Yesterday we looked at accepting the way God made us. Today I want to balance that idea with a look at the way God pushes and pulls us to growth. Just because God made us a certain way (male, female, introvert, extrovert, feeling, thinking,…) doesn’t mean we can rest on our heels refusing to grow. Yes, God gifts us differently, but he gifts us to use those gifts, and sometimes that requires stepping out of our comfort zones. We have to be willing to risk failure. We may have undeveloped areas in our lives that God would like to use to bless others through us.
I came to pastoral ministry somewhat reluctantly. I had long enjoyed reading and writing, but like many people, public speaking was not something I enjoyed. Nevertheless, after one year of seminary, I found myself in a pulpit looking at a church of about 50 people staring back at me. I was filling the pulpit for a church in north-central Ohio and my first sermon last all of about 8 minutes. I’m not sure I took a breath. I know I didn’t let go of the pulpit. Being people of grace and mercy, they had me back and I later served as their part-time pastor for a while.
God used my enjoyment of reading and writing to give me a platform from which to build my preaching skills. Over the course of many years, I hope I have improved a bit. I certainly feel more comfortable stepping behind a pulpit. In fact, when I don’t have opportunity to do it regularly, I miss it. I’ve learned that God sometimes pushes us to grow so that our faith in him will develop. He desires us to throw ourselves into his grace. To use Dallas Willard’s metaphor, we should burn grace like a 747 burns jet fuel on take off.
We must be willing to take risks in faith. Not for our own glory, but to serve God and to serve others. I’m not a supporter of the “do big things for God” idea, but I am a supporter of doing something for God. For some, the challenge may be to faithfully maintain prayer and Bible reading each day. For others, maybe it’s reigning in our appetite for food, drink, or something else. For others, it may be to attend worship faithfully. For others, it might be the willingness to speak up when topics of faith are raised.
Living things grow, just as we are called to grow. Even when our bodies start to fail, our faith can continue to grow. We may have reasons why growing is hard, but we have no excuse for not making the effort.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:1-4 (ESV)