Summary: Spiritual growth is not automatic, it’s intentional.
Taking the Next Step
Rev. Brian Bill
Charlie Brown is at bat and strikes out again. As he trudges back to the bench, he laments: “Rats! I’ll never be a big-league player. I just don’t have it! All my life I’ve dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but I know I’ll never make it.” Lucy turns to console him: “Charlie Brown, you’re thinking too far ahead. What you need to do is set some more immediate goals.” He looks up and asks, “Immediate goals?” Lucy says, “Yes. Start with this next inning when you go out to pitch. See if you can walk out to the mound without falling down!”
Do you ever feel like that spiritually? Many of us wonder if we’ll ever be in the “big leagues” with our Christian faith. Perhaps you feel like you’ve struck out so many times that you don’t think you can take another step because you’re afraid of falling down again.
As we kick off a new series today called “Growing in Grace,” I want to pass along two significant findings from the Reveal Spiritual Life Survey that 220 PBC people took this past November. I’ll be sharing more about this on May 4th.
* 18% of those who took the survey reported that they are “spiritually stalled.” While this seems high, it’s actually better than the 22% who are stalled for the rest of the sample of 200 other churches made up of 57,000 people. Having said that, since almost 1 out of 5 of us feels like we’re stalled spiritually, we need to give some serious attention to this.
* Of the 11 different statements of “needs” from PBC, one of the top two desires is for the church to “challenge me to grow and take next steps.” 81% want to be challenged to take the next step spiritually. And that’s exactly what we want to accomplish during this series.
When I interviewed Ray Tuley, one of the founders of PBC, he mentioned that the key element of the start of this church 40 years ago was that the leaders were willing to take the first step. We don’t always know what the next ten steps are but we almost always know what the next step is.
I had the privilege of attending a special get-together in January called, “Remember When?” for people who’ve been involved at PBC in the past and for those who are still at PBC and have been here a long time. Many people shared what they are most thankful for about this church. Here are three responses that I jotted down.
* I was always challenged.
* You couldn’t come here and not be challenged to grow.
* People were pushed and prodded to take the next step.
I want to propose that spiritual growth is intentional, not automatic.
Have you ever looked at a mature believer and wished you could be like him or her? Wouldn’t it be great to know the Bible and know how to pray and be able to lead people to Christ and exhibit joy and peace and goodness and knowledge and self-control and perseverance and godliness and kindness and love? Most of us want instant growth, forgetting that what is behind a godly life is a person who has gone through struggles and trials. Spiritual development only comes through practicing spiritual disciplines like time in the Word, prayer, fellowship, fasting, giving, witnessing and serving.
There are two truths to balance as we begin.
* God is committed to our growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” God is committed to our growth because He’s the one who planted us. Isaiah 60:21: “They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.” When we grow we show His splendor.
* We must take responsibility for our growth. Check out 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Our text next week is 1 Peter 2:2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Paul reminded his readers in 2 Corinthians 10:15 that when they grow, the scope of the gospel grows as well: “Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand.” And Paul applauded the Thessalonians for not being stalled spiritually in 2 Thessalonians 1:3: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”