"God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love--like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do."
- Ephesians 4:15 MSG
Some time ago, I heard from a young woman who basically told me, "I really enjoy the encouraging messages that you write, but I wish you'd stop writing the ones that challenge us so much." Was she serious? Did she really only want to hear warm and fuzzy spiritual messages? Messages that didn't convict her or incite her to grow up in the Lord? Unfortunately, there are a lot of Christians who feel the same way as this young woman does. And it's crippling the Body of Christ, and preventing them from making the kind of impact on the world that God intended.
The apostle Paul had some startling words for immature followers of Christ who only wanted to hear fluffy messages. He wrote: "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." (1 Corinthians 3:1-2 NIV) Paul had to refrain from giving these believers good, solid teaching, because they simply couldn't handle it. Like little children, if someone confronted them about their conversation or conduct, they would likely respond with--"How could you say that to me? You hurt my feelings. I'm not going to listen to you anymore." These unfortunate people would then live the rest of their lives at the same level of spiritual maturity that they started at. And they would never be able to fulfill their God-given purpose or potential, because the Lord simply couldn't depend on them, or ask them to do anything they didn't really want to do.
Just because there are people who don't care to receive the godly direction and correction we have to offer, God doesn't let us off the hook. The Bible makes that abundantly clear. The apostle Paul wrote: "Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2 AMP) You might say, "Well, I'm not a preacher." But the truth is that when you accepted Christ as your personal Savior and made Him Lord of your life, you were given a special role to play in the Great Commission. There are people in your sphere of influence who will only be drawn to Christ through your godly behavior and speech. And we don't have the luxury of waiting for others to welcome our message before we deliver it. That is what Scripture calls "the fear of man." And as Proverbs states: "The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted." (Proverbs 29:25 NASB) Mature believers have a healthy fear of God, and they are more worried about offending Him, than offending people. As they refuse to shy away from delivering the challenging messages that His Spirit leads them to, the Lord richly rewards their faithfulness and devotion. On the other hand, those who are overly concerned about what others think will live in torment, and they will never experience the fullness of God's plans or blessings.
Paul wrote: "For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT) If we want to fulfill the call of God on our lives, then we need to listen to teachers who aren't afraid to deliver convicting and challenging messages. I began doing this years ago, and though I often find it difficult to have to subject myself to regular "spiritual spankings," I know that the Lord would not be using me as He is today, if I had shied away from this kind of teaching. God is calling His people to receive and deliver tough messages, so that His will and purpose may be established on this earth. Are you prepared to answer His call?
Prayer: Lord, please don't let me live my entire life as a spiritual baby. Fill me with the desire and determination to grow up in Christ, and to become all that You created me to be. Deliver me from the fear of man, and give me a healthy fear of You. Thank You that as I faithfully follow Your Spirit's leading, You will make me a world-changer for Your glory!
- J. M. Farro