Turning Covid-19 chaos, economic uncertainty, and political divisiveness into an opportunity for spiritual growth.
By Dennis Rainey
Frank and I were doing a Bible study together over breakfast when he made a courageous and insightful pronouncement about his life. In working with men for nearly five decades, he is the only man who had the “chops” to make this “raw” admission … more on that in a moment.
Little did Frank or I know what God had in mind for him and his wife, Gay. Two years later Frank would enter a political race where he was told by nearly all that he had no chance of winning. He ran for Governor as a Republican in a state that had only elected one Republican Governor, Winthrop Rockefeller, in over 100 years.
In the election of November 1980, with only one percent name recognition in the state of Arkansas, Frank would be the last person to beat Bill Clinton in an election.
But back to our meeting two years earlier: Frank had come to me and asked me to meet with him and teach him what the Bible said about life, marriage and family. So when he made a summary of his life spiritually, I wasn’t surprised, but I’ll never forget the moment. Looking at me with concern, Frank admitted, “Dennis I am a 45-year-old man physically, but I’m only one month old spiritually.” He went on, “And I want you to help me grow up spiritually.”
Frank and I continued to meet for breakfast at local cafes and later at the Governor’s Mansion, looking into the Scriptures on how we grow as followers of Christ and become a mature man. And when Frank White left office in 1983 (after losing the election to “The Comeback Kid” Bill Clinton), he was no longer an infant spiritually, but a growing spiritual man.
Diapers and milk, or meat and maturity?
So in the midst of all we are facing today I have a question for you:
How old would you say you are, spiritually speaking?
Just between you and God:
Are you still an infant in diapers, crawling, and having to be spoon-fed, just beginning your spiritual growth?
Or are you learning how to walk and how to get up when you stumble?
Or are you still in adolescence stuck and stunted with one foot stepping up toward maturity and the other sliding toward “having it your way” (read Hebrews 5:11-14)?
Or are you a “meat-eater,” on a protein diet from the Scriptures and “running the race” He has for you, looking forward to the finish line?
How old would you say you are?
And … did you know God is really concerned about your maturity?
Nudging me out of the cradle
Looking back on my life I can see how God took a spiritual baby and slowly brought mentors into my life who taught me the Scriptures. He nudged me out of the cradle, picked me up when I fell, and lavished even more grace on me. Later He loved me out of my ruts of compromise and gave me the ultimate growth stimulator, a call to step up to manhood and maturity, when He blessed me immeasurably with a great wife, Barbara, who challenged me to that call.
For those who are called, marriage may be God’s finest gift to help us grow up.
And then came six children!
The doctor placed my little “Princess,” named “Ashley,” in my arms … then Ben … Samuel … Rebecca … Deborah … and when Laura came I ran out of arms! Somewhere during this 10-year rapid multiplication it dawned on me: I had mistakenly thought that God gave us six children to help them grow up. But I came to the conviction that He gave us SIX to finish the job of helping ME grow up!
And now that Barbara and I are grandparents of a growing tribe of children, we now see, really see, the generational genius of God’s “growth plan.” (By the way, God-willing, another grandbaby is due next Monday, can you believe it? Stay tuned! Pics will be coming!!)
Through it all I have determined that He loves us too much to allow us to get stuck in adolescent immaturity. He wants us to put away childish things and GROW UP.
So let’s get honest now: How old would you say you are spiritually?
A simple, obscure, and convicting Scripture
Last week I stumbled upon a single verse of Scripture that I don’t recall reading before— 1 Corinthians 14:20—that kicked me in the seat!
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”
Read that passage again.
Now, really read it one more time. Look at what it’s calling us to avoid and what it’s challenging us to become.
This passage spawned a spiritual treasure hunt as I searched the Scriptures for what God has to say about how we grow up.I think it’s safe to say that the entire Bible is the single greatest tool that enables us to grow and become like Christ.
Where have we heard something like this before? Only four paragraphs earlier, in the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul calls us to grow up. Here’s what he says in verse 11 (along with a few Rainey additions):
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child (I whined, threw fits and tantrums, it was all about me), I thought like a child (I just wanted to play and not have to assume responsibility), I reasoned like a child (I was childish in my choices, even rebellious, and because of my strong will I received several memorable spankings). When I became a man (when I assumed my God-given responsibilities), I gave up childish ways (I put away my boyhood behavior, well … mostly!).”
