Summary: Growing pains are a natural part of our growth process. The same is true of the growth process of every Christian. In this message, Pastor Dunn outlines for us the four stages of growth in the life of a Christian.
Dr. Paul W. Brand, the noted leprosy expert who was chief of the rehabilitation branch of the Leprosarium in Carville, Lousiana, had a frightening experience one night when he thought he had contracted leprosy. Dr. Brand arrived in London one night after an exhausting transatlantic ocean trip and long train ride from the English coast. He was getting ready for bed, had taken off his shoes, and as he pulled off a sock, discovered there was no feeling in his heel. To most anyone else this discovery would have meant very little, a momentary numbness. But Dr. Brand was world famous for his restorative surgery on lepers in India. He had convinced himself and his staff at the leprosarium that there was no danger of infection from leprosy after it reached a certain stage. The numbness in his heel terrified him.
In her biography of Dr. Brand, Ten Fingers for God, Dorothy Clarke Wilson says, "He rose mechanically, found a pin, sat down again, and pricked the small area below his ankle. He felt no pain. He thrust the pin deeper, until a speck of blood showed. Still he felt nothing...He supposed, like other workers with leprosy, he had always half expected it...In the beginning probably not a day had gone by without the automatic searching of his body for the telltale patch, the numbed area of skin." All that night the great orthopedic surgeon tried to imagine his new life as a leper, an outcast, his medical staff’s confidence in their immunity shattered by his disaster. And the forced separation from his family. As night receded, he yielded to hope and in the morning, with clinical objectivity, "with steady fingers he bared the skin below his ankle, jabbed in the point--and yelled."
Blessed was the sensation of pain! He realized that during the long train ride, sitting immobile, he had numbed a nerve. From then on, whenever Dr. Brand cut his finger, turned an ankle, even when he suffered from "agonizing nausea as his whole body reacted in violent self-protection from mushroom poisoning, he was to respond with fervent gratitude, ’Thank God for pain!’"
Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Ten Fingers for God, pp. 142-145.
How do you respond to pain? Do you try to avoid it, run from it, deny it’s presence? Many people try to get as far away from pain as they can, unaware that pain is not always bad. As a child grows, he or she will experience various aches and pains which are known as "growing pains." It is in this process that bones begin to grow and muscles and tendons begin to stretch, and as a result, we experience pain. Just as we must all experience physical growing pains, we will experience spiritual growing pains if we are to grow and mature in Christ.
In our text today, we find 4 stages of growth in the life of a Christian.
I. Stage One: Infant (teknion)
A. They Need Love
1. Love from God
2. Love from Parents
3. Love from Peers
B. They Need Protection
1. Protection from Satan
2. Protection from Doubts
3. Protection from Discouragment
C. They Need Nurturing
1. They need Attention
2. They need Feeding
3. They need Changing
II. Stage Two: Children (paidion)
A. They need Attention
B. They need Discipline
C. They need Accountability
D. They need Guidance
E. They need Models
III. Stage Three: Adolescents (neaniskos)
A. They need to develop Strength
B. They need to develop Experience
C. They need to develop Responsibility
D. They need to develop Individuality
IV. Stage Four: Adult (pater)
A. They develop a closer walk with God
B. They develop self-discipline
C. They develop spiritual gifts
Wise men know their own ignorance and are always ready to learn. Humility is the child of knowledge. Michelangelo was found by the Cardinal Farnese walking in solitude amid the ruins of the Coliseum and when he expressed his surprise, the great artist answered, "I go yet to school that I may continue to learn."
We need to learn from everything around us. Every person we encounter is able to teach us something, and we would be very foolish not to be able to learn from him. What about you? What stage of growth are you in at this time in your life?