Devotional Thought of the Day:
It’s amazing how much a five year old reflects the behavior of a society, and even more amazing, the people who make up God’s church in America. ( I don’t know about other countries – yet…)
I happen to have a brilliant five year old. He reads well, he can do 2 and 3 digit addition, but he has a major issue with patience, and sometimes a complete lack of awareness of that which is going on around him. A chip off the old block in many ways (okay – he get’s the brilliance from his mom) Most repeated lesson these days, get what you need to done, without the whining. I tell you – there are times I wish he was a teenager – and had matured past the whining part. (please don’t disillusion me!)
I see in myself, and in churches and among church leaders, the same impatience. We want everything fixed right away, we want to see our people go from just baptized to having the faith of Moses and David and John right away. (we have to remember that John was once a “son of thunder” and I don’t think his transformation was immediate either.)
We whine about the fact that others don’t mature, and that we can’t “go on” or we decide to “go on” without them. If this is in the church – we devalue each other, saying that our personal growth and maturity is more important than the growth of the entire community in their faith. Tough call, very tough call here, but we see the evidence of it in the incredibly high “church shopping” movement. People don’t see their needs being met – even in the mega-churches – and they mvoe to the next one, to the next place that is hopping – and then try to drag their friends there as well.
We see it in the movement today – in those that look at the 25 year studies of churches and note that the “common” thing is for decline ( while we over look the stat in the same study that says this is easily addressed by re-committing to the vision of the church, or adapting it) and that “true” growth occurs fastest in “church plants”. IMHO – that attitude will prove to result in more danger as good – about 20 years from now – as those people see that they created a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it is also there in the movement that has little patience with those who are so excited to discover the grace of God, that they want the world to know! More whining, more complaining, more impatience.
Please hear me – I as much as anyone – want to see people grow in their trust in God, and mature in how that is expressed. And I struggle with the plodding that sometimes is evident, as people don’t see a need to grow – and our content where they are at – stagnant it seems.
But spiritual maturity is a process of endurance, not sprints – it needs to last generations, not just years and perhaps a decade. It has to show the characteristic that we see in God,
3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
I used to think the patience in this passage, was talking about those that hadn’t rbeen brought to repentance yet – but Peter is addressing the people that are believers already. Could it be that God’s patience is with His kids? The ones who whine and complain about others, the ones who are to be about planting seeds, the workers in the harvest, the church that has been gifted and given the vocation of being the light in the darkness? I think that we have to be careful and to discern the difference between tolerating stagnation, and knowing when to be patient with the slow and steady growth that must occur in the church – the patience that knows that endurance in the ministry means being able to guide people from where they are at, to a greater and greater dependence on God.
It means realizing and ministering to people in their brokenness – and making sure they grasp the wonder of God’s presence in their life, and the need of that presence in the lives of those around them. It means slowing some down to savor God’s presence and rest – while still bringing hope and healing to those around them. It means sticking to the place where God has gathered you – and encouraging each other continually to look to Christ, to reflect His glory.
It’s not easy, its not always popular, but the discipline is that which reflects God’s love to you…. as you work with people, enduring, patient – longsuffering, and as they work with you.
Know this – where you are at – there God’s presence is… learn that it is enough – and that is the maturity that really matters.