How Do I Grow?

LATREELet your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for what you have been taught.

 – Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

Around 2 years ago I was given the chance to do the first two books of the Navigator’s 2:7 study.  I had done other studies in the past, but this one did something for me that no other study ever had.  It taught me how to get into the Word of God, study it, and apply it in my life.  I’ve been taught how to do that over and over as I have grown up in church, but never in this way.  If you have a chance to take this study at some point in your life I highly recommend it.

The last three or four years of my life have seen some big changes in how I look at reading God’s Word, and I would like to say that I am giving it the time that it deserves every day, but that would be a lie.  At least I can now say that I want to read it every day, and the days that I do not get a chance, I feel it. Not in a good way, but I feel it.  I’m sure I am not the only one to ever feel this way.

I have been moving slowly through the book of Colossians lately, and I am doing it this time in the New Living Translation Bible.  I am finding that it is helping me see things that I have seen before with a slightly different angle.  I have been able to read verses that I know and have memorized, but with a different wording I think about them differently.  It draws my eye and then it draws my heart.  I really believe God is using this, and I just want to share it.

I hit Colossians 2:7 the other day, and as I read it I was struck by how familiar the verse sounded to me, and the truth that was in it was so good!  When I looked at the reference it clicked, but I was seeing it all over again for the first time.  This verse that describes so well the transforming work of the Word of God in a believer’s life resonates even more now than it did before.  Not because I have arrived, but because after a couple of years, I can see growth!  Not a mighty Redwood, but at least there is more than a twig sticking up!  So, here are some of the things I have pulled from God’s word over the last couple of days:

It is work, but it is a natural work – if I let it happen.

Verse 7 in the NLT starts with the word “Let”.  When I read the first word I just stopped because I was hit with the power that word contains in my life.  If I am to let something happen, that means I have a degree of control in whether it happens or not.  I have that in my Christian walk.  I decide if I am going to take the time to read God’s Word today.  I decide if I am going to let what I read into my heart and become part of how I act.

“Let” also eludes that if I were to remove myself as an obstacle, then something would happen.  I think this goes back to the fact that God created us for relationship with Him.  We were designed for a relationship with Him where He would grow us through that relationship. He would supply our needs, give us protection, security, and nourishment.  That is that God-shaped hole in all of us that is not satisfied by anything else – especially for the believer.

It is work, but not a work without reward.

As a kid I remember being given a lot of memory verses with references that had a letter at the end – usually an “a” or a “b”.  The letter would determine if we were quoting the first or the second part of the verse (sometimes we even had a “c”).  I asked why the verses had letters and I got answers that ranged from “I don’t know”, (at least it was honest) to “This is the importnat part of the verse” (which usually translated to  this being something we had to do to make God happy).  We would get the directive, but never the objective.  We were simply not told that God tells us the “Why” of what he asks us to do!

Now I am careful to look at the whole picture.  God tells us that He wants to bless us.  It is what He does!  Look around at the things you have, the people you know – you are blessed!  Knowing that God wants to bless, I need to look at His commands not as a punishment or a chore, but as an opportunity to be blessed by God.  He is promising a result for putting down roots into Christ and drawing Him into my life.  He is promising a stronger faith, a vibrant life, a vigorous, excited spirit!  How awesome is that!  I get all of that for getting myself out of the way and allowing God to be at work in my life!

When the work is done, I can be thankful for it

Thankfulness is a progression.  It starts with an awareness that something has been done.  Something done for me that I either could not do or did not have to do.  Then it must be understood that there was a cost to someone to do that thing.  These are pretty logical thought processes, and while we don’t think about them, anyone can do them just by opening your eyes. You probably did not build your own car, but when you are faced with one that is broken down, you are abruptly brought face to face with the fact that someone once made it run, and you hope you can find another who can!

The next step in thankfulness is the hard part for some.  We need to accept what was done for us and appreciate it as the gift it was intended to be.  That requires a humility that we don’t always want to think about.  Admitting that it was needed, I could not do it myself, but someone was willing to do it for me.  This is where that overflowing of thankfulness gets rolling!  Real world example is the help that my friend Ray has been to me with my vehicles.  Things I could not do for myself, he has done for me and with me, teaching me as we go and growing a stronger realtionship along the way!

Ultimately what could I possibly have more reason to be thankful for than what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in my life!  It cost my Savior His life, and it was given to me so I could experience His love and have a relationship with His Father. Not just so I could have it, but so I could tell others about it as well!  There should be a thankfulness readily apparent in my life for everything He has done.

The beauty of this verse is that it shows a natural flow of growth in Christ:

  • Grow Deep
  • Grow Strong
  • Bear Fruit

As I struggle to live a life of purpose  I want this to be something that I never forget.  There needs to be a desire to continually repeat this process.  As God grows me and takes me to places where my faith will struggle I will need to dig deeper into Him. As I weather it and see the lessons He was teaching me I will be thankful for all that He did and then I should start the cycle over again.  I need Him more because I know Him more!  That was why we were made.  Our purpose is to bring God glory and He gets that every time we come face to face with our need for and obedience to Him.

So, since I know this is the key to living a life of purpose and with purpose, then it is time to take the time to do it on purpose!  How about you?

Thanks for reading!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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A Prayer Life in Process

intercessory-prayer_clip_image002So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,[c] 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

– Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)

Some time back I put up a post talking about  a recent struggle I have had with prayer.  I’m not sure if anyone reading this got much out of it, but it was a good thing for me to write it down because it helped me to organize my thoughts and really think about where my prayer life is, and what needs to happen to make it improve.  An honest assessment would be that it wasn’t really anywhere, and anything would have been an improvement.

