GROWTH IN GRACE
by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 38 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Blue Denim and Lace)
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."--(I Peter 2:2)
Recently while traveling in a distant state I read of an interview with a coach of a champion football team. He was speaking of the difference between just professional football players and champion football players. He made an interesting comment concerning the difference. He said that all professional football players do 75% of what is expected of them. In other words, to be a professional football player one has to make a fair grade. "Then," he said, "to become a champion one has to master the other 25%." Just making a passing grade is not enough. The difference between just a "pro" and a champion is the mastering of that which is above the calling of duty and above the expected.
The same is true with a Christian. To be just a good Christian is not enough. We should want to become the best Christian possible.
Of course, there are necessary things that one must do in order to grow in grace. He must live in the Word. He must walk with God. He must witness, attend the services of the church faithfully, etc. The following are a few of the rules of growing in grace that have to do with the other 25%.
1. Do not compare yourself with others. It is not enough to be a better Christian than someone else. It is only enough to become a better Christian than I now am, and to become the best "me" possible to the glory of God. Suppose one became the best Christian in his class or at work. having this as a goal he has limited his growth in grace.
Another danger in comparing one's self with other Christians is that normally the one that does the comparing comes out with the "long end of the stick." We are prone to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, and we might come short of what we could have been simply by wanting to satisfy ourselves as becoming a better Christian than someone else.
2. It is important to be around those more mature than we are. Seeing examples is a very important part of growing in grace. Most of us do not have the ability to see intangibles such as ideas, etc. Few people can see or define loyalty, for example. Hence, they must see a loyal person. In order for an average person to comprehend such things as character, integrity, honesty, etc., he must see it incarnate or embodied. This is why it is important for us to be near people whom we would like to emulate.
Here is the mistake of many preachers. We talk about ideas that we can see clearly but which many of our people have a difficult time comprehending. Jesus took great truths and clothed them in simplicity. He spoke of great truths and likened them to getting married, eating bread, drinking water, growing a vineyard, running away from home, losing money, etc.
This is just another way of saying "stay in the right crowd." Yet it does in a sense go a little deeper. It implies staying in a crowd that can challenge your best. It implies association with stronger Christians, at least those stronger in certain points.
3. Do not have as your main goal to become a better Christian. This in itself could invite selfishness. Don't forget that one is to lose himself, not measure himself. Someone has said that humility is not just thinking little of yourself, but it is not thinking of yourself at all. In the realm of Christian love, for example, far too many of us want to love more. Now this is not a bad motive. Much holier than this, however, is the motive to have friends whom we want to be loved more, and if we can somehow increase our love and our capacity to love, our friends can have more love. Hence it is nobler not to want to be a greater lover, but to want your friends to receive a greater love, realizing that if our friends do receive a greater love, we must become greater lovers. We then, to an extent, have purified our motive.
4. Do not measure or display your spiritual growth or size. Oftentimes in failing to display Christian maturity, one demonstrates it. A Christian, yea, especially a mature Christian, should learn to meet his fellow Christians on their own level of conversation. Of course, by this I do not mean base conversation, evil speaking, etc. I simply mean that as one grows in grace he finds fewer people who know his vocabulary. The stronger will have to use the vocabulary of the weaker and much of the time the stronger will have to live on the level of the weaker. This means that the more a Christian grows in grace, the lonelier he will become. It also means that he will hunger for someone with whom to talk who has obtained the comparable level of spiritual maturity. This is why oftentimes depth looks shallow and profundity looks simple. This is why a most mature Christian is often not recognized as such because he has attained enough maturity to meet each Christian on his own level.
You recall that Jesus became more lonely as He approached the top of the mountain. He left the multitude and went with the twelve. After a while he left nine of the twelve and took only the three. It was not long until even the three were asleep, and He was alone with the Father. This means that the best Christian may be the loneliest Christian in the world. It also means that he will have to spend much time with God and that he will have to exert understanding and strength in his relationship with weaker Christians.
Did you ever stop and think that the burden of reconciliation always rests with the strong and not the weak? Realizing that the sinned against will be more spiritual, God places the burden of reconciliation upon him and not upon the sinner. Hence, Jesus directs His discussion of being reconciled to the brother who is stronger, the person sinned against. When He speaks of being reconciled, He talks to the one whose brother has aught against him, and not primarily to the one who has aught against his brother.
If one is so deep that he cannot be understood by the shallow, how then can he help them? To have these deep thoughts is fine, and to discuss them with light maturity is fine, but to speak always on the level of one's own spiritual attainment is neither profitable nor helpful. In other words, spiritual growth is of little use unless it can be transferred into energy and into the service of God and others. To know a truth simply for the purpose of knowing a truth is vanity. To seek truth just for self edification is selfishness. To seek more truth in order to gain strength to help others is Christlike.
5. One must remember in Christian growth that the more he grows in grace the fewer the number that will think him to be mature. The more one grows in grace, the lonelier he will become. Hence, the fewer the people who will understand him and be qualified to judge his spiritual maturity. Hence, one of the heartbreaks of Christian growth is that it is often unrecognized by others. Carnality cannot weigh spirituality. Hence the mature Christian will have to find his comparison in being strong enough to help others rather than receiving their acclaim. The greatest person who ever lived was put to death on the cross. The more we become like Him the fewer are those who can understand us. This is why weaker Christians are often judged to be better Christians. Pride cannot judge true humility. Carnality cannot judge true spirituality. The weak cannot properly judge the strong. Hence, many of the great Christians are seldom recognized as such.
The flesh, however, does attempt to recognize spiritual qualities. In so doing, the flesh makes its own humility, its own love, its own meekness, etc. When the flesh makes its own qualities, it then tries to satisfy them and meet the requirements. Most of us are far too concerned with being considered a lover than about being a lover. Most of us are more concerned about meeting the fleshly standards of humility than we are about being humble. Hence, the great satisfaction of growing in grace will ultimately have to be in pleasing the Saviour and becoming strong enough to be a help to others.
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