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Summary: If you want to grow in these tough times, practice God’s Word; then persist in the practice of God’s Word, and don’t be pig-headed in your ways.

Dana Van Scoy, of Oxnard, CA, talks about the time when her son had graduated from the 8th grade and was getting ready to enter high school. He was the first of their children to reach this point in life, and she wasn’t real sure about how to prepare him for the pitfalls lurking in the halls of his new school. Nevertheless, she sat down with an air of assurance and discussed the experiences and temptations he must be prepared to face in September. She had hoped that their little session had made an impression on him. It had! She overheard him tell his father later, “Well, I'm ready for high school, but I don't think Mom is.” (Dana Van Scoy, Oxnard, CA, "Lite Fare," Christian Reader, www.PreachingToday.com)

Growing up is hard to do, probably more for mom than the kids, but it is absolutely necessary if they are going to survive and thrive as they face the challenges ahead. The same is true when it comes to one’s spiritual growth at any age. Believers must continually grow in their relationship with Christ if they are going to face the challenges of life.

The question is “How?” How can a believer continually grow in his or her relationship with Christ? How can one who has started the journey with Christ move on with Christ even when the going gets rough? How can you and I who know Christ continue to mature in our walk with Christ even in the hard times? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Hebrews 5, Hebrews 5, where God tells us how to grow in tough times.

Hebrews 5:11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (ESV)

If you want to grow, then don’t be a dull listener. Don’t be lazy in your hearing of God’s Word. Don’t be slow to put the Bible into practice.

Lee Eclov, a Chicago area pastor, talks about a conversation that took place between Max, a first grader in Lee's congregation, and Max's dad, Todd.

The dad says “Max! Why didn't you answer me when I called you?”

Max replied, “I didn't hear you, Dad.”

“What do you mean you didn't hear me?” Dad asked him, and Max does not respond.

Then dad asks him, “How many times didn't you hear me?”

To which Max replied, “I don't know, maybe three or four times.” (Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois, www.PreachingToday.com)

Oh, Max had HEARD alright. He just didn’t LISTEN. Don’t you do the same when it comes to hearing God’s Word. Don’t be a “dull listener.”

Why? Because it will delay your growth. Your obstinance will obstruct your maturity.

Hebrews 5:12-13 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (ESV)

When you don’t practice the Word, you don’t progress; you remain a pupil; you remain a child, who is still sucking on a bottle. You can’t handle anything beyond the basics.

On the other hand, when you practice God’s Word, you grow in your discernment. You mature in your ability to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (ESV)

Those who practice God’s Word are like athletes in the gym. That’s the picture here, since the word for “trained” in the original language is the word gumnadzo, from which we get our word “gymnasium.” That’s where athletes work out and exercise as part of their training, and that’s what you need to do if we want to grow in your ability to distinguish right from wrong.

When you learn a new truth from God’s Word, exercise it; work it out; practice it until it almost becomes second nature. Then determining the right thing to do in each situation becomes easier and easier. That’s what spiritual maturity is all about – gaining the wisdom to choose the good over the evil, the right over the wrong, the real over the fake.

Some time ago, Scotland Yard conducted a private exhibition of forged paintings for art dealers. They wanted to warn the dealers about the sale of forgeries, which some experts estimate make up 40 percent of the art market. The sale of fake art can undermine the value of the genuine articles.

The forgeries at the exhibit were created with remarkable proficiency. Reliance on documentation alone won't solve the problem, because even that is often forged! Fiona Ford, of the Association of Arts & Antiques Dealers, said the level of skill displayed by the forgers was “terrifying.” She added, “If every dealer saw this exhibition, it would further impress on them how careful they have to be.” (Associated Press, “Police Display Fakes at Exhibition to Warn Art Dealers,” www.topix.net, posted on 11-23-06; www.PreachingToday.com)

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