Tag Archives: Growth

Why don’t some people grow?

dyingflowerThere is nothing more exciting in a church than to see transformation take place. Pastors live for it. When a marriage that is falling apart is restored everyone wins. When an addict can turn away from their addiction and trust in Jesus alone it’s a thing of beauty. When a dad no longer shouts and screams at his kids the whole church rejoices. When a young teenager fails in a suicide attempt and then finds meaning, hope and purpose the world is a nicer place. Churches thrive on transformation. So why doesn’t it happen as often as we would like? Why doesn’t it happen in our lives as much as we would hope for? There are primarily two reasons, laziness and fear of success.

A key ingredient to growth is grace. We need God’s grace flowing through his people to change. A huge misconception with receiving grace is that there is nothing for the receiver to do. That’s simply not true. Peter implores his readers “to make every effort” to add to their faith (1 Pet. 1:5-9). Paul, in 1 Tim 4:7, encourages Timothy to train himself to be godly. Both Peter and Paul teach, preach and breathe grace and yet they encourage their readers to act, to make an effort. Grace is not opposed to effort. Receiving grace is a gift, that is, you cannot earn it. But receiving it requires effort. And many simply aren’t willing to make the effort.

Many Christians desire to be more like Jesus but they are lazy. The pain of effort is too much for them to change. Internally they lack the motivation to change. Two things will help them. Firstly, they receive such an incredible vision of what they could be like if they made the effort that the motivation to overcome the pain of change occurs. It could be a verse they read in the Bible that inspires them, or a sermon, or hearing a testimony of transformation. They get a vision that motivates them to their core. People need vision and if you can help them see what they could be like, how being more like Jesus will bring life and wholeness to their life and relationships then cast the vision. The second thing you can do is let them suffer.

Allowing others to suffer is difficult but Proverbs 19:19 reminds us that rescuing people from their poor behaviour doesn’t help them. For many, the pain of staying the same needs to become worse than the pain of changing and then transformation happens. It’s incredibly difficult watching people you love reap the consequences of their actions but sometimes it’s the only way to bring about their motivation for change. You can’t force motivation upon people – they either have it or they don’t.

The second reason people fail to change is the fear of success. Discipleship changes one to be more like Jesus. Jesus was a man of love, of compassion, of holiness – and this scares people. To be like Jesus, powerful yet compassionate, fearless yet approachable, holy yet associating with sinner, brings enormous responsibility. To be like Jesus is to be his ambassador. To act on behalf of Jesus, to speak on behalf of the Kingdom of God; this a terrible responsibility to place upon mortal man but alas it comes with being like Jesus.

Many yearn to be like Jesus but they don’t want the responsibility of being like him. Teenagers desire the benefits of being an adult but they don’t want adult responsibilities. Likewise, some want the benefits of being like Jesus but they shirk from the responsibility it brings. They fear what it would mean to bear such a burden. To be a person of love would mean forgiving my enemies, loving my enemies, seeking the good of my enemies. Success in maturity would mean discovering my unique gifts and talents and then using them to extend God’s kingdom. Involvement opens me to criticism and failure. Fear leads us to believe that it’s better to remain a Christian infant who gets to watch others from the sideline of life than to try and fail and hear the sniggers and laughs from others.

God’s grace is available to all who want it. Some don’t see the benefit in making the effort. Others are too comfortable. Others fear the responsibility the change will bring. Love those who are struggling to grow. Love them with casting vision. Love them by letting them suffer. Love them by taking their hand and facing their fears together. Perhaps the greatest struggle with growth in Christ is wanting it for those you love more than they want it for themselves. If only the drunk realised the joy of sobriety. If only the adulterer knew the delight that comes from faithfulness. If only the hater knew the freedom of forgiveness.

What are some other reasons that people don’t grow? What have you done for others that helped motivate them to make the change? How do you minister to those who are resistant to change in your ministry? What are you working on right now to be more like Jesus?

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Is this just for children?

BibleIn many churches I visit the children will stand up and recite Bible verses they have memorized. I’m yet to see the adults do that. Is it because they have outgrown the discipline of memorizing Bible verses? I hope not. Memorizing Bible verses is incredibly helpful in our spiritual growth. As a casual observer I think this discipline isn’t utilized nearly enough in our spiritual development. Perhaps it’s because it’s too hard, perhaps it’s because you don’t think you can. I am yet to meet someone who, having put in the effort, can’t learn verses. For me, there are two main reasons why I do it.

Firstly, I struggle to memorize a passage that I’m not living out. I know this isn’t the case for everyone but I really, really struggle to memorize what I’m not living. When I was first married it took me months to memorize James 4:1-3. Six months to learn 3 verses; 60 words took me 180 days. I was diligent with the discipline but nothing would stick. Everyday I would try but I struggled and struggled for 6 months. But at the end of 6 months I owned the arguments we had. I took ownership of my motivations in our quarrels. Those verses laid down a pattern of listening to each other that has tremendously helped in our relationship. When I get stuck on a verse I know I need to grow in that area. Memorizing Scripture helps me to see my blind spots.

The second reason is that it forces me to meditate. Memorizing Scripture is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work to memorize a verse. It takes a lot of repetition. That repetition forces my brain to think about what I’m memorizing. The act of memorizing forces me to meditate on the verses because I’m going over the verse again and again and again. My mind churns the verse over not just while I’m sitting down intentionally trying to memorize it but at other times too. It’s this meditation that leads to me applying the verse to my life, seeing the nuances of how my life is not in sync with what I’m reading.

I guess the two reasons could be summed up in one – memorizing Scripture makes me a better person. It transforms me. I change when I internalize Scripture in my mind and, through meditation, in my heart. I change. That’s my motivation.

I use an app called RememberMe. Whatever gadget you have you can download it for free here. I also have a notepad where I like to write the letter of each word as a shorthand of writing it out to see if I remember. To be honest I only use the app as a repository of the verses I’m memorizing and because it follows spaced repetition so I don’t have to worry about when I’m supposed to revise the verse. Spaced repetition just means that the verses you find easy will be revised at a later time (say in 10 days time) and a verse you are struggling with sooner (say, tomorrow). It means that you spend more time with verses you are struggling with. With that said, I am find myself using more of the features of the app that aid in memorization. There are lots of apps you can use, including the traditional pen and paper, so choose one and start memorizing.

If you are looking for some memorization techniques, here is a great site with lots of memory ideas.

If you are starting out try one verse. If you are used to memorizing single verses try a passage or chapter. Give yourself 10-15 minutes per day. It doesn’t need to be consecutive minutes. You can steal 5 minutes here or there two to three times throughout the day. The time is really not a factor – let’s be honest about that. The greatest challenge is doing it every day. The daily discipline is tough but it’s well worth it. Each day you will grow, a little bit here, a little bit there. But it all adds up. And one day, in the midst of an argument with your wife the verses will come to your mind and you will see clearly your motivation for the argument, your selfish motivation, your desire to get what you want without regard for the other, and you stop arguing, and you listen, and your wife is happy, and so are you.

Currently I’m memorizing, very slowly, Colossians 3:1-21. How about you? What are you working through? What do you find difficult about memorizing Scripture? What’s your motivation? What benefits have you gained from memorizing verses?

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