This is a message delivered to group leaders based on John 13:34-35; 17; 1 Thessalonians 1 & 2; 1 Peter 3:15.
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
7 …We were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
In Acts chapter 7, Stephen is dragged before the Sanhedrin and demanded to explain his beliefs. What follows is a sweeping history of the people of Israel, culminating in their handing over Jesus to be crucified.
That didn’t go over so well, so he was dragged out of the city and stoned, becoming the first Christian martyr. His death sparked fierce persecution, largely from the efforts of a young man named Saul. This persecution was so intense that we’re told in Acts 8:1 that, “they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.”
Except the Apostles…
But at the end of that verse, we see an interesting anecdote. It says they were all scattered “except the apostles.”
Sometimes it feels like we’re overwhelmed because we’re busy. But there’s usually something more going on.
This is good:
Though I would never admit it, it’s almost as if I want to streamline and organize and simplify my life to a point where I no longer need God to get me through my day. But my strengths and abilities will fail, again and again. I need a Savior every day.
Perhaps feeling overwhelmed and inadequate isn’t such a bad thing if that is what brings me to my knees and shatters my false sense of security. To the place where I realize my planning and intelligence and coping mechanisms mean absolutely nothing if I’m not becoming more and more like Christ and resting in the strength and presence of my creator, the author of my day. More of him and way, way less of me.
Spiritual maturity happens over time. That’s why most metaphors for spiritual growth in the Bible are gardening metaphors.
And it follows that some people will mature at different rates than others. Some are self-learners and will seek out resources and read and grow at a much faster pace than someone who is less inclined to do so.
But there are still plenty of people who don’t seem to mature spiritually over time. Their lives look no different than their neighbors’ and coworkers’ lives. They’re not getting more generous. They’re not growing in holiness. They’re not praying or reading their Bible.