"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:16-18)
We must realize that our Lord can and will bring goodness and glory to any situation that He is glorified. Even through our weakness and failures, through our let downs and discouragements, Christ is there loving and encouraging us. Paul knew this firsthand and lived it out in his life and ministry, as must we. Whatever our circumstance, we need to see that it pales in significance to the eternity we have to come. This world and life is a dress rehearsal, and a mere shadow of what is to come. So let us keep the focus on what is ahead and what we will enjoy for all time that we may not see unless we press on to the goal, and then at the end we will see.
One of the clearest evidences of being a mature Christian is an increased awareness and knowledge of the need to be in Christ, and not to be to ourselves. When we have an increased need that goes beyond ourselves, an increasing need that goes beyond our self-confidence when we are focused not on ourselves but Christ; then we are maturing. When we are dependent on our Lord and the Holy Spirit; then our self-confidence becomes rooted and dependent in Christ working through us. So we are not self driven but Christ driven. Thus resulting in our will to be in total surrender to God's will as the driving force for our existence. This is maturity! Too many people feel they are too busy to contemplate their existence, just ask anyone and you will be surprised at the answers. Yet God created us for a purpose, but most give little to no credence to it, even Christians. We cannot venture into maturity unless we realize the need and the purpose of who we are.
As mature Christians, we will recognize our need for Christ will bring us beyond our failures so we can grow increasingly effective for our Lord and grow in sanctification. We are focused on the goal of holiness to be the person God created. He created us to be images of Himself, and as images, we are to reflect His character that goes beyond ourselves to the purpose He has. It is not about our needs, but His need. It is not our purpose, but His purpose. This is maturity!
As we grow in Christ, we will become aware of our futility and inadequacy as human beings, that we are products of our sinful nature that only Christ can regain and redeem. And this frailty will become a strong building with the foundation of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us extreme provision and realization to be our best for God's glory. We become complete human beings who walk away from our fallen nature into a renewed nature in Christ. As we grow in the progress of our walk with Christ, we become more able to stay on the path of what he has for us. Then the other paths at our side will not be even considered so that the many temptations and adventure into new and different paths, away from His presence, will no longer consume our desires. Instead we are to become convicted to spiritual fulfillment that Christ has for us. Thus, when we walk on the path of God and are confronted with the enormous assortment of doors, all leading to temptations and desires, we will know what to do. All these distractions and sins leading away from His best for us will not be a temptation, but rather repulsive and ugly as they truly are.
With the power of the Holy Spirit and the conviction of faith in Christ, when we are modeling His image with love, we are maturing. The desires and aspirations that once hindered us will be of no bother. We will be able to walk away from them like a racehorse. A racehorse has its blinders on the side of its eyes, so it is always pointing straight ahead, so it is not distracted from leaving the course. We too must keep our eyes focused ahead so we are not distracted away from our Lord. For when we are overcome by our desires and distracted from our purpose, then the diseases will infect us like cancer and consume the body of Christ which end up serving only our whims and the devil's purpose. When we stop and open those doors of temptations, even the small doggie doors, we will be consumed, and our growth in Christ will stop and the infection of diseases will replace their growth.
There are too many Christians who flat out and deliberately refuse to surrender themselves to the lordship of Christ. Christianity is merely fire insurance from Hell, some means of social influence or personal desires that do not grow beyond the sinner's prayer: such as the parable of the sower. Our Christian growth in maturity is not self-realization, but rather Christ realization. As we grow, we become totally aware of one great fact: there is one God and we are not it. Our confidence in who we are is because of the work Christ has done on our behalf. As we grow, our utter dependence is upon our Lord and our confidence is in Him and not ourselves. People will always disappoint us. We will even disappoint ourselves. Christ, however, will not disappoint us, but gives us the care, love, and His grace that we do not deserve. We in turn model to others who we think, do not deserve it, this is our mandate and call.
The capable leader is rooted and grounded in the spiritual disciplines of the faith, whose drive is their passionate love relationship to the Lordship of Christ. What flows out of it is the desire to love God's people, to herd them with love to maturity and lead the people where they have not been before. The leader exhibits the maturity of the Christian life as the result of their growth and experience in the faith. An effective leader cannot be new to the faith, even the Apostle Paul spent three years being discipled by Barnabas, and he received his call and was empowered directly from Christ Himself. I have seen too many immature Christians who go at it by who they are in society and not who they are in Christ.
A few years ago while on staff at a church, we received a family who came to faith at a crusade and the father was the founder of a major fast food franchise. So in less than a year, he was my boss and the president ruling elder of the congregation. Now he was a great guy and very successful in business, but he did not know how to run a church. So he instinctively ran it like a business and his policies failed. He did not know how to lead in a church, which is different than a corporation, even though a lot of the principles are transferable. After several years, he did become a good leader as he matured in the faith. But the church suffered during his learning curve needlessly.
There is no substitute to time spent in the face of our Lord with a surrendered heart and a learning will. We must be willing to be humble no matter who we are or our experience. I had to learn this lesson a few years back. I went from being on staff at a large, influential church to a small church in a small town. At first, before accepting the call, I thought that I was too good for the position. God, however, wanted me there to teach me to walk closer to Him and not walk in the position that I held. So I did, and I experienced humbleness. Nobody knew me as the conference speaker, author, or having a big position in a big church, but just a youth pastor in a small church. This is where Christ wanted me and I learned a lot there. It prepared me for the road He had for me. And I am glad I went there, I learned things in a broader context that I could not have in a mega-church.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." (II Timothy 2:15-16; 22-24)
This passage is a testimony to the importance of holiness, and to keep ourselves growing in our spiritual lives so that our emotional selves are impacted and grow too.
© 1994, 2001, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org