Growth, especially when it involves our faith, is not so easy. I will not grow by a steady diet of doctrine and Bible teaching. What?! I know I almost feel like a heretic writing it, but it is true. We do not grow by knowledge alone. Knowledge is useful because it is the foundation for out lives, but it is how we apply that knowledge to our lives that really matter. That is what produces growth.
James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4; NLT).
James tells us that growth happens through our experiences in life. It is when the rubber meets the road, when reality meets theory, that we really have a chance to grow into the people God wants us to be. The experience with the greatest potential for growth, according to James, is trial. When bad times hit and our dreams shatter how we respond will either benefit our development or will hold us back. During this dark times when we live as if God’s promises are true, even if they don’t seem real at the moment, will put us on the path of spiritual development.
What does this mean for you and me? It means we should spend far less time trying to set up a safe and secure life, because a truly safe and secure life is a myth, and spend more time engaging the evil of this world. If we are truly interested in growth we won’t find another Bible study to attend or another book to read, but we will live out what God has already told us to do, regardless of the consequences.
We are to have joy in the midst of trouble, not because we like pain, but because we know that preserving through it will make us a little more like Jesus. We will grow a little more mature and have a closer relationship with God. Those are reasons to be joyful.
Growing is hard. Change is hard. It will not happen simply by reading a book or attending Sunday morning worship. It requires difficult choices and hard times. It is by far easier to read a book, but the rewards are so much greater to display endurance through dark times. Growth is the result of coming through trials and tribulations with our faith intact.