Are You Growing? – Sheree Choake.
SERMON 17TH OCTOBER 2021
ARE YOU GROWING?
Don’t you love it when you plant a new garden with teeny-tiny plants and you see them grow! You take care to water them, sometimes to fertilise them and they grow, bigger, get more stems or branches or begin to bud and flower.
When a baby is born, each week the clinic or nursing sister that you see to check how everything is going always checks the baby’s weight and measures their length and their head circumference to check that they are growing. Even before that baby is born, many ultrasounds check the length of different bones to check that they are growing within what they believe and know is a normal range.
In fact, if you were in kindergarten, you would learn that all living things grow. If they are not growing, they are not living! Even the largest and oldest tortoises or trees in the world still grow in some way. I have heard said that in humans, our ears and our noses never stop growing. That’s a bit of a worry for some I think!!
So, are you growing? I don’t mean outwards, although some of us are doing that too. And I don’t necessarily mean physically as there are some things that we cannot do anything about growing physically. I was this height in year 7 and haven’t grown taller since. We can grow our strength and flexibility and stamina, but that’s not what I really want you to think about. When I ask you are you growing, I mean are we still learning and growing?
To keep our bodies fit and healthy, we need to exercise it and feed it with nutritious food. To keep our minds sharp and active, we need to exercise it and feed it with nutritious food. Too much junk food leaves us sluggish and definitely not feeling at our best. We also know that regular exercise keeps our body operating at it should, keep the blood pumping nicely, keeps our weight down, helps our blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and I could go on further. It’s the same for our minds and spirits. Keeping it moving and active, learning new things, challenging ourselves intellectually helps our mind to stay alert and in its best condition.
Now, none of this is new information to us. But I want to come back to my question. Are you growing? Are you making choices to help you grow? You see it’s very easy to get stuck in a stage where life just keeps going on and we keep doing the same thing and before we know it, we feel like a rock – and we know rocks don’t grow – they are stuck in a spot, sometimes a useful and purposeful spot, but stuck and unmoving. We don’t all grow at the same rate, or in the same way. When I water and fertilise my garden, some plants take-off and have a huge sudden growth in height or girth, while others seem to develop slower, but might flower or fruit or get stronger.
Not all children learn at the same rate or in the same way. Teachers become experts in presenting skills and concepts in many different ways to cater for all the different learning types and differing levels of student understanding and growth. This is because God made us all unique. I am uniquely me, and you are uniquely you!
When God made man way back in the very beginning, He created us in His own image and created us to for relationship, for companionship, to walk with, to talk with, to spend eternity with. But, God knew, that in any relationship, there needs to be the freedom to choose to engage and be with, because if there’s no choice, it’s not really companionship, is it? Without the freedom to choose, it would be prescribed, robotic and forced. God wanted us to choose Him, to choose to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to follow His ways and enjoy His company, to choose His blessings and enjoy His favour.
Just as He gave us all the ability to choose to follow Him and His ways, we are all able to follow Him in our own and unique journey, because you are one of a kind. There is no other person on this earth like you. You have your own fingerprint, your own tongue print, footprint and iris pattern and DNA. In over 7 billion people on the earth, there are no 2 the same… even identical twins have some differences in those prints and DNA. Now add free choice to your makeup and no 2 people’s journeys are the same or will be the same. There’s no one like you, there’s no one else like me! Some might say, “Well hallelujah for that!”
So, our uniqueness and our choices determine how and if we will put ourselves into a place where we can grow or not. When we are young, we crave learning. Children are like sponges that soak up everything that is poured in around them- both good and bad. Some students can learn to read and write in a few months of beginning school. Some children seem to learn it all by themselves before they even start and others take a longer, windier path to get there. But even at such an early age, it’s easy to see how children’s choices effect their learning and their growth.
At my age, why do I have to keep growing? Because if I don’t, the many, many years I have ahead of me would be boring and routine and dull apart from anything else. Nothing else around me stays the same, so why would I? At school, unless we challenge a student at their learning edge, they won’t grow. Unless they are introduced to new and different skills, understandings and concepts they cannot grow. They can practice something they already know 1000s of times but won’t grow and learn something beyond unless they are stretched to new understandings or more difficult concepts, something that will challenge a different part of their brain. That’s the way God made us! That’s what He designed our brains and bodies to do. We were each designed to leave our own unique mark on the world, a mark that no one else can leave – because if we don’t leave our own mark, no one can leave our mark for us. We need to learn and grow to leave the mark God designed for us to leave.
Sadly though, many of us are too insecure or fearful to truly appreciate and stand in our own uniqueness, so we never allow the expression of God’s unlimited creativity to be expressed in and through us. We were designed to have a free and secure heart, but often our freedom is overshadowed by fear that we won’t measure-up to others’ opinions and judgements, so we make choices to sit in the background and hide away, choosing to live unseen and missing God’s best for us. Don’t get me wrong, God created both extraverted and introverted people, and I’m not talking about that. Only you yourself know if you’re choosing to be a rock out of fear or insecurity. And if that’s the case, may I suggest that you have believed an age-old lie, and we all know where those lies originate – from the father of lies himself.
