‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.(John 14v18-20)
Unlike the physical world in which the death of parents results in children becoming orphaned, this is an impossibility in the spiritual realm as the Christian belief is that God cannot die nor be removed from those who bear His Image.
As Creator and Divine Parent of everyone, God has devised a way for people to be assured of His presence, comfort, strength and encouragement in their lives. He does this through the Holy Spirit who comes to live within each person when invited into their lives. Instantly, whether the person realizes it or not, their status changes from ‘spiritually orphaned’ person to ‘loved and valued’ member of God’s family. Moreover, the truth of Jesus’ word’s that ‘I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you’ come true for each of us.
Personally, I find this image deeply troubling. Not because the nun in the gas mask is detached from the child but because she wears it to protect herself from the one who is helpless and in need.
A while back, I came across a sign outside a church that read: ‘Pray or be prey.’ Initially, it amused me as I imagined a community of believers huddled behind locked doors, fearful that by venturing outside they would be brainwashed and devoured by the world. Later on, I realised what troubled me most about the church sign was it ran contrary to scripture as God never instructs any believer to hide or cowar because:
‘the Spirit who lives in (us) is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.’ (1 John 4v4)
Today, thank God for the Holy Spirit that lives in you. Thank him also that you have nothing to fear as you step out into the world to do God’s work. Be blessed!
‘You have been believers so long now…you ought to be teaching others (but) Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.’ (Hebrews 5:11-12)
While many believers maximise spiritual growth quite rapidly, this is not true for all. There are a few reasons why some fall at the first hurdle:
So how does a person maximise their spiritual potential?
Simple – read scripture, learn about God’s Holy Spirit and – if you haven’t done so already- invite God into your life via the Holy Spirit to live and work within you. Not just for today but for tomorrow and the day after (etc). In short, we trust God and avail ourselves daily to Him as we embark on our mighty adventure with the Divine. Be blessed!
‘So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.‘ Ephesians 3v13-15
Whether you agree or not, the evidence is overwhelming that spiritual growth and suffering go hand in hand . Not that it’s hard to grow spiritually – actually, spiritual growth is surprising easy when we are willing to be obedient to God. However, things get tough when obeying God’s Holy Spirit results in us being placed in situations of conflict we would rather not be had God not directed us to stand up for what is right, defend the downtrodden, etc.
Paul discovered this when he supported the churches he had helped set up. It resulted in him facing persecution, slander, imprisonment, beatings and trials. What was his answer to these trials and challenges? To fall on his knees and pray just as Jesus did so that he might be spiritually equipped to face the challenges ahead of him. Bottom line, spiritual growth comes with a challenge – when it does, rejoice and let it lead you deeper into prayer and union with God.
‘But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.’1 Peter 2v9-10
In this passage we see how a people with no identity become known as the ‘people of God.’ The task given to them was to show God’s goodness to those outside the Church and lead others from darkness into light. Straightforward so far. However, unlike every living creature in this world that goes through the stages of birth and growth, this is not always guaranteed for people when they become Christian. Yes, spiritual birth occurs but the growth that ought follow may not where they refuse to engage with the Holy Spirit of God. There are many reasons this happens but most often it’s an ignorance about spiritual gifts or reluctance to engage with the faith they’ve undertaken.
In the same way that an infant’s growth will falter as he continues to refuse food offered to him, so too spiritual growth will falter in communities where they quench the Holy Spirit and/or do not keep pace with Him . Very often this occurs when individuals no longer engage with their spiritual gifts but can also occur due to a lack of understanding about the spiritual elements of their faith.
Question: Why do some churches fail to grow spiritually?
Answer: Lack of spiritual engagement within the community.
‘Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.’ Ephesians 4v11-13
Although all of the spiritual gifts are at our disposal, God has designated one particular gift to each of us that will be hugely effective in growing the Church. Conversely, while we don’t know the primary spiritual gift God has given us,we risk our full spiritual potential being left unrealised in our lives. All of which means we need to be proactive. To find out more get the app, eBook or print copy (UK Only). Then complete the spiritual gift test – discover your primary spiritual gift and get going on building God’s Kingdom!
‘For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters.Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”‘ 1 Corithians 1v11-12
The question of which type of spiritual gift we operate in is not too different to the dilemma faced by early Christians (see passage above) as to which leader they should follow. Now, just as they resolved the issue by pointing to God, we too can treat this question in the same way because Christ is both instigator and arbitor of both types of spiritual gift and the different outcomes they produce.
For example, a primary spiritual gift helps people discover their role in the church as server, preacher, teacher, apostle, encourager, evangelist, etc. Formational gifts – on the other hand also benefit the church but using them is much harder and requires a degree of sacrifice on our part to sustain the ministry – something that Christ uses to form us more into His Image as we serve in a deeper way doing something perhaps that may not be enjoyable or come easy to us.
So, what’s the answer? Well – and this will sound like a cop-out – the best answer I can give is that both types of spiritual gift are equally important because:
‘There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are….believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.’ Hebrews 5v11-15
Want to grow spiritually? It all starts here! Or rather, it starts when we determine to be obedient to God and scripture. As we do this, we discover our spiritual gifts. Moreover, we find that one particular spiritual gift that stands out from among the many. A particular gift God wants us to use which is often referred to as our primary spiritual gift.
Now, some might say: ‘But Bob, I don’t know my spiritual gifts?’ Don’t fret! Take the spiritual gift test using either an app, e-book or print copy (UK only) of‘Know your spiritual gifts’ and begin a spiritual journey of a lifetime as you build God’s church.