by Rose Avenue church of Christ
This study is dealing with an important area in the life of every Christian – growth. We have noted that growth is an important part of our lives. The past few articles have addressed some of the obstacles that stand in the way of our growth as Christians. Some of them are placed there by Satan and others through our own negligence simply hinder us. In this article we want to notice some external factors that hinder growth.
Poor role models. Sometimes people don’t grow because they don’t see growth in those they look up to. The scriptures teach the importance of being a proper example (Matthew 5:14-16). This is important not only in dealing with those of the world, but our brethren as well. When one first becomes a Christian he begins observing his brethren. While he has a fervent desire to do what is right how long will it last? What happens if he sees everyone in the congregation simply existing as they always have? What if in time he sees that the only thing that happens is the members “go to church”? Unless he is taught different, he is going to adopt that same attitude. Which means his growth will be stunted.
Paul told Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2. How was he to teach? One way was found in an earlier letter, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12. Consider also Titus 2:3 notes that older women are to be “teachers of good things” to the younger. This is one of many examples that could be given which call for proper role models in all things, including growth.
Our entertainment driven society. While this actually fits under the category of worldliness; it deserves its own attention. We live in the television, video game, computer age. Many hours are spent every day in front of a screen at home and now, even as we are driving around town. The goal is to be entertained. While such media can be good, and in reality they are a blessing, often they become the primary reason why we don’t grow spiritually. We spend so much time being entertained that we have little time left to study God’s word, pray and visit those who need edification. Also, because of the intensity of entertainment they offer, it can make worship, prayer and bible study boring.
There are reasons why we are called upon to make a total commitment to God. The allure of the world is one of them. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24). John said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16). Paul warned Timothy of those who would be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” ( 2 Timothy 3:1-5). He concluded this by saying, “and from such people turn away!”
When we allow entertainment to become an obsession in our lives, we will be affected by it. And it WILL stunt our spiritual growth.
Discouragement. Often times when one observes a failure to grow in others or in one’s own life, he becomes discouraged. When things don’t progress as quickly as he would like, he can become frustrated and tempted to give up. Obviously, as long as this attitude is present, growth will not be.
Jesus described this heart in the parable of the Sower. It is the stony ground. Matthew 13:20-21 says, “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”
The fact that one is discouraged is not wrong within itself. We all become discouraged from time to time. Even Jesus was discouraged occasionally. But the key is to keep going and not let whatever it is that is so discouraging hinder our spiritual growth.
Realize that growth also takes time. In Galatians 6:9 Paul said, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Growth will come “in due season”. I am reminded of the child who can hardly wait to grow up. First, he can’t wait to become a teenager. Then he wants to be sixteen so that he can drive. As he reaches that milestone, he wants to be an adult, and so it keeps going. We tell them, “be patient, growth takes time”. We understand that physically, but when it comes to spiritual matters, we want growth and we want it right now. Well, growth doesn’t work that way spiritually either.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT OBSTACLES?
The answer is found in Hebrews 12:1-2 which says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Note how we are called upon to lay aside every weight and run with endurance.
First, we have to set aside whatever it is that is an obstacle. While that is usually not easy, it means doing all that we can to remove the obstacle. If we have attitude problems, adjust your attitude. If the conduct of others is discouraging you – don’t let it. Talk to them about it (souls are at stake). Or better yet, don’t worry about them, worry about yourself. I love what Jesus said to Peter when he inquired about the future of John. Jesus said, “what is that to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21:22) What is needed in this situation is for YOU to step up to the plate and do your job. MAYBE your conduct will inspire them to do better.
We MAY have to turn off the television and computer games.
If our obstacle involves sin, we need to repent and pray (Acts 8:22).
Second, make a plan to grow. We have already noted that poor planning hinders growth. The opposite is also true. If you want to grow spiritually, you need to set aside time to study God’s word on a daily basis. Do your Bible lessons. Pray regularly and study HOW to pray. As much as possible, don’t neglect the church. You NEED the local church and she needs you. Set goals to reach the lost and keep at it.
Third, be patient. As we have already noted, growth takes time. It also takes great effort. If you are going to grow in knowledge, you have to keep studying for years. This requires planning. If you want to be able to teach the lost, get to work and keep at it. In time, you will begin to see the fruits of your labor. We need to set aside time in our lives to grow. Think about that child that can’t wait to grow up. Growing requires several things including he has to go to school (education), eat, exercise, and do many other things that will promote growth and health.
Truly, Satan will put many obstacles in our way as we strive to grow spiritually. I am sure there are others that could be added to this list. But these are sufficient to keep us aware of his weapons. Let us not let ANYTHING get in the way of our growth.