When I was a young boy, our family took a boat trip out to Blake Island one day. We parked the boat and explored the nature refuge tucked into the south side of Puget Sound and my imagination soared. We crossed the island back and forth and roamed and played until I found the single greatest discovery of my pre-pubescent life: a duck nest. And not only a nest, but stuck firmly in the middle was a huge duck egg.
The right thing to do would probably have been to leave it alone but somehow I got it in my head that the duck egg had been abandoned, that my finding it was a sign from God, and that I had a new calling in life to take the duck egg home, assist in the duck’s delivery, and have a new pet as a result. Remember, this was in the 80’s when we weren’t quite as ecologically and environmentally conscious as we are now! J
So we took the duck nest and egg home and set it up on my desk under a heat lamp. For hours that night I watched the duck egg under the lamp, waiting to see the little egg crack and out pop my new best friend. The next night I did the same. The next night I started getting a bit tired of waiting for the duck to crack so I watched a bit of TV and took a glimpse of the egg from time to time. The next night I started to almost forget about the duck egg. Day by day, as the egg refused to hatch, I grew tired with the waiting and watching until eventually I almost forgot about the duck egg completely. The reality is that with each passing day of nothing changing, I grew tired in the hope of new life.
Lately our church has been doing this sermon series called the Roots of Health. The moving principle behind the series, and the current trajectory of our church, is that we want our church to be full of healthy disciples living out God’s call in their lives. So we’re encouraging people to grow into the call of Christ for discipleship. Each week we’ve been telling people to grow in their faith. And it sounds great right? Just grow in your faith! But my hunch is that people leave church each week with this admonishment only to get in their cars and ask themselves or their spouse, “but how???” How do I grow? I’m stuck! I’m flat! I’m not moving closer to God and I’m tired of it. At some level, our desire to change our life gets frustrated and subdued when we don’t see the signs of new life springing up in us. Like waiting for the duck to hatch, we tend to stop watching when our life doesn’t yield the fruit of change. To that end, here are some thoughts to encourage you as you seek to grow in your relationship with God currently.
#1 “There are no small days.” Our head pastor coined the phrase and I loved the admonishment. We like to think of big “moving days” in our faith when we’ll wake up and everything will be different. But the bible doesn’t tell that story. The journey of the Jewish people, God’s chosen, from being captives in Egypt till reaching the Promised Land took 40 years. Our goal isn’t to change in a day, or arrive at a new destination overnight, but simply to take a step towards God and growth every single day. Discipleship is a measurement of a million small steps and small decisions as we are formed into being more like God. Every day grow into this more and more.
#2 Doing it with others is more productive than doing it alone. The value to community on your faith journey cannot be overstated. We like to think of ourselves as products of a modern mindset that says its all about just “Me and Jesus.” Need church? Need community? Nah…it’s just me and Jesus. But the truth as revealed in the bible is that God has called us to be intertwined with others. When Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the gospel, He sent them in pairs. He knew that we weren’t meant to walk alone. People often say to me, “I’m not really into church. I kind of do my own thing.” And most of the time I simply ask them, “how is that working out for you?” It is a rare case when someone is not connected to a local church but continues to flourish in their faith. We need the inter-connection of community.
#3 Be courageous! Live counter culturally: This is a hard one for us because at least for me, at my core, I really like to fit in with the crowd. As we become more like Christ, we will face hard decisions. Does our life look like Jesus as we seek to be formed by Him? Or do we look like everyone else in today’s world? As Christians, we are meant to swim upstream and our life should look different. We should have strong relationships, we should be serving more, and we should be marked with the joy and love of Jesus Christ. This year at our church we’ve been focusing on acts of service so that we can point to the things we do instead of just the things we believe. Because at the end of the day, your beliefs really can be measured by your actions. Do you believe in Jesus as your savior? Your life should point to that.
#4 Give. It will make you grow. This is also a hard one for us to continue to learn because if you are anything like me, it feels hard to give money away. But time and time again in my life, as I’ve given a portion of my income back to God in an offering, I have been blessed and transformed by the process of giving. In our culture today, money becomes a God to us. Giving back to God puts Him back into the driver’s seat in our life and turns our allegiance away from money and possessions. Giving is growing.
#5 Show up! Never underestimate the value of showing up: When Heather and I were Young Life leaders doing training to new leaders, we would always state this last one and people would be surprised. Isn’t ministry about delivering the awesome sermon? Or hitting the final guitar chord as you lead thousands in worship? No, most of the time real discipleship happens in a million small moments. When we continue to show up with God, day by day by day, He can slowly form us like a river moving through a canyon. Change often doesn’t happen in our faith journeys overnight, but over the course of months and years, patterns of following God and showing up ready to receive His love and transformation can mold us into disciples.
At the end of the day, we can’t make the growth in our faith happen- that is God’s job…much like I couldn’t make the duck egg hatch. It didn’t hatch…it grew rotten until it started to stink. Much like a Christian faith that isn’t growing, the idea of stasis is a myth. If we aren’t growing, we are slowly dying. I don’t know about you, but I want to grow. And growth happens through putting ourselves into a place where we can receive teaching and instruction and care from the Father God who created us. James said it in 4:8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This week keep drawing near…and watch with anticipation as your faith grows!