So you’ve known Jesus for many years but never seem to grow. Sure you pray a lot and read the Bible a lot. Maybe you even go to church a lot. But are you really maturing? Are you becoming more and more like Jesus each day? Or are you the one who panics whenever there’s a challenge in your life: as if every hardship is your first, and God must be far away on vacation?
Growth means change. So do you find over time that you are able to love God and love others in new and exciting ways? What do other people say about your walk? Are your friends, family and coworkers seeing that you’re slower to anger, slower to speak and more quick to listen?
Our spiritual walk is not in a vacuum. We’re not meant to be isolated in a convent or sitting on a pillar. God can take you to these places. But at some point we must leave the roost and be a light to others. There is no sainthood in a closet.
Jesus tells us that the people around us will know us by our fruit. That’s right. A growing Christian will have more and more fruit. This means each year you should have more and more love, and more joy, more peace, more patience, more faithfulness, more goodness, more kindness and more self control.
Of course, only few of us get all of these things all at once. God is the perfect gardener. And He has his own timetable on how and when each fruit will grow. But let’s not kid ourselves. All of us should be seeing improvements year by year. And some of these changes should be noticeable to others as well. The apostles grew and changed. So if you’re staying the same in life, no, you haven’t “arrived.” You’re just staying tiny and small.
The 3 Reasons Christians Don’t Grow
- We Seek God’s Hand Not His Face
Imagine you’re 5 years old again. Your loving daddy appears before you with an amazing revelation. He tells you “I’m not only your loving father, but believe it or not, I’m also an all powerful, all amazing genie! And because I love and delight in you so much, I will give you one wish for a perfect life. Just ask me for anything and it’s yours!”
So at age five, what would you ask him for? If you’re like me, you’d probably ask for tons of toys. Or maybe, lots of sweets or to never be yelled at when you do something wrong.
But as an adult you know the terrible truth. This wish is a totally wasted on a child. A five year old has no idea what to ask for. A five year old hasn’t lived anywhere near long enough to know what’s important. They simply lack the wisdom and experience to know what’s good for them.
Most adults know life is far more than toys, sweets and avoiding punishment. Over time, we’ve learned that a full life, is all about love and relationships, triumphs, loss, forgiveness, gratitude, restoration, growth, healing and a whole lot more we can never articulate.
So now imagine that you have a redo. You’re suddenly back in time and able to coach your baby self on what to ask the genie for. So bending down, you whisper into your tiny little ear about all the good things you’ll need in life. But when you speak of the triumphs, the loves, the challenges, the hope and the gratitude, your young self is totally overwhelmed and begins to cry.
This is horrible and you’re at a loss of what to do. The younger you has no idea what to ask for. A five year old cannot make sense of what you’re saying. Indeed, it took you decades of experiences to learn what’s important in life. And even the adult you can’t frame the request so a child could remember it. So it looks hopeless. It seems that your mini you is stuck in infant mode and will never know what to ask for.
But then it comes to you.
You tell your little five year old self, “Don’t worry. You don’t need to know what to ask for. You know your daddy loves you and always wants the best for you, right? And he would never smile if you got hurt would he? So ask him Daddy since you love me and always know what’s best for me, I ask that I always make you smile. Daddy, whatever I do, wherever I am, help me make you smile.
Now flash forward to being an adult again. Is this prayer really just for five year olds? How often have we wanted a new job or a new relationship, or a new place to live but later found it wasn’t what we needed?
Or on the flip side, what about the “bad” times when we got sick, lost a job, or suffered through a bone crushing breakup? It seemed so terrible at the time. And yet, the Lord used these things to strengthen us. Hardships and suffering were not all bad. These things gave us the character and wisdom to help ourselves and to help others. And when we got the lesson, the Lord then opened the door to even better things.
But who here prays for hardship? Who here wants to suffer? The fact is that most of us want it easy. Like our inner child, we want a road of cotton candy and treats, without the harsh uphill climb we so desperately need.
Think of the astronauts who spent months on the space station. For a while they frolicked wild and free, totally unfettered by the chains of Earth’s gravity. Yet when they returned to Earth their bodies had atrophied due to the lack of normal stress. Often they had to be carried out in a stretcher.
Turns out our human bodies need the everyday stress of gravity. Without it, our very bones turn porous and brittle and we can no longer stand.
And so it is with other stresses, other hardships. Like gravity, the weight of life’s stresses is essential for our well being. Without such we become weak, depressed, ungrateful, unyielding and unforgiving. And yet, we continue to pray for a life without gravity, in spite of all this.
Yes, even as adults we still don’t know what to pray for. So does that mean we pray for nothing? Or if we do pray, should we stop asking Jesus for health, wealth and other good things? The answer is of course not. If your heart is right with God, there’s nothing wrong with asking for such things.
