But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
-2 Peter 3: 18
I hope that you are having a wonderful summer so far - we really are! It has definitely started to feel like East Texas summertime in the last few weeks. We have a bit of a jungle-feel here in Huntsville, and it is difficult to adjust back to such sultry conditions each year. A few days ago I was grocery shopping, and noticed the family at the register across from me having a heated argument. A few moments later, I heard the father and two kids behind me all snapping angrily at each other. On my way out the door, even the two workers stationed there were exchanging unpleasant words. I wondered what in the world was going on until I pushed my cart all the way across the broiling parking lot, and then I understood. It is difficult to be very positive or kind when you are so hot and sweaty.
Also this week, I resumed lap swimming for the first time in too long, and have been humbled by how out-of-swimming-shape I have become. It is going to take some real time and effort to get back in condition. Many of you have heard me say at one time or another that I was a swimmer as a young person. It was definitely the thing that my world revolved around, and by the time I was in college, it was pretty normal to spend four to five hours a day in the pool. This may sound like a lot, but I really enjoyed it. I loved the sport, and was glad to put in the training so that I could swim faster every year. I had some great coaches through the years, and they knew how to train us so that we could excel.
Both of these experiences in the same week got me thinking. Isn’t it so interesting and even surprising how much we dislike unpleasant circumstances in life? How intriguing that a few more degrees on the thermometer can make us all act so differently; the same with a frustrating situation, or an unexpected bill, or a relationship problem. Difficult things bring out all kinds of actions and reactions from somewhere deep within each of us, oftentimes leading us to do or say things that we soon regret.
I think that if we had our choice, most of us would opt for a care-free life, one with no stress or unpleasantness or trouble. My husband has preached an excellent sermon about spiritual growth, and in it he points out that people with stress-free lives would likely be called Marshmallow Christians since they would have no spiritual muscle at all. Spiritual growth is just like growth in physical fitness. If you want to grow something, be it a muscle or godly character, you must have real resistence, repetition, and then rest. Without these things, there will be no growth. Yet, resistence and discomfort in life are the very things we fail to embrace.
As an athlete, it honestly would have made me very frustrated if our coach had us just float around for a little while every day for practice. I did not want to float, I wanted to swim fast when race day came! Being ready when the time comes always requires putting in the daily work. A good coach knows how to see the potential within each person and bring it out of them with proper, disciplined training. They know how to stretch the athlete enough to help them achieve more, but not too much as not to inflict injury. And, assuming the athlete puts in the effort, a great coach knows how to take them further than they ever thought they could go and become better than they ever thought they could be.
Now, think about the greatest Coach in the universe; imagine what could He help people become. God made each one of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and knows exactly what we are capable of becoming through Christ. We are all created in the image of God, with tremendous potential for world-changing good. Even more than that, Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life when He walked this earth, and left us a wonderful example to follow. He never reacted poorly, even when people were doing awful things to Him. He did not run from the daily annoyances of life, even when He knew what road was ultimately before Him.
It is so interesting to consider what we might have been like if the Fall had not happened, and then to think what life might be like in Heaven. We can suppose what it would be like to live as a people and in a place untouched by sin, but we cannot know for certain. What is certain right now is that we live in a fallen world, each of us with a fallen, sinful nature to contend with - which means frustrations and annoyances are bound to occur daily. We often have many carefully cultivated bad habits of selfishness, and too often let our circumstances dictate our actions. And we are far too content to let time roll by without taking advantage of the great training ground this fallen world provides.
Remember what Jesus said in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We do not have to let circumstances or feelings rule our lives. The truth and power of Jesus helps us to become people who look and act like He did - astonishingly different from everyone else, and full of joy and hope even in the midst of trouble.
If I have surrendered my life to Christ, yet continue to react in anger every time someone or something frustrates me, then I am not growing. If I take the opportunity and attempt to react with grace and patience instead, then I am moving in the right direction towards Christ-likeness. If I continually withdraw and check out every time a situation becomes difficult or when my feelings become too strong to manage easily, then I am not moving in the right direction. If I learn to face the unpleasantness and find joy and peace even in the midst of it, then I am growing to become more like Jesus.
God is the great Coach. He knows what we are made of, and gives us everything we need to grow. He will never give any of us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), and He will help us navigate this fallen world with strength and grace. You can trust the training regimen He has for you. Make full use of it each day to become what you were created to be. There is a watching world, and we have a responsibility as Christians to represent Jesus well. When we know that frustrations are sure to come daily, we must meet the challenge to learn and grow to become like Jesus - full of grace and peace, and ready to bring hope and healing in every situation.
How different we could become if we stopped seeing everyday annoyances as stumbling blocks, and instead saw them as stepping stones along a path to growth in godly character. How strong we could be if we stopped being surprised by frustrations and embraced them as an opportunity to stretch and grow in our faith. How much further we could go if we did our part to grow in the grace and knowledge of God - and how many more people all around us would see a clear and magnetic representation of Jesus through our lives.
Spiritual growth is vital for every Christian. Spend some time this summer learning more about how to walk with God - please click below to order your copy today!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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