Text: I John 2:12-14
In business, in politics, in any number of human endeavors we work to gauge our progress, our attainment, and our achievement. Many examine bank statements, time measurement, games won, awards garnered and other means by which we determine improvement.
Do we do so in spiritual matters? Is there a way that we can make a statement about the way that we have evolved in our spiritual affairs? While there may be some incremental growth that would be harder to determine over short periods of time, the Lord has provided a way to look at our growth over time that allows us to assess where we are and how we need to think about our next steps.
John describes how there are three major categories in the growth cycle of Christians:
Ø Little Children
Examining the text, we find that the children have some clear defining characteristics. He doesn’t say that they are not saved!
Young Christians may say as the disciples said, “Lord, increase our faith” Luke. 17:5
The bible says that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17
But it doesn’t come overnight, so then we have need of patience Hebrews 10:36
And again, Hebrews 6:12 “ … be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises”
Faith and patience are the keys to growth in the long-term. Let’s define what patience is and how it figures into the growth equation. Patience is rendered “endurance and perseverance in many of the translations and dictionaries.
Even Jesus tells us that “In your patience, possess ye your souls” Luke. 21:19
They “have known the Father” and their ”sins are forgiven . . . for his name’s sake”
The trouble with babies and young children is that they are in danger from a number of dangerous things around that could potentially stunt their growth or endanger their lives! We grow on a physical level in spite of ourselves, in contrast with our spiritual selves that only readily grow as we are fed the Word. We can also gauge our growth against our response to life’s circumstances and temptation.
Didn’t Jesus pray “deliver us from temptation” – that we would fall prey to, “but deliver us from evil” Another translation says “Don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” This prayer petitions the Father to give us the daily bread (feeding) that we need that allows us to grow, while asking His assistance to avoid the wrong things that we would encounter during our days on earth.
An interesting parallel verse is found in Hebrews 5:12,13 &14 where the writer explains that a young Christian whose stunted growth has kept him from teaching so he is forced to continue with the first principles (milk) rather than graduate to other profitable principles available.
He goes on to say that strong meat belongs to those who “by reason of use” [who are mature] who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong . . . so then the parallel is in the Peter’s 2nd epistle (1:4-7) where we are admonished to add to our faith virtue [moral excellence], and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness all of this to receive the exceeding great and precious promises.
Baby Christians end up trying to see how much wrong they can tolerate and still be Christians not knowing that these practices and philosophy keep them babies.
Are said to be “strong’ and have the word of God abiding in them. They also have “overcome the wicked one”.
This is a great testimony and of value as a measuring stick against which to gauge your enlistment in God’s army. Logically, one would have to have had some experience in battle with the wicked one to have overcome him. The experienced spiritual warrior understands the nature of spiritual warfare and is equipped with the tools [the Word] to be victorious.
This warfare means victory but that victory yields us the peace of God to continue in the struggle no matter what you encounter. So then the young men learn little by little, that the tribulations that they suffer is the cause for rejoicing. Romans 5:3-5 tells us that tribulations work patience and patience experience and experience hope,
Hope always keeps us looking at the future where we are expectant that God allows us to overcome once and for all.
James writes that we may have a thousand instructors in Christ but not many fathers. Notice the single requirement of the Father – “You have known him that is from the beginning”
The spiritual father has a serene grace to his walk with God. He is not overwhelmed with the trappings of outward appearance. Neither is he trying to prove the veracity of his relationship.
He is much like the Husbandman [farmer] in James 5: 7-8 who waits patiently for his crops to grow. He waits for the rains (the enrichment of the Holy Spirit who acts and creates ways for God’s will to be performed on the earth.
Many of the other translations reiterate you have known him that is from the beginning. [Christ]. This statement begs the question of context. Spiritual fathers have a grasp of the nature of the origin of not only Christ but an awareness of his everlasting, unending nature. This is a source of great peace – because of covenant and relationship. There is no need to fear or be apprehensive. So then as James says early on “let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire wanting nothing.” One grows perfect and entire, complete and fully-grown. One is not anxious about external issues but assured that God remains on the throne and in charge. Forever! Amen!