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HOW GOD GROWS US

eph 4:14-16

1271

 

INTRODUCTION

1.  God designs us to grow physically.  We are born a helpless dependent infant.  The goal is to become a mature adult.   How do we grow?  We need proper nutrition, love, life experiences, education experiences, and support from other people.  You put these together with time and we grow.  Although we come in various shapes and sizes, the goal is the same: maturity.  That’s the norm. 

2.  God designs us to grow spiritually.  When we are second born, we are spiritual babies, often just as helpless and dependent as in our physical birth.  God designed us to grow from spiritual infancy into spiritually maturing adults.  How does God grow us?  How does He mature us into fully passionate, competent and complete disciples?

3.  This morning I want us to look at 4 ways God grows us.  These are not the only ways but they will give us a start in our maturation process.  Let’s begin by asking the HS to show us this morning where we are in our own stage of growth.  Let’s ask him to help us be open to various ways He wants to grow us so we can imitate Christ in our daily lives. 

THE CHALLENGE

1. Our Scripture reading gives us the challenge:  don’t be tossed back and forth as infants.  We are spiritually born as infants but don’t stay in diapers and sucking on a bottle. Don’t be content with other people cutting up your spiritual meat and spoon-feeding.  God designed us to grow in knowledge and practice of faith so we can come like Christ.  This passage gives us the hope that we can reach the level of maturity that God desires for us. 

2.  The goal: Be like Christ.  Christ is our measure of our maturity.  God designs us to be conformed to the image of Christ.  He had never given us a command that we are able to obey as we surrender to Him.  Every one of us can imitate Him in thought, word and deed.  Do you believe that?  We must put more trust in the HS than in the world.  To achieve the goal, we must grow.  How does God grow us?

I.  GOD GROWS US THROUGH SUFFERING 

1.  God grows us through suffering.  That would not be our choice, would it?  We prefer a life free of pain and suffering.  We prefer to grow on the beach not in the briar patch. Most of us reject suffering.  We don’t just want relief from it; we want it to go away. That’s why many Xians don’t grow in the midst of suffering.  The truth is that suffering can make us bitter or better.  The choice is ours.  If we are going to grow through suffering, we must agree suffering is a reality.  Christians suffer.  Faith is not a drug that inoculates us against pain and suffering.  No one escapes pain and suffering.  Jesus didn’t and neither shall we.  Jesus was forthright. John 16:33“ In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   Peter declares that Jesus suffers so arm ourselves with the same attitude.  This is the way the Mgs puts it.  1 Pet 4:1 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants (SLIDE).  A friend of mine would say we are either coming out of a crisis or getting ready to have one.  Sufferings are realities.  They come because we live in a sin-infested world.  

2. God never wastes pain.  He uses pain to grow us.  How can something so painful be positive? Suffering can make us better when we accept it is a reality.  We can grow in suffering when we remember that God has a plan for our lives.  God knows what is best for us.  God is all-powerful. God is sovereign.  Either God causes or permits every experience in life.  That means every pain and suffering you and I experience is as Rick Warren says, “Father Filtered”.  Just like the oil in our car goes thru a filter, our experiences goes thru the Father.  Would God cause something to happen to us that is evil?  Would God permit something unless He has the power to bring good out of it?  No.  The bible reminds us God uses everything in our lives to conform us the image of Christ.  Do you trust God to know what is best for you?  If so, then when sufferings come, they will make you better.

3.  We can become better in the mist of suffering when we focus on God’s plan rather than the pain.  Joseph teaches us this.  You remember what he went thru.  His brothers sold him into slavery.  He was put in jail.  Finally released and became # 2 ruler in the land.  He looked back on that experience without revenge against his brothers. He said this:  you intended it for bad but God intended it for good.  He kept his focus on the plan not the pain.  The bible identifies part of God’s plan is that we have hope.  We have confidence in God.  If we focus on the pain, we’ll get out and get out quickly.  We short circuit the process and become bitter rather than better.  Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

He looked beyond the pain of the Cross and saw the glory. 

3.  God can grow us through suffering when we rejoice in the midst of it.  We are not thankful for the evil or the suffering.  We are not masochists.  We rejoice because we know that God is with us.  We don’t have to go thru it by ourselves or under our own strength.  We can rejoice because suffering is not meaningless.  It has a purpose and a goal.  In the midst of pain, we often cry out why me.  Woe is me.  The reality is that suffering is not about us.  It is about conforming us to God’s image.  It is about God’s plan for our lives not what is on our agenda.  If we keep these 3 things in mind, God will grow us thru suffering.