Now, let’s go back and look at 1 Corinthians 14:20, the Scripture that gave me a swift kick:
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature (be a grown-up).”
I want to make four observations and applications from this verse.
1. Notice who Paul is speaking to: “Brothers.” Believers. Christ followers. Brand-new, born-again, baby Christians who are just starting life with Christ. And those in the family but may have seen their growth curve slump or stall out. God is concerned about all of us growing; that’s why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us.
I am convinced there are a lot of “brothers” who are stunted in their growth. They started their faith with blazing speed, but spiritual atrophy has slowed them to a stop. They’ve become content being lukewarm in their faith and as a result, they may be 25, 35, 45, or whatever age. They are like Frank, only one-month-old.
Application: Are you growing toward maturity and experiencing God on a moment-by-moment basis? If not, why? If you are weary of spiritual Gerbers, why not surround yourself with other journeymen, get in a serious Bible study and make Jesus Lord of your life. I’d also recommend you begin to dig in and read a book I wrote, “Choosing a Life that Matters.” Perhaps this is the “jump start” you need for growth. Check it out here.
2. Don’t be childish in your thinking. Don’t look at all the Covid-19 circumstances and gripe, grumble, and complain. Children typically think about themselves … “I want what I want, when I want it!” Read what happened to an entire Nation in Psalm 106:1-25 … talk about a bunch of whining babies!
Application: When you get up in the morning, begin by praying, “God, make me a blessing to others today. Use me as you wish in other people’s lives for your purposes and their good.”
Reflecting over the past two weeks, I’ve had several divine appointments. The refrigerator repairman whose wife of 20 years had just died … a call to a friend in Texas whose wife has had cancer for six years and is now in hospice care … helping a paraplegic friend get reliable transportation … a call to a very discouraged friend who had Christian brothers defame him … telling our 16-year-old granddaughter how proud we are of her working and saving over $5,000 (very encouraging)… a conversation with a grandfather in Colorado caring for his son and daughter-in-law after the premature birth of a grandson weighing under one pound 10 ounces (please pray for that little guy, who will likely be in the hospital until November).
The point? A maturing follower of Christ has finely tuned spiritual receptivity that is like a radar, spotting and reaching out to help those in need. There are few things in life as exhilarating as being used by Almighty God to help a fellow pilgrim.
3. Command #2: Be infants of evil. Think with me for a moment: Isn’t a newborn infant the picture of innocence? Pristine and pure. No blemishes on an infant’s soul because of evil preying on him or her.
Years ago our granddaughter Molly was born and lived only seven days. I remember when I was given about 15 minutes to hold her on her seventh day of life. As I looked into her eyes, my heart was breaking for my daughter Rebecca and son-in-law Jake, who were experiencing one of the most unthinkable, tragic losses any humans have to face. But I also thought of the evil that Molly would never have to face or experience.
Application: Evil is real. Build some guardrails that will keep your heart from evil. Be inexperienced in evil. Be a baby when it comes to evil. And protect your children and grandchildren from evil predators.
4. In your thinking, be mature. God is all about human beings growing spiritually and being mature thinkers. We need to grow so that we think about God rightly, which in turn helps us think accurately about ourselves and others.
I’m reminded of what may be my favorite quote by A.W. Tozier: “The most important thing about you is what you think about God.” My book, that I mentioned earlier, is built around the premise of that quote. To think rightly about your life and it’s circumstances, you must think rightly about God.
Mature thinking will not only help you and I stay out of the ditch, but allows us to help others who are in one.
In essence, God is growing us up and getting us “dressed” for heaven. You and I don’t want to arrive clad only in diapers, without having run and finished the race God gives us as adults (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Application: Jesus wants to use all the pandemic chaos, economic uncertainty, and civil unrest, plus all you are facing right now, to grow you up into a mature Christ follower!
Two last questions:
#1 Spiritually speaking, how old are you right now?
#2 What is your next “step” toward maturity?
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