It is interesting to see how my grasp of spiritual maturity has developed over the years. This past March I celebrated my 38th year as a follower of Jesus. And, yes, God has had his proverbial hands full with me (actually all of us). It has taken me a long time to grasp that it is the small consistent steps that have made the greatest difference.
It can be difficult for us coming to Christ from an instant gratification culture. It is easy to believe that I do one thing and poof I am a spiritual giant. Spoiler alert, if you have not noticed the spiritual life does not work that way. It is not easy and you never arrive this side of going to be with Jesus. There are no silver bullet, lucky rabbit foots or get out of Jail Free cards. The secret is following Jesus step by step through the valleys and the highs of our journey.
I was reminded of this truth in my devotional reading this morning from 2 Corinthians 4. Here is a tidbit about me. I preached my first message from verses 7-12 at a Wednesday evening prayer service. This portion of the Bible reminds us of a couple ways that spiritual growth is about the process rather than the event. These verses remind us that spiritual growth is not an easy process. But the verse I want to focus on now is found at the end of chapter 3 I noticed it while pondered chapter 4. We read, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18a) Let’s look at what Paul has learned about spiritual growth.
First, it is the result of being with the Lord. I want you to notice the phrase “beholding the glory of the Lord.” It is a reminder that real change happens when we are in His presence. Have you ever noticed that your spiritual temperature drops as you drift from spending time with the Lord. It is only when we spend time with Him that we are changed. I know that in my own life, my growth as a Christian slows when I ignore the spiritual disciplines in my life. And, yes, it is a battle each and every day to make time. It is not just because we are busy. It is because we choose other things instead of time with the Lord. I was talking with someone recently about how difficult it is even with some extra time on our hands with the social distancing and a stay at home quarantine. It is really a matter of the heart.
Second, I want you to notice that the process is not a one-time event but a step by step process. Paul reminds us, “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” He is revealing one of the most powerful secrets for spiritual growth. It is a process, degree by degree. The change in our life is normally like watching a tree grow, pretty boring, but sure. But the danger is to have unrealistic expectations. I remember determining to be a prayer warrior. I created a list of everyone I wanted to pray for. I only lasted a couple days. It is all but impossible to go from not praying to praying for an hour in one day. True prayer warriors are developed degree by degree.
So let me encourage you to keep walking, It is those daily encounters with Jesus, no matter how small, that produce the great change in us.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson