When People Grow Slowly

When it comes to a Christian’s growth in christlikeness, many of us are more like the oak than the bamboo.

People can see our growth, perhaps. But they can’t usually see us growing. That slow growth can cause us to ruffle each other’s feathers at times. That Christian friend of ours seems to never be able to grow out of that struggle. It’s been years, and that believer in the church can’t quite get traction in godliness in an area. “Why can’t they just grow out of that stuff?!”

 

Bamboo grows fast. Some bamboo-ologists say it grows roughly four inches per day in the right conditions. The fastest growing bamboo reportedly bursted up 35 inches in a day. That’s a growth you can watch. Oak trees are not like that. They grow about twelve inches per year. So, you can see an oak’s growth, but you can’t see it growing, unlike bamboo.

When it comes to a Christian’s growth in christlikeness, many of us are more like the oak than the bamboo. People can see our growth, perhaps. But they can’t usually see us growing.

That slow growth can cause us to ruffle each other’s feathers at times. That Christian friend of ours seems to never be able to grow out of that struggle. It’s been years, and that believer in the church can’t quite get traction in godliness in an area. “Why can’t they just grow out of that stuff?!”

Here are some things to consider as we struggle with slow sanctification.

Before we talk about others, let’s pause. We grow slow in ways too. In this life, not one of us is yet glorified. So, not one of us is perfectly sanctified in every area. Chances are then, we have been a source of feather-ruffling to other believers at some point. Our slow sanctification has pained someone sometime. Others have had to forbear our yet-sanctified areas at some point. And if we asked someone close to us, “In what ways have you had to forbear with me?”, they would likely have a tangible response. Let’s take that posture with us as we walk with others.

Pained by People

The apostle Paul incurred much injury spiritually and physically from people. He pastored many imperfect churches. People—even Christians—were a source of deep pain for him at times. He also endured unspeakable pain at the hands of Jews and Gentiles. He was “beaten times without number” (2 Cor. 11:23). Five times he received the 39 lashes (2 Cor. 11:24). He was pounded with stones and bashed with rods (2 Cor. 11:25). And that’s just the beginning of the list (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-29). He never pastored a perfect church. Even the Philippian church had members who struggled with things like disunity, pride, complaining, and hyper-nationalism (cf. Phil. 2:1-5143:204:2). And yet, after suffering at the hands of people all those years, Paul still loved these things called people. How is that possible?! If a cactus stabs you every other day for twenty years, you’re going to no longer like cactuses. And yet Paul could say, even of the Corinthians, “I thank my God always concerning you…” (1 Cor. 1:4), and opened their letter, “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:3). How in the world does Paul not say instead, “Wrath and torment to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”?!

The Right Confidence

Paul’s love for people didn’t come from people, per se. It came from God. The apostle Paul was a master shepherd. Here is part of his secret to not growing calloused towards people:

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

Truths like that equipped him with the love and forbearance that are absolutely necessary to live among people this side of heaven. Paul had a confidence. Not confidence in people. But confidence in God for people. His confidence was rooted in God.

This is the kind of confidence that we must exercise towards one another in the body of Christ. Most of us in the church are oaky in our sanctification. But we have confidence. Not confidence, as in, “Well, I’m confident it’s going to be sunny, or the economy will turn out well.” Biblical confidence is the expectation of a guaranteed result anchored in the unchanging character of God and the unchanging promises of God.

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