“We pray that you will become mature.” 2 Corinthians 13:9b
We have two highchairs at our house. One is from IKEA. We bought it while living in Paris and transported it home on the metro. There is a story to be told about that adventure, but I will leave that until another time. The highchair is white plastic, easy to clean, take apart, and store. All the grandkids have used it. It is perfect for a baby who has just learned to sit up. It has a tray and a belt for securing little squirmy bodies. It works like a charm until the child is about two, and then it gets kind of snug.
That is when the old wooden highchair comes into play. We purchased it when our oldest child was a baby, long before IKEA came into existence. It isn’t as comfortable as the IKEA highchair, not as easy to clean and store, but it is a whole lot more pleasing to look at.
After our three children outgrew the wooden highchair, we put it in the attic with all the other baby things we wanted to keep for future generations. After 20 odd years in the attic, we decided it was needed once again. We hauled it out of the attic; it was looking kind of rough. That is when we added the word “old” to the description of the wooden highchair. The tray no longer attached properly, and the strap used for buckling in kiddos had long since fallen apart. The old wooden highchair desperately needed to be cleaned and restored. It is amazing what elbow grease, sandpaper, milk paint, and wax can do to restore an old wooden highchair.
So now, when the grandchildren outgrow the IKEA highchair, they get to use the old wooden high chair. They get to sit right up to the table with everyone else since the chair’s tray is still a bit wobbly and undependable. And for the next several years, the chair is theirs to use. For the most part, no one questions the privilege. Everyone has had a turn. The only thing that is necessary to be the one who uses the chair is to out- grow the IKEA chair. Six out of our seven grandchildren have had their turn at the chair. One left to go. But what I have noticed is that they cannot wait until it is their turn to use the old chair, but after a year or so, they start eyeing the backless stools at the kitchen island. Their growth and maturity kick in and they aspire to move on to something better.
Isn’t that the way growth and maturity is? A goal, once attained becomes something to view in the rearview mirror. It happens in all of life, we aspire, achieve and move on. But what I have noticed is, often the Christian doesn’t think the same way when contemplating their walk with Jesus. Too often, the goal becomes the assurance of entrance to heaven with no disruption of the old life here. Too often, Christians think of Christianity as having been achieved without a second thought given to the great joy of growth and maturity. And in a sense, this is true. A person who comes to know Jesus as Savior is complete in Christ.
But here in 2 Corinthians, Paul prayed an intriguing prayer over the Corinthians. He prayed that these Christians would become mature. The NASB says, Paul prayed that their faith “might be made complete.” David Guzik in his commenatry said this of the Corinthian believers Paul had guided to faith, “They were already a body strong in spiritual gifts and personal testimony, but their strength was not complete. They were not like a building that was just a foundation and a bit of rubble. They were like a building built tall and strong – for one and a half walls, with the other walls crumbling or barely started. Paul wanted them to be made complete.” Paul knew that maturity and growth was part of the Christian’s walk. He understood that pressing onto maturity was part of the believer’s journey to completion.
Here is what Paul said about his journey of faith, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” (Phil 3:12 NLT)
Some years ago now, Tom and I were at the Cove in Asheville for a seminar taught by Howard Hendricks. He told about two people he knew; two very different people with distinct stories. The first person was a man from a church he had attended. Every time an opportunity arose to give a testimony of God’s work in his life, this man told the same story. For twenty-odd years, the man had only one story to tell. He never had a new story of God’s faithfulness or work in his life. He relied on the story from years before, never expecting or hoping that God might do something new or different in his life. The second person was very different. She was an elderly woman Howard Hendricks had been friends with for years. He said her faith-walk was remarkably vibrant. Even the week before she died, while in her 90’s, she was sharing with him her vision, her goals for ministry which she wanted to take part in. Sharing how she wanted to serve the Lord, doing this or doing that in the days ahead. What was the difference between these two people? One was happy to exist AS IS and one was looking to be used by God, to mature, to grow and to be made complete.
I want to be like the second one! I want a walk that is pressing into Jesus, that can be described as vibrant and alive. I want to grow and mature and have a new and fresh testimony of God’s work in my life everyday. What about you? Paul knew that growth and maturity were a part of a vital and vibrant faith-walk and he prayed for his spiritual children to have this type of life. To look more and more like their Savior. To be that sweet aroma of Christ.
I am so glad my grandchildren aren’t content to sit for the rest of their lives in that old wooden highchair. I am thrilled that they aspire to more. My hope is that someday their children will be able to enjoy the old wooden chair as they grow. Just as I want this for my grandchildren and great grandchildren, God wants this growth for his children as well.
Paul ends his second letter to the Corinthians this way, “Be joyful, grow to maturity, encourage each other, live in harmony and peace…” (2 Cor 13:11b).
The best way that I have found to grow my faith-walk is to press in and spend time with Jesus. To expose my life to the Word, and to obey what it shows me to do. Always paying attention to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and step by step progressively growing and being transformed.
If this is something you desire, ask him to help you grow, to journey towards becoming all he wants you to be. Take time to hear from the One who loves you. Be open and sensitive to the Holy Spirit guiding your day. Ask God to give you a new story to tell of His faithfulness to you. And then watch as God does a transforming and growing work in you!
Brethren, let us see to it that we are resting alone in the righteousness of Jesus, that He is all in all to us. Let us never forget that if we are perfect in Him, we are perfect only in Him. While we would diligently cultivate works of holiness, let us be careful lest we seek to add to the perfect work of Jesus. Charles Spurgeon