Spiritual growth is a fragile process. Without vigilance and encouragement from others, you live with the prospect of slipping back into sin. In the face of this, you need help from others who have courage and sensitivity toward your situation. Harsh condemnation will not help you, but neither will friends who flatter you with falsely positive words. Working with faithful support is what you need.
Consider John’s short letter in the book second John. In this letter, John balances condemnation and encouragement, proving himself to be a wise counselor and a great example to us. Recognize the past successes of others and affirm your brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, be willing to point out hazards ahead when you see them. Share your hard-won wisdom with warnings when necessary. Pointing out the obstacles ahead and encouraging others to be careful is the loving thing to do.
Loving one another is the most basic act of obedience to God. It’s also an essential element in your spiritual growth. At times, you may tend to focus inward and become self-centered. We live in a dog-eat-dog, every man for himself world. But that’s not Christianity. Remembering to be loving toward others will not only please God, but it will also help you to think of others and build good relationships.
Situations that are out of your control will show whether you’re operating with pride and self-sufficiency or with humility and dependence on God. If you’re willing to humbly depend on God and recognize you inability to handle everything on your own, you’ll see the power of God bring great changes in your life.
The experience of a man named Naaman illustrates how this is true. Naaman was a powerful military and political figure, a man of wealth, position, and power. He also had leprosy, an incurable disease that would slowly destroy his body. Lepers were made outcasts from their families and society. Ultimately, they faced a slow, painful, and disgraceful death.
But Naaman heard that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him. He found the prophet and was told that in order to be healed he needed to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River. He went away outraged, having expected his power and money to buy him an instant and easy cure. In the end, however, he acknowledged that this situation was beyond his control. Humility was the key that caused Naaman to surrender to God, follow his instructions, and receive the healing that only God could give him.
Humility should not be confused with humiliation. God doesn’t allow you to face situations beyond your control in order to humiliate you. He does so to draw you to himself and lead you to healing and spiritual renewal.
Have you ever experienced the frustration of knowing the truth but no one believed you? Joshua did’and he had to live with the consequences of this for almost forty years.
Joshua was one of the twelve Israelites chosen to spy out the land of Canaan. Their report on what they saw would help and entire nation of people make a decision about entering the Promised Land. When the twelve spies gave their report, ten said it’d be impossible to conquer the land. Joshua and Caleb agreed that the task would be difficult, but they urged the people to trust God to help them. They saw God as loving, powerful, and able to lead them safely into the Promised Land.
The people, however, rebelled and sided with the majority report. They ran from the responsibility of surrendering their lives to God. The result of their irresponsibility was tragic. A whole generation’with the exception of Joshua and Caleb’died in the desert.
Many of us think we can escape pain by avoiding responsibility and its demands. What we fail to realize is that we often experience a much deeper pain when we run away from responsibility than we do when we accept it. Joshua experienced significant pain in his life despite putting God first in his life. But that pain was used by God to develop him into one of the most effective leaders in all of history.