.
Seventh, health produces fruit. God intends me to grow in order to produce fruit. When I took biology in high school, one thing I remember is that there is a basic rule of life: if a life form is not growing then it is in the process of dying. We are the same way. If we are not growing as God intended us to grow, then we are dying a slow death. We may feel healthy but we are dying.