Of all of the members of the animal kingdom, human beings are born almost helpless at birth. While most animals are self-sufficient a few hours or days from birth, humans spend almost one quarter of their lives getting prepared for life on their own. In our defense, however, adult humans have to deal with a complex social structure that defines our lives.
Most animals need to learn one of two things: how to run fast to catch dinner or how to run faster so they don’t become dinner. Human beings must learn how to walk, how to talk, how to listen, a job skill of some kind, and of course, the complex process of finding a suitable mate. No wonder it takes us so long to grow up!
Think about it. No one would expect a toddler to be able to drive or a first grader to make decisions about their retirement accounts, but for some reason, this is exactly what we do when it comes to our faith lives.
For some reason, we think if we’re “born again” we are “grown again.”
Sorry, I wish it was that easy, but it just doesn’t work that way. As we follow Christ, our journey begins with being “born again,” but it doesn’t stop there. It only starts there.
Just as we must grow up as physical human beings, we have to grow up as believers. No one is born full grown in their faith. Because we make this assumption that we’re born full grown as believers, most of us end up making two critical mistakes.
The first one is obvious. We think we’re bigger than we are. We want to get saved in the morning and destroy the powers of darkness in the afternoon. We take on too much too soon, and we end up overwhelmed and defeated. We forget Jesus taught the disciples for three years before He released them to their world mission.
Growing again means learning how to think again, talk again, see again—and all in the way of Christ. This doesn’t happen overnight. While there are great stories of people being instantaneously released from a burden or sin, for most of us the process takes longer. Our families don’t get better overnight. They do get better, but not as fast as we desire. We are released from the burdens of past sins, but it might take a little while. First, we have to understand how devastating those sins were and for some of us, that’s a deep hole. Again, you get through it completely healed and strong; it just takes a little while.
Remember, most of Jesus’ profound teachings were told and learned in the simplest of terms. A grain of wheat, the blowing wind, a persistent widow. It’s the child trying to get our attention that will sometimes bring the words of God to us. It’s in the simple action of going to church when we don’t feel like it that we find God waiting on us in the pew and our lives are changed forever.
There are no moments that aren’t God moments. Most of us spend our entire lives trying to learn this.
And one more thing. Most of us think the Christian faith gets easier the longer we’re in it. It doesn’t. It gets harder. You know how it goes—the reward for good work is more work. We learn and grow from facing harder and harder things. If you’re in the gym, you get stronger by lifting more weights. If you’re a runner, you run longer distances at a faster pace. And if you’re a follower of Christ, He places you in more and more difficult situations with more and more complex people that require you to use all you have learned and to keep learning more about Jesus and His ways.
Remember the parable of the talents? The servant who was faithful with five talents is rewarded with five more. Have you ever thought this servant may not have wanted five more? I’m sure doubling the original investment was hard enough; now the servant has to double it all again.
This is why tithing is such an important spiritual practice. Believe it or not, it’s not about the money. Tithing is about trust. For most of us, tithing is the first time we’re confronted with a command of God that directly and immediately impacts us.
The story usually goes like this. A new believer sits down with an older believer and says, “What now?” The older believer will begin to talk about Bible study, prayer, and tithing. Tithing will be the only thing that gets any push back.
What? God wants how much of my money? It that before or after taxes? How will I make it? The new believer won’t be able to see how tithing works.
But tithing does work. You do make it. In fact, you make it very well. You make it better than you would have had you not been tithing. How is that? First, tithing makes you look at your financial priorities. We quickly find we have a lot of “wants” that really aren’t “needs.” We have very few needs, but our “wants” will bankrupt us—financially and spiritually.
And Jesus is faithful. We walk away knowing that if Jesus is faithful in these little things, perhaps He can be trusted in bigger things. And He can.
But we only learn this if we’re willing crawl before we walk and walk before we run. No one is born full grown.