Sunday, February 9, 2014

Growing Pains

As a child growing up, like most children, I occasionally experienced those familiar aches that parents like to call “growing pains,” and I can remember my mom assuring me that there was nothing wrong with me – my aches were perfectly normal and simply meant that I was growing!  Although I am now done growing physically and no longer experience such aches and pains, there is another type of growth taking place that can also be painful at times.  Romans 8:28-29 tell us, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…”  This is God’s ultimate purpose for me – to make me increasingly more like Jesus Christ – and He knows exactly what is needed in my life for this to take place!  Most often, I have seen this growth happen as God strips away those things that have a tendency to be a source of pride.  As I was reflecting recently on some of the areas that have been the greatest struggle for me in the past few years, it hit me that many of those are things that at one time I considered to be strengths.  Looking back, I can identify numerous areas in which God stripped away the things in which I was most confident, and though painful at the time, I can identify each of those seasons of life as being times of great growth!  I am thankful for God’s faithfulness in my life, as He continues to teach me that nothing in life is about me, and everything I have comes from Him, as a gift to be used for His glory, not for my own self-promotion!

John 15:2 reminds us that God, as a skillful vineyard keeper, “prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it might bear more fruit.”  This pruning process can be very painful at times, but God knows what things need to be removed from our lives in order to promote greater growth in Christlikeness.  Sometimes it is sin that must be removed; other times, it’s things that are not bad in and of themselves, but that we tend to rely upon and treasure too much, thus keeping us from seeking after God and depending on Him like we should.  It could be any number of things – health, talents, family, friends, jobs, money… good things that come from God and are to be used for His glory, but if we begin to pride ourselves in them, as though any of it were because of our own merit or efforts, can become idols very easily. 

In spite of God’s faithful pruning, however, that same old pride creeps into my heart all too easily, and how quickly I forget what God has taught me and begin to put confidence in my flesh once again!  Yet He lovingly continues His work in my life, reminding me yet again that I am nothing apart from His grace.  Maybe the problem is that I need to spend more time meditating regularly on the truth of the cross of Christ, because, as someone has said, Jesus did not come to earth to pat me on the back and tell me what a good job I am doing, but to die for my sins!  There is nothing more effective in humbling our pride than to gaze long and often at the cross!  In its shadow, we are all equally undeserving and stand in need of His mercy every single day!  Oh that God would help us to live daily from that perspective, with a gospel-centered humility and gratitude! Only then can we be effective at all for His glory, as we stop comparing ourselves with others and instead recognize that it is all by His grace alone that we have the immense privilege of being coworkers together for Him!

“But God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  Gal. 6:14


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