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Bob Tamasy: Puppies, Infants And Challenges Of Spiritual Growth

Thursday, August 11, 2022 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

Aren’t puppies cute? They quickly run here and there, bounding around to check out all the things that are new to them. As their teeth start to come in, they chew on everything. They’re full of reckless energy, except for the moments when nature calls and they squat. Oops! Even then, we accept it because they’re little and we know they’ll become house-trained and grow out of it.

 

The same holds true for babies. They gurgle and giggle, wide-eyed with every new experience. After a while they discover the novelty of standing up, then take their first unsteady, halting steps, taking little tumbles but learning to get back up.

Of course, there’s that diaper thing, but it’s okay because we know they’ll become potty-trained and grow out of that.

 

But what if they didn’t “grow out of it.” How would you react if the little pup continues chewing on everything in sight as it gets bigger – and continues using the entire house as a restroom? Not so cute then, huh? And if the baby grows up, but still can’t walk properly, continues speaking only in infantile gibberish and never grasps what the toilet is for? We’d start to worry, because clearly something’s not right.

 

Have you ever considered that this is true spiritually as well? We often use the broad term “Christian” to describe someone having saving faith in Jesus Christ, but just as humans can be infants, adolescents, teenagers, young and older adults, followers of Jesus also can be on different levels of spiritual maturity. If, after a reasonable period of time, we’re still experiencing spiritual infancy, something’s wrong.

 

The apostle Paul addressed this in one of his letters to believers in ancient Corinth. He chided them, I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (1 Corinthians 3:2-3).

 

We find similar concern expressed by the writer of the book of Hebrews: In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrew 5:12-14).

 

For babies, a steady diet of milk is fine. In fact, it’s usually just what the doctor orders. But as they get older, it’s time to move on to more complex forms of food. The same principle applies to spiritual growth. Hunger for God’s Word, wanting not only to hear it but also to understand it and use it in our lives, is one evidence of a growing Christ follower. We can study it, memorize it, meditate on it, integrate it into our daily behavior, and share it with others.

 

Another evidence of growth in our walk with God is a desire to experience a deeper relationship with Him. In the Amplified Bible’s expanded translation of Philippians 3:10, the first portion reads, “For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly….” We could ask ourselves, “Does this describe me?”

 

Years ago, I had a friend who had spent much of his life investing in other men, mentoring and discipling them toward spiritual maturity. He often said he looked for FAT men – not individuals suffering from obesity, but people who were Faithful, Available and Teachable. They showed themselves to be reliable and ready to learn. This too is a mark of a growing, maturing believer. Writing to his protégé, Timothy, Paul gave these instructions:

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

 

The list could go on, but one other evidence of spiritual growth and maturity is “spiritual fruit,” a consistent demonstration of Christlikeness through the things we do and what we say.

 

After citing “acts of the sinful nature” that are seen in both non-believers and immature believers – including such things as sexual immorality, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition and envy – the apostle Paul described “fruit” of a growing spiritual life: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

He wasn’t saying we must exhibit each of these perfectly at all times, but progress should be evident, especially in areas where we have personally struggled. Such as overwhelming anxiety, impatience, lack of concern for others, and failure to control our tempers.

 

In his second letter, the apostle Peter referred to this as being able to “participate in the divine nature.” He wrote:

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

 

Reading this, we might think, “Wow! According to this, I have a long way to go!” But that’s the point. The spiritual life isn’t a destination, but a lifelong journey, including the “two steps forward, three steps back” experiences we all encounter.

 

It seems daunting, but if we are genuine followers of Jesus, we have this assurance: “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion to the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). To which it would be appropriate to add a hearty, “Amen!”

 

* * *

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is btamasy@comcast.net.


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