B.  SUFFERING GROWS US…

1.  God uses suffering to draw us closer to him.  Ps 34:18. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Obviously the closer we are to God the more mature we are going to be. The closer we draw to God, the more dependent we are going to be.  The more dependent we are upon God, the more mature we become.  When we are dependent upon God we can say with Jesus, not my will but yours be done.   When we think we are at our wit’s end, when we are at the end of wisdom and our strength has run out, then we can call upon God and hear him saying in our ear  Rom 8:28. 

2.  God uses suffering to develop confidence and hope in God.   Rom 5:3-5. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.   How many of you like pain and suffering?  What is the 1st thing we generally do when we feel pain come?  We do something to remove it.  We want it gone.  We’ve moved from St Joseph aspirin to extra extra strength Tynoel or Advil.  We do the same when sufferings come.  We cry out to God, get me out of this and do it now.  We do everything we can to either stop the process or mask the suffering.  We break the cycle so suffering doesn’t have opportunity develop perseverance.  We grow when we learn to persevere with God.  Paul says we must persevere in order to build character.  Perseverance is that power that comes from God to hold up under the problems rather than bailing.  We have character.  We’re tested and proven.  Our trust and dependence upon God is refined.  We know we can hang in there with God and God with us.  Character establishes hope.  Now we have the confidence that God will always see us thru.  In order for sufferings to grow, we must not only accept their reality but to see them thru.     

                       

III.  GOD USES TEMPTATIONS TO GROW US

1.  Martin Luther is quoted as saying that he got his Masters of divinity degree thru temptations.  Temptations grow us by giving the opportunity to choose obedience or disobedience. We yield and disobey.  We resist and obey.  Every time we obey, we grow stronger.  Every time we obey, we become like Christ.  God wants to use temptations to strengthen us, to build us up.  Satan wants to use them to tear us down.  When we say no to tempt, we grow.  When we say yes, we shrink. 

2.  We say no to temptation by understanding the steps Satan uses to lead us away from God.  Satan often identifies a desire with us.  He encourages us to give into a sinful desire else does or to fulfill a legitimate desire in the wrong way.  This was what he tried to do with Jesus when he wanted asked Jesus to use his power to turn rocks into bread rather than feed on God.  Let’s keep in mind that Satan doesn’t make us sin.  The Devil doesn’t make us do it.  James reminds us temptation is an inside job.  The desire comes from inside of us.  Satan simply uses his knowledge of human nature to stimulate the desire.  If we didn’t have an internal desire than the outward stimulus would not make any difference.  If we have no desire to drink then we can work in a brewery without getting drunk every day. 

3.  Desire leads to doubt.  We doubt God or His word.  Satan said to A/E, did God really say that.  Did he really say that was a sin?  He says it today.  Aw come on, people.  Don’t you know the bible was written centuries ago?  It is so out of date.  If God really loved you then you wouldn’t be going through this.  God isn’t fair.  He could have prevented this. When we begin to doubt God or His word, you can just bet Satan has his big foot in the door.

4.  Doubt leads to deception.  Satan deceived A/E by saying you won’t die.  You’ll be just like God.  I know God told you that you would but God is not telling you the truth.  Satan is the father of lies.  That’s his native tongue.  He does not know how to speak the truth. 

5. Deception gives birth to disobedience.  When the internal desire to do something wrong reaches this point, it gives birth to sin.  When we sin, we disobey.   We lost the battle.  We miss the opportunity of growth.

B.  HOW TO OVERCOME TEMPT

1.  How can we grow in the midst of temptation?  First we must realize that no one is beyond temptation.  No matter how much you grow, you’ll never outgrow it.  It is a normal part of living out our faith.  Satan will insure that.  In 1 Cor 10:13, Paul says when we are tempted not if we are tempted.  Martin Luther said this about temptation:  you can’t keep a bird from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.  The Devil can suggest but we don’t have to follow his suggestion.

2.  Secondly recognize your pattern of temptation and be prepared.  There may be certain situations that you are more vulnerable than others.  If so, then do your best to avoid the situations.  When are you the most tempted? Is there a time of day that you are the most likely to yield?  Maybe when you are alone or tired.   Today, many people are tempted when they are alone and on the internet.  Where are you the most tempted?  Is there a place that provides an environment that encourages you to sin?  If so, then you can take safeguards to prevent that situation from happening.  Who is with you when you are most tempted?    On Tues Frankie was watching Dr Phil.  A teenage girl couldn’t say no to drink and drugs when she was with her so-called friends.  There may be some people you should not be with so that Satan cannot use that moment.

