God wants us to grow spiritually, from our Scripture Reading, we learn a number of things.
11* And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13* until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
14* As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15* but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
16* from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
God established an ancient order (vs. 11) – apostles & prophets
and a modern order –
Evangelists & pastors & teachers (actually “teaching pastors”)
to accomplish the “equipping of the saints” “to the building up of the body of Christ”
God’s plan has been to help us “grow up in all aspects into Him” through the teaching of His Word.
I want to illustrate what we will talk about this morning by observing faith –
When we observe faith in different people’s lives, we observe a fascinating phenomena. Two Christians who have placed faith in God go through near identical types of crisis. In both, the crises produce a period of questioning, confusion, and doubt.
From this common struggle with doubt, one Christian’s spirituality enters serious decline, and his or her faith radically shrinks. He or she becomes a person who attends habitually. His or her Christianity is little more than a religious affiliation with the church. Private conversations confirm that he or she seldom studies the Bible and rarely prays. Unless you saw this person attending worship, you would think that he or she had no spiritual interest. You may wonder why a person who is so disinterested makes any effort to attend a worship assembly.
From a similar period of doubt, the other Christian’s spirituality intensifies. He or she while in doubt begins intense Bible study. He or she develops a prayer life that grows in intensity. He or she is open and expressive about his or her struggles and about his or her growing dependence on God. As he or she seeks to build trust and dependence, an obvious surrender appears in daily life.
He or she begins to see the blessings in the problems, the struggle, and the pain of the situation. He or she talks openly about “what I am learning” as closeness to God is visibly increasing. In fact, the spiritual growth of these people is so obvious and their surrender so genuine that they frighten other Christians. These people share their studies, share their prayer life, and share their feelings for God. Again they are so open emotionally that their faith frightens many other Christians.
How do you explain how two Christians can go through very similar crises in nearly identical circumstances and have totally different faith reactions?
What we want to do this morning is draw a broad picture of FAITH, a GROWING FAITH
To understand how faith typically grows and develops, it is essential that you begin by erasing good versus bad or right versus wrong as we consider faith.
The model is a growth model, not a right versus wrong model.
For example, in the physical and mental development of a human being, there are radical differences in the different stages of development.
There are enormous differences between a newborn and a toddler.
There are enormous differences between a toddler and a child in kindergarten.
There are enormous differences between a child in kindergarten and an adolescent.
There are enormous differences between an adolescent and a well adjusted twenty-five year old.
There are enormous differences between a well adjusted twenty-five year old and a well adjusted fifty year old.
None of those stages of development are bad or wrong; they are all a part of the growth pattern.
Faith also has a growth pattern.
While the pattern will vary for persons coming from differing circumstances (just as physical and mental development is affected by circumstances), there is an observable pattern of development that occurs in typical circumstances.
If you will, view this growth pattern as you would view rings in a tree’s growth.
If you cut down a tree, when you look at the diameter of the stump you see the growth rings of the tree.
Visualize the development of faith as those growth rings.
1. In the center, the core is FAMILY FAITH, a faith that a person acquires because he absorbs that faith from his family.
2. The first ring is GROUP FAITH, a faith that a persons acquires by being a part of a group, a congregation–his congregational environment provides him his faith.
3. The second ring is CAUSE FAITH, a faith that exists because the person has identified or adopted a cause; this is a moralistic faith.
4. The third ring is NEED FAITH, a faith that exists because the person has identified and is addressing needs within his life that are fundamental life issues, or survival issues.
5. The fourth ring is GOD FAITH, a faith that exists because the person understands accepts, trusts, and depends on a personal relationship with God; this faith is “my” faith, I “own” it.