Written by Stephen Cox
Buying online is simple: click, pay, it’s on the way. At the same time our day-to-day experience has been that we can get it now. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to look up some information you had to set aside time to pop down to the local library; several hours later you might have found it. Today, you expect to be able to get any information on any topic within a few seconds of tapping a request into a search engine.
Everyone under the age of 25 has grown up with “instant knowledge” and “instant buying”; they don’t know any different. And those of us above that age have become so used to being able to get what we want, when we want it, that we are growing increasingly impatient.
Psychologists call this “delay discounting”. Rather than waiting for something that might be better, we “discount” our overall gratification by getting something now. We feel rewarded by an instant online purchase, even if we know that had we waited we might have been able to buy something better in a day or two when we visited the local shopping centre. The more we get rewarded by delay discounting the more we like it. It becomes a treadmill where we need more and more instant gratification.
You can see this in operation in your supermarket. Rather than queuing to pay for a basket full of items, people go to the self-checkouts. Even though the average shopper’s ability to scan items is slower than a checkout assistant, the instant gratification of getting things in a shopping bag seemingly more quickly than queuing is enough for people to want to use these devices.
I thought about how this illustrates something of the Christian’s struggle. We want instant maturity, knowledge, and wisdom. In God’s wisdom however, it doesn’t work like this. Far from being instant and overnight, spiritual growth is a life-long process. From a human perspective, it takes a proper plan, consistency of discipline and time.
At WWEC we want to be growing together in Christ for God’s glory. More specifically we aim to see Christ’s people led by the Holy Spirit into an increasing knowledge, trust and love of God and each other and more richly and deeply living in obedience to the Him and His word.
Don’t try to microwave your growth or take some magic spiritual pill. There is no such thing. There is a plan. The plan takes discipline and time. God the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in the children of God to make them strong in the grace of God. It’s just how it works. Here are a few things that will help in our growth as a mature Christian:
A DISCIPLINED APPROACH TO PRIVATE PRAYER AND BIBLE READING.
Sunday gatherings are just the beginning. Unless we have a deep, personal and rich relationship with God through His Word and our prayers we are not mature Christians. This calls for discipline. There is no question about it. A haphazard approach to private devotions will not mature us.
A SERIOUS DESIRE TO CHANGE.
Growing in head knowledge is not Christian maturity. The Holy Spirit is at work in someone when they are seriously committed to changing who they are. They want to be different. They want to become more and more like Jesus Christ. The more Christ-like we become, the more mature we are.
INCREASING IN OUR INFLUENCE OF OTHERS TOWARDS JESUS CHRIST
A mature Christian begins to have an influence on others and in particular, influence them in a Christ-direction. This is true of both Christians and not-yet Christians. A mature Christian will want to disciple people who are already Christians and encourage them in their faith, and a mature Christian will want to keep reaching out to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ. The treasure we have discovered in Jesus just can’t be contained. It spreads out and influences those around us.
SACRIFICIALLY COMMITTED TO THOSE THINGS THAT HELP THEM GROW.
A mature Christian will be committed to his or her local church. Our church runs Sunday gatherings and Bible Study Groups and Men and Women events and a youth programme and children’s ministry and 1-to-1 ministry and a whole lot of other things. All these things are there to help people mature in Christ. They are our maturity structures. A mature Christian in our church will commit themselves to these things and this commitment will cost them. It will cost them time, money and energy. But a mature Christian is heavily invested in Christian maturity and in particular, structures that are designed to mature Christians.