Summary: We’re not surprised when we grow physically; we expect it. If, by chance, growth doesn’t occur, we immediately know something is wrong and attempt to uncover the problem. The same is true spiritually
WHY WE DON’T GROW
Statistics show the average productivity of a Christian’s spiritual life is less than three years. Tonight I want to bring encouragement to those who are sidetracked and to strengthen those who are on the right track.
Billy Sunday used to say, “If we Christians were as weak physically as we are spiritually, we would all need crutches.”
The colorful baseball-player-turned-evangelist was saying that if you’re not growing spiritually, you ought to be worried. Growth is the normal and natural result of life; and if there isn’t growth, that life is in jeopardy.
Now, we’re not surprised when we grow physically; we expect it. If, by chance, growth doesn’t occur, we immediately know something is wrong and attempt to uncover the problem.
However, we often look upon Christians who have grown and are growing as extraordinary specimens of Christianity.
I believe as Christians we have no right to call ourselves normal until spiritual growth becomes as natural as physical growth.
Just as there are enemies to physical growth, there are also enemies to spiritual growth. Our spiritual development is never unopposed. We do not simply drift into maturity. To grow we must swim upstream against the stubborn currents that try to hold us back.
You know your experience of salvation was real, and there has been some progress, but it is pitifully small, almost microscopic. What’s the problem?
This passage from Joshua 17:12-18 throws some light on why we fail to grow.
I. We will fail to grow when we EXERCISE PARTIAL CONQUEST.
There’s a telling statement in verses 12, 13.
Now don’t miss this point: although Israel had conquered the land, many of the Canaanites--the enemy, if you please--still lived there.
See Joshua 16:10
In Judges chapter 1 we discover an important clue concerning their problem (Judges 1:27-31, 33).
Before Israel entered the land, God specified in no uncertain terms that all the inhabitants of the land were to be driven out completely--not a single Canaanite was to be left. But again and again, with deliberate significance, we read that they did not drive them out. Now the land swarmed with both natives and newcomers. No wonder they complained of crowded conditions!
Suppose you meet me on the street and ask how I am. “Not so well,” I answer. “We need a larger house. There are only two of us, but we’re crowded.”
“I can help you,” you say. “There’s a twelve-room house for sale real cheap. A family of seven has lived there but they’re wanting to move.”
Off I go and buy the house and move my wife and I into the twelve rooms.
A few days later you meet me again on the
street and ask how I am.
“Not so well,” I answer. “We need a larger house.”
“A larger house?” But there are only two of you in that twelve-room castle! How could you be crowded?”
“Well, the former owners--seven of them, you know--are still living there, and it’s pretty crowded.”
It wouldn’t require a genius to solve my problem. Move out the former owners.
What right do I have to complain about crowded conditions when I am not using the room I have?
And that was exactly the case with the
complaining tribes. They had plenty of room--but it was occupied by the enemy. You see, it’s foolish to ask God to give you more blessings when you haven’t lived out the blessings you already have. No use asking God for additional truth when you haven’t obeyed what you already know.
Are you living up to your capacity? Look around; have you allowed some Canaanites to remain in your life? God told you to drive out every one, but there were two or three you were especially fond of and so you’ve allowed them to hang around. Of course, you’ve given them strict orders to behave themselves--and for the most part they’ve done so. Let me tell you, there can he no continuing growth as long as you tolerate the presence of a single Canaanite.
It’s interesting to note some of the reasons we keep Canaanites around:
A. A spirit of compromise
God said that every inhabitant had to go. We reason that surely one or two won’t make any difference. That’s the way it begins. We know a thing is wrong--but just a little bit.
After all, no one is perfect; we know of worse things in the life of some other Christians, and they seem to get along OK.
No matter how we say it, we are compromising the Word of God, and that is plain, unadulterated disobedience.
B. A spirit of complacency
Did you notice that when the tribes allowed the Canaanites to stay, they put them to forced labor? That means they made slaves of them. Sure, they had been the enemy; but now they were slaves and under control.