John George graduated into heaven recently. He was a man for whom I will eternally be grateful. At a time when I was a cocky senior at West Point, he accurately confronted me about pride and forever changed my life. John knew that the Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18 that “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” His exhortation scared me to death that God would not use me for His kingdom.
Spring is a tremendous spiritual illustration. Outside my window buds are bursting. The grass grows at a weekly clip but those green blades are in slow motion compared to the weeds. Winter is over. The great plant race is on and the God Who saw that creation was good is still watching.
My youngest son Stephen, and I, went with some friends to a Koi/Goldfish show. It was the first time we’d ever attended anything like this. We were quite amazed. Koi come in a wide assortment of colors and shapes much like the dress of their human fans. It was obvious standing around the varied pools, that most of these people knew a great deal about carp. Here some facts I learned and lessons that jumped to mind:
A man walked into his garden distressed. As he bent to water his plants he noticed the pathetic condition of the snail-eaten leaves. Beside the plant grew weeds making it hard to discern friend from predator. What an overwhelming battle he thought. What chance has beauty to blossom against the constant threat of bug and weed? Yet as he looked more closely, he observed strong vibrant shoots emerging from weary stems. Then the Lord spoke to him.
Would you agree it is quite enjoyable to watch people grow spiritually? Yet often the growth that is so evident to us in others goes unnoticed by the one being observed. I suppose in one respect it’s similar to watching the changes in my children as they extend vertically. On the white painted wall behind our bedroom door is a ladder of pencil marks each proclaiming a new climb in inches. Periodically they will ask my wife or me to measure them to see how they are doing in their quest for height. Without that pencil-marked wall, each of my three kids would have a tough time gauging their growth.
Titus 2:11,12--For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age.
Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls, is arguably the most controversial basketball player to ever lace up his shoes and play. Despite his reckless behavior off the court on the court he was one of the best rebounders of all time—few came close to hauling in as many rebounds per game as Dennis. This running tattoo-covered athlete pounced on loose basketballs like pumas pounce on their prey. His singular focus and drive to snare a bouncing ball propelled him to the top of his game on a team whose superstar, Michael Jordan, was the consummate example of dedication to being the best in the sport.
Yesterday an eleven-year-old boy rode his bike for the first time without training wheels. “Well what's so great about that, most eleven-year-old kids ride bikes.” Well this boy was different. He knew what it meant to fall down repeatedly because of poor balance. He feared getting hurt. He was afraid to go too fast. His physical therapist recommended he ride a special three-wheel bike that would compensate for his deficiencies. He tried riding on two wheels but gave up--it was too tough. He didn't believe he could do it so he ceased striving.
In the marketplace of life it is a tempting thing to measure our spiritual worth by the applause of people. But an apple can look good on the outside and be rotten in the middle. A watermelon can be huge and yet be devoid of sweetness.
Romans 14:10-12--But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
How do I know when I am growing spiritually? One sure way to tell is to evaluate my desires. Jesus said “For where your treasures is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Treasures do not have to be tangible possessions. Our thoughts our often our treasures.
2 Corinthians 11:27-30—I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (NIV)
Bark Blowers sells bark, dirt, sand, and stones to people who have landscaping needs. I drive past their company virtually every day I am in town. Currently their parking lot is a disaster. It is a mud-rutted, quagmire in which even their large trucks are in danger of getting stuck. Twenty-four days of rain will do that.
Ephesians 4:14,15--Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.