Remember Adam and Eve, in the beginning were made to be good, very good were God’s words! God gave them freewill – the option of living however they best thought would be right for them and He was there to walk with them, to talk with them. That ability to choose was tested when Satan began to question Eve about the understanding of God’s nature and original plan. Satan will sometimes use something or someone we are familiar with to deceive and hurt us because if he didn’t, we would recognise his lies immediately. He may also use our thoughts; planting lies in the very area he knows we struggle and whispering negative thoughts to confuse us and sow doubt. He will twist a half-truth to create a lie and because there is some element of truth in it, we often believe it.
The enemy only has one plan for my life and it is not different to the plan he has for your life. That plan is to remove our identity from that of our loving Father, steal our self-worth and the plans our Father created us to fulfill and lead us down a path to destruction where our uniqueness seems like a curse and where we cannot grow into who we were created be. Adam and Eve hid away and no longer walked and talked with God in the garden, they were banished from the garden, their purpose was thwarted and they had to strive and struggle to live. That’s the plan Satan has for us, to keep us struggling and striving, to keep us apart from God and no longer be able to thrive in the unique purpose God created us to fulfill. The more we strive in our own strength, the more frustrated we get and then often, give up trying, give up hope.
But, as it was for Adam and Eve, the choice is ours. Satan distorted the truth to them wanting them to believe that God was holding out on them rather than protecting them with the instructions He gave them for avoiding the tree of life and living in the garden. He still does that doesn’t He! He shows us in the Bible the choices that will bless and the choices that will harm.
In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that, “Satan is a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy…” that’s Satan’s nature, that’s who he is and how he operates.
The verse goes on to reveal God’s nature, “but I have come to give life, and to give it to the full!”
The NLT says, “…to have a rich and satisfying life.”
The NKJV puts it, “…to have life more abundantly!”
TPT translation of the whole verse says, “A thief has only one thing in mind – he wants to steal, slaughter and destroy. But I have come to give everything in abundance, more than you expect – life in all its fullness until you overflow!”
So many of us, and I’m speaking to myself here too, allow Satan to steal from us. I know I allow him on occasion, to steal my confidence and my self-worth when I hear him whisper things to me like, “Who are you to do that thing or this thing… you’re not smart enough, you can’t do that, no one wants to listen to you, you’re not young enough anymore, you’re no one special…” because that’s his MO. That’s what he does and anytime you feel that you’re not good enough, you can KNOW without a doubt, that’s the deceiver, coming to steal from you to kill off your future and your hope.
Without consistently growing in knowledge of God, of His nature, or His promises, we are sitting ducks for Satan’ to find a tiny truth to mix with his lies and bring confusion and doubt. The only way to keep our minds and spirits sharp and not allow the thief to steal the truth from you is to know Him more, to read His word, to pray, to study, to grow in the knowledge of God.
So, are you living abundantly, growing into fullness and flourishing?
Psalm 52:8 says, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”
Because, to flourish, to live abundantly and in all God’s fullness, we need to keep growing, keep putting good things into our minds and souls, keep receiving words of life and not become discouraged by words that would steal away all that God has promised to us… no matter what your eyes may see, or your mind may justify. If it’s stealing, killing or destroying it cannot be from God, that’s not His nature, not His form, not His ways.
Colossians 1:6 says, “Every believer of this Good News bears the fruit of eternal life as they experience the reality of God’s grace.”
And it goes on in verses 9-10 to say,
” …we’ve kept you always in our prayers that you would receive the perfect knowledge of God’s pleasure over your lives, making you reservoirs of every kind of wisdom and spiritual understanding. We pray that you would walk in the ways of true righteousness, pleasing God in every good thing that you do. THEN, you’ll become FRUIT-BEARING BRANCHES, yielding to His life and maturing in the rich experience of knowing God in ALL His fullness!”
Knowing God in ALL His fullness – we need to keep growing to get to that place. We need to become fruit-bearing branches to navigate these tricky, confusing times. We need to fully understand His nature and life in all its fullness to recognise and understand when we are being told lies that would steal and kill and destroy. We need to speak the all-powerful name of Jesus and the truths of His word and promises over those lies to remove them from our thoughts. We can only do that by growing. Growing in knowledge and wisdom, growing in relationship and closeness to God and walking in His ways, not staying in one spot, not being stuck, but looking ahead, looking to new and exciting things, looking to what God wants for you to receive to enable you to be your best you, to do the job for Him that only you can do.
You are completely unique, made for good things, made with an amazing purpose that only you can achieve. In Ephesians, we are told that we are masterpieces, created by God, created to do goods works planned long ago…
Colossians 3:14 states, “… love becomes the mark of maturity.”
Verses 16-17 go on to say, “Let the Word of Christ live and grow in you richly, flooding you with ALL wisdom. Let every activity of your lives and every word that comes from your lips be drenched with the beauty of our Lord Jesus, the anointed One.”
There’s nothing in Him that will kill, steal or destroy. That is the complete opposite of growth, so keep growing!