Slow Growth in a Fast World

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
(1 John 3:2-3)

Waiting is difficult when we in a digital society.  We get frustrated today because our movie takes a couple of minutes to download, forgetting that we used to have to actually drive to the store, pick out what’s available on the shelf, and hope that the person who watched it before you did the whole “be kind, rewind” thing on the VHS tape. We have convinced ourselves that everything we really need should come quickly and effortlessly, and when it doesn’t, something must be wrong.

The reality is, the things that have true, lasting value in our lives take time. Athletes know there are no shortcuts to success; champions only grow over time through hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Financial success happens only through discipline, delayed gratification, and long-term planning.  Healthy relationships take time, energy, and effort to maintain; they don’t just happen.  Anything worth having requires dedication, effort, and patience.

This goes for our own maturity in our Christian walk. Growth in the Christian life doesn’t just happen, and it certainly doesn’t happen quickly.   Simply growing older doesn’t bring maturity in faith and understanding.  We say we want to grow in our faith and understanding, but are we ready to put in the work that is required for this growth to happen.

  • We pray for patience, and God will put us in situations where patience is required.
  • We pray for wisdom, and God will put us in situations where we must lean on His Word.
  • We pray for faith, and God puts us in situations where we are racked with doubts and must learn to trust Him.

The living out of our faith in Christ is a slow, laborious process.  There is never a plateau in the Christian journey, never a time when we have “arrived.”  God is always working in us to bring us more into the likeness of Christ.

We are God’s children now, John says in our text today, but we are not yet what we shall be.  By faith we trust that we have been united with Christ, justified in the eyes of God, covered by the righteousness of Christ.  Even so, we continue to grow, trusting in the inward working of God’s Holy Spirit.  Working toward that growth, we make use of the means that God has given:

  • Regular Worship and sitting under faithful Teaching of God’s Word,
  • Daily Study and Reflection on Scripture,
  • Prayer – praising God, repenting of our sins, seeking His grace to guide you.

Somedays it seems like we’re making little to no headway.  Instead of growing, we feel like we’re falling behind. But don’t give up!  Watching your children grow every day you often don’t notice the changes.  But when the Grandparents come to visit, what’s the first thing they say? “Look how you’ve grown!”  God works His transforming grace often in slow, immeasurable ways, but in the end His work is perfect and complete.

As John’s letter says, everyone who hopes in the coming of Christ purifies himself as Christ is pure.  Knowing who we are, and who Christ is making us to be, keep striving toward that goal of Christ-likeness until He appears and we are made like Him.

SDG

On the National Election (Part 1)

(This is an article written prior to the election 4 years ago, but is important for today.)

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
(1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV)

My grandmother always told me it wasn’t polite to talk about religion or politics.  Thinking back, I find it curious that she would say this, since she was one of the fiercest Democrats I have ever met, and a dyed in the wool Methodist.  Maybe she was warning me that I shouldn’t discuss either topic with her, since she knew that I was both a Republican and a Presbyterian.

Ignoring my dear grandmother’s warnings, however, over the next few weeks leading up to the Presidential Election I’m going to write about how our faith (or religion) and our politics come together.  We’ll start today, speaking in rather basic terms, and go a little deeper each week leading up to Election Day.

It is a Christian’s responsibility to vote

This is one of those lessons that must be inferred from scripture because you will not find it written explicitly.  There is no 11th Commandment saying, “Thou Shall Vote.”  When the scriptures were written, there was no such thing as a democratically elected government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ (though one could rightfully argue that the foundation of our representative government has its foundation in the elder-centered government of the early church).  There are occasions where lots were cast to choose a representative, or a consensus was reached after prayer and deliberation, but no general vote as we know it today.

But while you will not find hear St. Paul exhort you to “Get out the Vote,” we are told to be good citizens.  St. Augustine said those who are citizens of God’s kingdom are best equipped to be citizens of the kingdom of man.  In Romans 13, Paul teaches us that we are to be subject to the authorities in the land, “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  As Americans we are blessed to be governed by consent; those in authority have been elected by the people.  Participation in the process of election, then, is essential to effective governance, a vital part of our citizenship, and a key component in our duty of submission to those in authority.

It is a Christian’s responsibility to vote responsibly

While it is the Christian’s responsibility to vote, it must also be said that the Christian must vote responsibly.  I must confess, there have been times when I have gone to the booth and did not recognize the names of the people on the ballot.  Usually these were uncontested races for local or county positions – and I probably just filled in the circle because, the vote really didn’t matter.

Usually, however, the vote does matter, and you have to stay informed to know why and how each candidate is different.  I don’t have cable or satellite  TV, so I have been mercifully spared from the onslaught of political advertising this year. (And I am so happy to no longer live in Iowa, where it was a constant, multiyear campaign.)  But I do know this, you cannot trust the ads.  Put two political ads back to back and you will hear them say two conflicting things.  To get to the truth, you have to do the research on your own.  Read a paper (if that can be trusted), watch the debates (if you can stomach it), talk to your friends… Find out as much as you can about the candidates (and the referendums in South Dakota) so that you can make an informed decision.

It is a Christian’s responsibility to pray for elected leaders, regardless of whether you voted for them.

Most importantly, it is the Christian’s responsibility to pray for their elected officials.  Paul urges our “prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Often, we need to remember this especially when our candidate did not win.

We must pray for those in authority over us; praying with the hope and conviction that God’s hand will guide and guard his people, realizing that no power that we face here can undermine the sovereign will of God.  We must pray graciously for those in authority, knowing that God works in, and often, in spite of, our elected officials.  And while it may be hard to pray for someone you completely disagree with, the very act of faithful and humble prayer will change your heart – you cannot continue to pray for someone without coming to love that person.

SDG