¡°THE PROCESS OF MATURITY¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-5 May 20, 2012
1) A question parents hear: If there is any such thing as a universal question throughout history, it may be this: ¡°Are we there yet?¡± Generation after generation, children had asked their parents that same question. And when they have grown into adults and have become parents, they have to answer that same question their children would ask them.
2) A question Moses heard: Whenever I read the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses, I wonder how many times he had heard that question from the Israelis. Before rescuing them from slavery and leading them out of Egypt, Moses told them that the Lord would lead them to ¡°a land flowing with milk and honey.¡± (Ex. 3:8) He did, but first they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. But they were not lost; they were wandering for a purpose. After 400 years living in a land full of all kinds of idol worship as slaves, the people of Israel needed to have their hearts, souls and mindset reconditioned toward God. This was accomplished in the wilderness. (Deut. 8:1-5)
LOOK AT THE WORLD WE ARE IN:
1) It¡¯s fast, faster and fastest: Whichever way you turn, this is what we see: fast food, fast cars, fast oil change, fast service, fast internet, and the list goes on and on: we are so used to every-thing goes fast. This even goes on dating, relationship, marriage and divorce, all goes on a flash. While speed does save us some time and we treasure time so much today, fast or faster may not do us all well. You don¡¯t get a gourmet dinner at a fast food joint or a real good and careful oil change in 10 minutes. Building relationship for a life-long marriage takes much more time than some are willing to spend. And of course, fast driving increases the risks of accident and injury or death. Not all things fast or faster are good for us.
2) America can¡¯t wait: Today is April 10; the hot topic on news is the aftermath of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida on February 26. Some in the media, leaders in the black community and the Black Panthers, a black race oriented organization, play the roles of both the judge and the juror in condemning the shooter. Some even posted a reward of $10,000 to capture the shooter, dead or alive. While we share the grief of loss of life, we need to know we live in a society of law and there is a due process of the law to handle matters like this. Anyone who wants to take the law into his own hand to circumvent the law should be deemed as criminal with criminal acts. It takes time to go through the due process for any and all legal cases to achieve the best possible justice for all parties.
3) The journey is as important: If life is like traveling, then the journey is certainly more important than the destination. Who will rush to die without enjoying the journey of life? Yet, many of us can¡¯t wait to get to the destination to the point we hate and very impatient about the journey. This is true to people of all age groups, not just to children asking: Are we there yet? Life is a journey or a process in which we grow, pursue and change to get to where we have purposed for. Some process goes faster than others, so, we are to be patient and enjoy the journey, not just rushing to the destination. Whether it is our physical body or our pursuit of education, maturing our personality or spiritual growth, they all take time to achieve to meaningful results. Each step of life is as important as the outcome of the end of life.
GOD¡¯S PROCESS WITH ISRAELIS: (Deut. 8:1-5)
Many of us use to blame the unfaithful forefathers of the Israelis for the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness we believe that delayed their entering into the Promised Land. But by reading the first 5 verses of Deut 8, we get the true reason why and how God allowed this to happen to achieve His purpose in His people. God wanted to see the Israelis become a nation totally different frrom the one they had just left, a nation of idol worship of false gods.
1) The goal of God¡¯s process: ¡°Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefather.¡± (8:1)Too often, we blame God for not giving positive answers to our prayers fast enough. We blame God for not doing things we think the best way he should do. We also blame God for not having the best of our interest in mind in dealing with our life, particularly when He moves things so slowly or not moving anything at all as we see it. Besides all the benefits of slow process in growing many things, we are reminded that whatever pace God is doing things in our life, He always has the best interest for us as He had for the people of Israel. All good things take time to do or to attain the best of their possible results.
2) The support of God¡¯s process: ¡°Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these 40 years to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you will keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.¡± (8:2-3) In training to rebuild their spiritual quality fit for God¡¯s purpose, God used drastic measures, sometimes hash ways, to humble them, to test their hearts and souls to see if they could really be humble and dependent on God and if they would truly follow His law. God used the hash conditions of the desert, hunger and thirst, sense of hopelessness to break their pride so they would truly be God¡¯s people.
3) The mercies of God¡¯s process: ¡°Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these 40 years. Know then in your heart that a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.¡± (8:4-5) Throughout the years in the desert, God was with the Israelis day and night. He never abandoned them nor ignored their needs in difficult times. In miraculous ways, God provided all their needs, not just food and water, not just safety and leadership, God also provided their daily needs: clothing and sandals that had never worn out or left their feet got hurt. No one knows how did God do to keep their clothes and sandals never wear out, but He did. God can and will do anything to protect His people from any harm even in times of severe discipline. His mercies will never leave His people no matter how hard life may be.
GOD¡¯S PROCESS WITH CHRISTIANS: (Romans 5:1-5)
1) The foundation of maturity: ¡°Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God¡± (5:1-2) The process of spiritual maturity must begin with a personal relationship with God through our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no chance of spiritual growth or maturity without a salvation relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Spiritual maturity needs to have starting point and the point is your personal faith in Jesus to receive His born-again new life.
2) The process of maturity: ¡°Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance (produces) character, character (produces) hope.¡± (5:3-4) Suffering or tribulation as Jesus put it in John 16:33, comes from Greek thlipsis, a process of pressing hard on olives to extract oil, or on grapes for juice, both the essence of the fruits. This process of hard pressing is necessary in order to get the oil or juice from the fruits. No one loves to go through suffering, but without suffering, the best of us such as perseverance, character and hope won't come out. We admire people who are strong in perseverance, character and hope; then we need to know there is a process to achieve that precious spiritual maturity level.
3) The reward of maturity: ¡°And hope does not put us in shame, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.¡± (5:5) Kataiskunei, to be put in shame or feel shameful. Most of us will feel shameful when we are put under God¡¯s training process, going through hard-press process. We think it must be for our sin or from the rejection of God. But the truth is far from it. Our hope in God under hard-press will never put us in shame but in joy and glory because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Instead of punishment some of us may think when we are under pressure, it is the amazing love of God poured into our hearts that we are able to have hope. As Paul put it, ¡°(We) may have power, together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpass knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.¡± (Ephesians 3:18-19)
1) No. We¡¯re not there yet: As long as we are still here in this world, the process of spiritual maturity and all the rewards of it are still running. God has not finished with us yet. Spiritual maturity is like physical growth, it takes time, efforts and proper supply of means to make it possible. We need to understand that maturity is not an option but a command. (Ephesians 4:11-13) All of us must seek God¡¯s direction in our life to grow into maturity so we can be more effective to be his witnesses.
2) Yes. We have the love of God: The power of God¡¯s love is the sole sustaining force we need to go through the process of maturing. If God allows us to be in hard-pressed condition, we need to remember not to feel shame but be filled with joy for we count it as worthy of suffering for Christ¡¯ sake. It is God¡¯s love that he puts us to test to find out what is inside of us so we can be truly obedient to His will and faithful in His service.