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Life has been so created and ordained by God that it is an active process. It is either growing or dying, one of the two. Nothing that has life stays the same. It is in the process of either growing or dying.
The growing or dying can be gradual, and can take a long time, or it can be rapid. But whether fast or slow, all of life is in the process of growing or dying.
To grow requires nourishment, feeding; it requires exercise, being used; and it requires being taken care of. This is true of vegetation, and it’s true of humans. Our bodies need food; that is our nourishment. Physical activity is our exercise. And health, clothing and shelter serve to take care of us; that is our nurture.
Interestingly enough, the same process is true for the human mind. It grows the same way. It is nourished by knowledge and information. It is exercised when we think, and when we use it to make decisions. It is nurtured when we are careful what we put in our minds; careful about what we expose it to. We seek that which builds us up mentally.
Once this growth process ends – whether it is with vegetation, the body or the mind – the dying process begins. There is no staying the same; there is no delay between one and the other. One process begins the moment the other process ends. To grow or die – those are the only two options we have.
There is one more area of our lives that involves the same process. Which, incidentally, is probably the least thought of but the most important. Without growth in this area, the others are of questionable value.
Hebrews 5:14 says: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food.”
The writer of this letter is saying to the Hebrews that they were in the process of dying spiritually. Their growth process had ceased, and, therefore, the dying process had begun. They began living in the old days; they began living on their past experiences; they didn’t believe they had to continue the learning process; they believed that they had arrived spiritually and did not need to grow anymore. Therefore, they began dying spiritually.
In I Peter, chapter 3 we read: “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.”
In other words, be ready to explain your faith. Be ready to translate that faith into your daily living, where others will see how you live. That is what articulate, mature Christianity is. This is why we must continue the process of spiritual growth throughout our entire lives.
The mature Christian is the one who continues to grow in their relationship to God. How do we continue to grow in our faith? The key is spiritual discipline. The people in the Hebrews passage had lost sight of spiritual discipline.
Spiritual discipline is simply taking advantage of all the avenues available to us that explore, study and grow. We need to be active in our churches. Too often, church attendance is something we do if we have the time or the energy. We need to constantly be involved in the practice of worship for our spiritual growth.
Church attendance in our country is abysmal, if you look at the numbers. I do not believe that you can pursue spiritual discipline without the guidance, nurture, direction and love that is found in corporate worship. For some people, there isn’t enough spiritual discipline, either for themselves or for those they are responsible for.
I strongly believe that children must be disciplined spiritually. And I continue to be amazed and saddened by the number of small children who are allowed to decide whether or not they are to be part of a church experience. Parents have abdicated their role when it comes to ensuring a good solid spiritual foundation for their children.
We make other decisions for children and our young people. We discipline them as to when they will come in, when they will take the car, where they go, who they are with, etc. We tell them that they will go to school; we don’t give them a choice.
Virtually every area of their lives falls under the guidance and direction of parents and grandparents, and we do it because we love them and wish for them to become productive citizens and good people. Yet, when it comes to telling them that they are to go to church or attend Sunday school or youth group, we allow them to make the decisions, often at a very early age.
To grow or die. Those are the only two options life gives us. It is true of corn and beans, it is true of our bodies and it is true of our souls.
Once the growing stops, the process of dying begins. God has given the choice to us...we either grow or we die. May God bless our choice.