Since I posted that I have had the opportunity to do some really good reading. Vertical Church by james MacDonald has frankly blown my mind, and now I am reading Radical by David Platt, and that has reduced the rest of it to dust.

In Vertical, I have had to come face to face with how I am living some aspects of my life, and I am finding that most of them are horizontal.  What can I get, and how do things affect my life.  Glory for God is often nothing but an accidental result of some of the things that I have done because either I was doing it out of the wrong heart, or because I went through the motions, but God used it for someone else.  It was all about me.  Vertical has opened my eyes to the need for change in a lot of areas, but the biggest has been prayer.

Radical has been showing me just how much of my thinking has been molded by tradition rather than following the Word of God. It has been teaching me to think more about why I am doing some of the things I do.  Sometimes the things I would do were not because the thinking was way off base, but because I was not thinking about it at all!  Sometimes the things might have been wrong because I had been following the preferences of someone else rather than reading  what the Bible had to say and really looking at it and taking it for what it actually says. Yeah, radical, I know!

So, between that and the time I spent going through Ecclesiastes in my own quiet times, I have really come to see the importance of focusing on what matters instead of chasing wind all the time.  Sometimes the wind is full of good things, but they are not the best things.  I want to focus on the best things that God has intended for my life and for my family by extension.  It has lead to some tough choices, and probably more to come, but I am already sensing the Spirit’s reassurance that I’m on the right path.

When I finished Ecclesiastes, I was wondering where to go next to read.  I came across a video posted by one of my Facebook friends that was promoting a new sermon series at their church called “Next Step Now: A Study of Colossians.”  I thought, “Well, I’m not leaving my church, but I can study Colossians too!”  So I began, and what does God put in front of me right away? Prayer.

I spent about a week going through the four verses at the top of this post.  I expected it to go a lot faster, but it seemed like God just kept drawing me back to this over and over.  I also had some conversations with some friends and they shared a new focus on prayer in their lives.  I was also getting hit by people at church, articles that I subscribe to by e-mail, and a couple of blog posts I read as well – all of them were bringing up prayer. I’m not exactly the sharpest cheddar in the dairy case, but I could pick up on the importance of really looking at what God was putting in front of me, and how I should be putting it to practice in my life.

So, here are the things I got from my study in Colossians.  The primary focus was on praying for others.  Something I have not been good about doing, and something that I had just had a bad experience with.  Again, I think God took me through that to bring me to this.

  1. Paul prayed for people he never even met – In my prep for studying this book I found that many people believe Paul never even made it to Colosse, but that didn’t stop him from praying for these people.  He felt a need to do it, and it brought him joy to do so.
  2. Paul followed up on the Colossians (9) – How many times have I said that I would pray for someone, but never go back to check on them? In verse 9 Paul mentions first hearing of them, and that leads me to think that he went on to inquire what was going on with them and that would factor into his prayers for them.
  3. Paul continually prayed for them (9) – This was not like most of the prayers I would give for people.  It was not a one-time, “There, I did it!” kind of thing.  He continued to pray and bring them before God over and over again.
  4. He prayed for God to give them understanding of His will at work in their lives (9) – This one really spoke to me.  It was not a prayer for God to change their circumstances, and I am sure that some of them were not good.  It was not a prayer to understand God, and we cannot.  It was for God to give them an understanding of what He was doing in their lives at that moment to grow them or to rebuke them or to encourage them.  I know that has never been in my prayers for people, and I now see how important that is!
  5. He prayed for them to have wisdom to act (9) – When you understand where you are and what is being done around you, it is a little easier to figure out what you should do to respond to it, but he was also praying for God to give them His wisdom for their lives.
  6. He told the people why he was praying for them (10) – Sometimes letting someone know that you are praying for them will give them the strength to face another day.  Telling them why you are praying lets them really see that you are invested in their lives – that you really care!
  7. He prayed for them to have strength, power, patience, and endurance (11) – The days ahead for the people we pray for may be long, dark, and taxing.  They need us to intercede and pray for God to really lift them up when they feel like they can’t go on.
  8. He prayed that they would be filled with joy (11) – I pray for people to have peace, or comfort, or strength to endure, but I don’t think I have ever really prayed for someone to have joy.  I’m sure I haven’t done it consciously or repeatedly – Paul did!
  9. He thanked God for what He was doing in their lives (12) – Giving the credit to God and not himself for his teaching or to the people for their personal effort.  He was showing them how to keep the Vertical perspective of seeing that all that happens in our lives flows through God’s hands.

As a result of these verses I have developed a prayer journal that I am now trying to keep.  The habit is not there yet, but I am working on it.  I need this to become a focus, and I am committing to it for my life.  It is another step in my relationship with God, and I know that it is an important one – one that is already bearing fruit. My mind is being drawn to the people in my journal and to God as He works in their lives, and that leaves a lot less time for me to think about myself.

God has a purpose for my life.  I’m not exactly sure what it might be yet, but I know He does.  One thing I do know is that He wants me to be purposeful – to live a life with purpose, to think with purpose, and to do things with purpose.  Prayer is a very purposeful thing to be sure.

As I work on this aspect of my life, I would appreciate your prayers, and if you would like to message me and ask me to pray for something in your life, I would like to do that too.  Your comments as always are appreciated.

Get out there and live!  Not only on purpose, but with purpose!

In His Grip,

Tom