Saturday 8 September 2012
I had a discussion over tea that day with a former university mate. More than three decades have elapsed since we were together in the Varsity Christian Fellowship (VCF).
We noticed some VCF members have gone ahead in their spiritual walk, borne fruit and impacted many lives whereas others have just been getting by. Even worse, a few have left the faith.
What accounts for the difference? What separates the men from the boys?
Our spiritual hunger to a large extent determines how far we will go. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, right? (James 4:8). Furthermore, the Beatitudes remind us: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). It is hunger which keeps us asking and seeking the hidden things of God – for His presence and revelations from scripture.
Discipline too plays an important part in our spiritual pilgrimage. Paul speaks of the need for self-discipline:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Paul recognises that the spiritual race is like a marathon, not a sprint. As such, he denies himself so that he can finish well (Luke 9:23).
Dependence on God is another key factor. It means we depend on the Holy Spirit all the way – whether for spiritual growth, guidance, fruit-bearing or overcoming temptation. For it is “not by might not by power but by the Holy Spirit” that we are able to achieve victory in all these areas (Zechariah 4:6).
People who depend on God are led, not driven. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). We would rather not go ahead with a particular venture if we sense God’s presence is not with us.
We also recognise that it is through faith and patience that we inherit God’s promises – come into the Promised Land, into the fullness of what God has in store for their lives (Hebrews 6:12). By waiting upon God for each life situation, we are able to soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31).
How about natural gifts and talents? Credentials, like past experience or a string of degrees? All these factors do help but, compared to the foregoing, they are less critical.
God’s sovereignty is an important overriding factor. Though Paul was not numbered among the twelve disciples, God chose to reveal Himself in a dramatic way which turned his life upside down. So this latecomer to the faith overtook all the others and became the key person in laying the foundation of the apostles teaching in the New Testament.
The Parable of the Sower reminds us that external factors can derail our journey. Life’s cares and worries as well as riches and pleasures represent the “thorns” which choke the Word so that the soil (hearer) does not bear fruit (Luke 8:14).
We are all co-workers with God. We need to work hard to show the results of our salvation, obeying Him with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in us, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:12-13).
He who began the good work within us will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).