But if we mean to grow, we must expand our prayers to ask for more than what a 5 year would. And this means asking Jesus for more than just things.
Scripture tells us to “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” So if we want to satisfy our desires, we must seek God’s face, and what delights Him. We must start praying for more than just what He can do for us and our loved ones.
Prayers Where We Seek God’s Face
Jesus, what makes you smile? Help me make you smile!
Lord, show me what you delight in!
Please show me how to delight in the things that you delight in.
King, how can I give you joy today?
How can I love others in a way that makes you smile?
Show me how to love my enemy X. (Show me how You see him.)
Lord, can you show me how good you are? I want to see you working in others.
Do you really sing over me?
Show me how to love You like the Apostle John did.
Do you enjoy creating? Please, show me another aspect of your face. I want to delight in another facet of your goodness!
2. We Ask for a Lot But Praise Him Just a Little
Praising our Jesus is BIG. And no, it’s not because God is insecure and needs our affirmation. Believe it or not, praising God helps US grow. Praising Him helps us have gratitude, which further deepens our relationship with Him.
We will always be immature if we never know we have something good until we lose it. Praise and gratitude give us HIS perspective on life. It allows us to appreciate and revel in God’s goodness at all times. And without us having to lose the very thing we should have appreciated.
When we praise, we remember what God has done for us in the past. Praise keeps us from believing every life challenge is a crushing emergency. We remind ourselves that what God did in the past He can do again.
In this way, we’re not laid low by every hardship as if we were born yesterday. We remember a history of God being there for us time after time. And by praising Him, we are imbued with gratitude that helps us rise above our current circumstances. Sure we’ll get scared again. But we’re no longer tossed back and forth among the waves of doubt. God has our back. He always has and He always will.
Gratitude is like learning a language. You lose it unless you practice daily. And there’s plenty of real things to be grateful for. But when we praise Him for such, we should never lose sight of one thing: The Giver is far greater than the gift! Our praises should focus on who God is. And how much He cares for us. The gifts are just commentary.
So to practice, start a praise and prayer journal. I have years of these journals. And when I’m down or just want to remind myself how good our God is, I can now look back to almost any point in my adult life and see how He loved me. How he rescued me. How He has grown me. This alone has been invaluable in enlarging my faith.
Examples of Real Everyday Praise (No PTL stuff)
Lord, thank you for showing me kindness when I said the wrong thing today.
Wow Jesus, Thanks for the cab when I was stuck in the rain. You really care for me in the little things!
Jesus Lord, I was so scared in the meeting, but you just held me tight! Lord, do you really love me that much? THANK YOU
King, thank you for allowing me to rest in you today.
Lord, are you really this good? You’re bigger than the universe, and yet Your eye is on a little sparrow like me! THANK YOU
Lord, I am scared right now. But I remember how you’re always with me. How you’ve bailed me out of so many jams. How you came through when there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I know you love me. I know you care for me. I know you will protect me. So I praise you for your loving kindness, I thank you for the other times it seemed hopeless and you rescued me. I remember when you delivered me from X. I remember how you saved me from Y. I remember your goodness. I remember your kindness and your creativity. How full of compassion you were for me. And so I thank You in advance for all you will do Jesus. Because that’s the God You are! THANK YOU.
For more see
Fighting Spiritual Amnesia
Reasons to Praise God
Experiencing God’s Power Through Praise
3. We Don’t Build Prayer & Praise Time Into Our Daily Routine
Ever try to get to know someone without spending time with them? The fact is, we make time for whatever is important to us. Whether it’s Game of Thrones, or talking to our children and spouses, or even brushing our teeth. There’s no excuse for not having a daily time to be with our God.
If we make time for brushing our teeth, which are here today and gone tomorrow, why would we do anything less for the eternal and magnificent king of the universe?
And remember, the king of the universe not only loves you. He likes you. He wants to spend time with you too. It is during these quiet times with Him that you get to practice seeking His face and giving Him praise. It is here that you get to know this Jesus who loved prostitutes, heals the sick, and to this day, works amazing miracles. This is the God who looks after you. This is the God whose burden is light and whose yoke is easy. This is our Lord who can’t wait to lavish you with all His goodness.
The more time you spend with Him, the more you will be like Him. And the more you will have life to the full. So don’t cheat yourself out of the supernatural experience of communing with our all loving, all powerful, amazingly creative and lavishing God. You have the time if you want it. But if you still think you’re too busy, just ask Him to help you free up some space. He will make a way. He’s that good!
Songs That Inspire (YouTube Links)
Stars Go Dim-Heaven On Earth
This one has a lot of good prayers to ask our God.
Singing Over Me
A reminder that God actually sings over us. (Zephaniah 3:17)