3.  When you are aware of Satan tempting you pray.  Send out a spiritual SOS.  This is not a time for long flowery prayers.  Cry out for help.  If you have a prayer partner, this is a good time to call them and ask them to pray with you.  In doing this, God can respond with His power and strength and give you power to say no.

IV.  GOD USES PEOPLE TO HELP US GROW – prov 27:17

1.  God uses suffering and pain to help us grow.  He used temptation and obedience to mature in our faith.  God uses people to help us grow.  In our eph passage, Paul reminds us we can grow to maturity if we all work together, if each person does his/her part.    Prov 27:17As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. We need each other.  Just as it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, it is not good for us.  One of basic needs is relationship.  When we are connected and joined together through X, we can grow.  We die when we disconnect from people.  Dr John Townsend, How people grow, “virtually every emotional and psychological problem from addiction to depression has alienation and emotional isolation at its core or close to it”. Many support groups teach us recovery and growth happens when people connect with each other. 

2. God uses people to help us grow because when we are connected, then we support each other, we help each other, we look out for each other and that produces growth. Galatians 6:2  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.    The more we cut ourselves off from people, the more starved we are for connection.  We then attempt to meet that need with some addiction from sex to shopping to substance abuse. 

3.  Other people help us grow by keeping us accountable.  Have you ever said I just need more self-discipline?  Where are you going to get it?  by disciplining yourself?  If you could discipline yourself then you wouldn’t need more self discipline.  The truth is it usually comes from others helping us.  We have an accountability partner or in a group that helps us keep on track.  When I counsel people I often use assignments.  They usually are things the person or couple has thought about but just never did.  I provide the discipline of doing it and their issues become better.

4.  People help us grow by being God’s representative of grace and forgiveness.  James reminds of us of this when he says: 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.   We cannot forgive anyone of their sins but we can convey to them that God does as we love and accept them. Many people can’t accept God’s forgiveness until they hear a fellow struggler say I accept you.  I love you in Christ. 

V.  GOD USES TIME TO GROW US

1.  Just like it takes time to mature physically, it takes time to mature spiritually.  Maturity is not a single event.  It is many experiences and events over a long time.  We have to unlearn old habits and learn new ones.  Many of us are slow learners.  Depending on the stage of life we became believers, we may have a lot of old habits to unlearn.   Problems in marriages or on the job usually develop over time and takes time to resolve.  That’s true for spiritual growth.  Sometimes new Christians get down on themselves because they are not doing what they think they should.  They compare themselves to much older and mature Christians and become easily discouraged.  Remember it takes time to growth.

3.  However we don’t automatically grow over time.  I’ve known Christians of many years and are still babes.  They are still tossed back and forth.  How do we know we are growing over time?  One way is when we learned lessons we can share.   When we can say this is how I deal with that then we know we are growing.  IF you keep a journal of lessons learned then it would be a visible evidence of growth. 

4. We know time is growing u s when we have more ability to resist sin.  We never reach the point of sinlessness.  We’re not be perfect this side of heaven but we can work toward it.  As we mature in Christ, we will sin less and less.  We will have more spiritual resources and experiences that lead us to say no.   When a particular situation caused you to sin a few years ago but now you can say no, then you know you’re growing. That’s achieving God’s design for you in becoming more like Christ.

Conclusion

1. God wants you to grow.  He wants you to become a passionate, competent complete disciple that imitates Christ in thought, word and deed.  God designed us to grow.  God has many ways to grow us.  He uses pain and suffering.  We want to take a spiritual Advil and remove the pain.  Only when we work thru the pain will perseverance produce character and character hope.  God uses temptations.  God doesn’t tempt us. Satan does.  God wants us to face potential sinful situations, make the right choice and say no.  Each time we do, we grow stronger.  He helps us understand how Satan tempts us so we can anticipate and be prepared.  Each time we obey him, we want to obey him more and more.  God uses people to help us.  The more connected we are to the body of believers the more we are connected to God who strengthens us.  God uses people to keep us accountable and even as instruments of grace whereby we can accept forgiveness.  God uses time.  The longer we walk with God, the stronger we become.  We need time to un-learn old sinful habits and learn new ones that honor God.

2.  God loves you so much he designed us to grow to be like Jesus.  He’s given us means to grow.  Let’s grow into maturity. 

 

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