All Grow'd Up

I am not a fan of exercise. I mean, I do it. I just don't like it.

Currently, I am in pain in a variety of locations of my body because I decided in my infinite wisdom that I could lay off of going to the gym for a while AND eat whatever I wanted without any consequences.

BOY was I wrong.

I think I've tacked on almost 15 pounds since that ill fated decision about four months ago. Bleh.

This week I am preaching on spiritual growth, and I am doing so from I Corinthians chapter 9. If you are not familiar with this passage it's where Paul essentially uses about twelve different sports metaphors to teach a group of early Christians about how they need to be getting their spiritual life cross-trained.

Yes, I said "cross-trained." It was unintentional, but I'll leave it now that it's there.

Funny how the very things that the Apostle Paul was worried about concerning those early Christians are some of the same issues that Christians in our own culture struggle to understand and grasp as well.

In my role as a pastor, I often get asked by people what they need to do in order to become more spiritually mature (as if I have a handle on those kinds of things!)--to grow in their faith. I find myself asking the same kinds of questions from time to time. "How can I grow in my faith? What does it look like when I do? How do I know if I am really growing as a follower of Christ?"

The church that Paul was writing to in Corinth was full of division and strife. I know. Shocking, right? A church that is full of division and strife is just so out of the ordinary. People in the Corinthian church were more interested in their own self-interests and needs than the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul knew that they were stuck and needed to begin growing in their faith if they were going to grow together. This was at the heart of his exhortation.

I heard about a t-shirt that was popular at Duke University during a time when the school's basketball team was in the process of winning back to back national championships. On the front of the shirt it read, "You can talk the game, but can you play the game?" On the back of the t-shirt it read, "We can play." I love the theology embedded in that shirt--at least as it relates to spiritual growth.

What I mean is this...

You can talk about being a Christian... You can talk about following Jesus... But are you really ready to do it? Are you willing to do what it takes to be a follower of Christ? And I don't mean the "what it takes" that so many fundamentalist Christians perpetrate as following Jesus. Practicing hate, judgment and intolerance is not following Jesus. Following Jesus is tough and not at all self-serving. This is what makes spiritual growth something you can't encapsulate in six easy steps. This is what makes spiritual growth not easy.

I must be dedicated to growing in my faith. I must be willing to move from one place to another if need be and not to remain complacent where I am. It's been said that God loves us just as we are, and enough to not let us stay that way. The Christian must not merely start the Christian journey, but continue it.

I encounter so many people who claim their Christianity, but are absolutely devoid of passion. They couldn't be bothered to work for justice. They couldn't be bothered to care for the least of these, or to share what they have been given with those who have nothing. They couldn't be bothered to share their faith. I have also met those who call themselves Christians but who have no joy in their life whatsoever. And still others who basically do all the "Christian" things that they do because they're "supposed to."

And we wonder why so many of us who call ourselves Christians are stuck in our faith. Or worse, why so many people don't want to have anything to do with us.


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