Is it possible to grow if you’re never challenged? Think before you answer. Is it possible to become stronger if your muscles are never challenged? Is it possible to become smarter if your mind is never challenged? Is it possible to run farther if your physical conditioning is never challenged?
Is it possible to grow if you’re never challenged?
The undeniable answer is NO. Whether it’s physical strength or intellectual prowess or long distance running, I will never grow unless I challenge myself and push myself beyond my current capability – aka, “what I can handle.”
All agree so far? (Here comes the part you probably won’t like.)
The same holds true spiritually. You will not grow spiritually unless you are challenged. Like your physical muscles, your “faith muscles” – which are the backbone of your spiritual life – will never get stronger without some type of stress or tension that causes them to work harder than they’re used to working.
That isn’t theology or spirituality; that’s just how life works.
And because ultimately God’s goal for us is to grow spiritually (and that’s what you say is YOUR goal as well), then challenges or trials are a REQUIREMENT in the life of a Christian.
(told ya you wouldn’t like that part)
Being a Christian means to be a FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ – someone who “follows” in His footsteps. Our Master didn’t live an easy, pain-free, problem-free life – so why do we think we, His followers, should?
How could my life be easy if the life of the One whom I claim to follow was never easy? In fact, I would argue that the one guarantee as a Christian/follower of Jesus is this: “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33)
Those who are familiar with the passage will quickly point out that I left off the second half of the verse – the part where Jesus says “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I intentionally left that part out because – while no less true than the first half of the verse about tribulations – I have discovered that most Christians only consider the second half and not the first!
Yes Jesus promised to overcome the world; but HE ALSO PROMISED THAT WE WILL HAVE TRIBULATIONS IN THE VERY SAME WORLD.
You can’t take half of the Bible’s promises – the fun ones about overcoming the world, and “peace which surpasses all understanding”, and “an abundant life”, etc. – without taking the other half which promises that life won’t be easy and there will be trials.
St. Peter – one of the closest FOLLOWERS of Jesus said it this way:
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” 1 Peter 4:12
I’ve discovered that there are three options in life for the followers of Christ. Either you are:
a) In the middle of a trial now b) Have just come out of a trial c) Are preparing to enter a trial
That’s it. Those are the three options. Either you’re in tough time… just coming out a tough time… or preparing to enter a tough time.
(How’s that for “feel good Christianity”?)
I’m not saying that God wants us to be miserable and always suffering on this earth. Never! No way in a million years am I saying that! But what I’m saying is that trials and difficulties are part of life. You can’t escape them.
You can’t protect all your loved ones from cancer and death. You can’t control who gets laid off and who doesn’t. You can’t sign up for a problem-free or “headache-free” family. You can’t escape trials and tough times because they are part of this fallen world. You simply can’t.
But what I want you to know is this: THAT ISN’T THE GOAL. The goal isn’t to avoid the problems; the goal is to grow from them.
Think back to the lifting weights example. The goal isn’t to lift only the weights that I am able to lift. That’s a waste of time. The goal is to challenge myself to lift something that I am currently UNABLE to lift – something that is too hard and too heavy. The stress caused by that “more than I can handle” lifting is what ultimately causes my muscles to grow bigger and stronger, thereby allowing me to lift MORE WEIGHT down the road.
You see how that works? Nothing gets stronger without being challenged. It’s true in every area of life – including spiritually.
So stop looking for a pain-free and problem-free life. Stop being surprised by trials as though they should be foreign to your life as a follower of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth – as David the Prophet said in Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
Yes we will have trials, but our God is big enough and great enough to use those trials for our benefit and for our growth. So instead of resisting the trials, we need to learn how to GROW from them. How do we do that?
That'll be today's topic on my weekly scope. Join me at 12:30 pm EST today and I’ll share my thoughts on the subject and also answer any questions that you might have as well.