If you invite people over for a nice dinner of prime rib, mash potatoes, asparagus, and strawberry shortcake you can serve it one of two ways: to save time you can mix it all up together and serve it in a bowl, or you can serve it beautifully in portions and separate courses. In either case, the nutritional value is just the same. Nevertheless, if your goal is to have your guests actually eat the food, they are much more like to do so if it is served carefully and thoughtfully.
It is the same thing with teaching the word of God. Nevertheless, ultimately, it is the listener’s responsibility to receive and apply Biblical truth. Sometimes in our churches, we equate ignorance with spirituality. People will say things like, “I don’t want to hear any deep theology. I just want to hear the old, old story over and over again. I just want to hear the simple gospel.”
What these people are really saying is that they are so dull, sluggish, and spiritually immature, they can’t understand any of the deeper things of God’s Word. And the Bible condemns it. Why? Those who fail to mature spiritually are in severe danger of falling away from the faith. That is what Hebrews 5:11-14 is all about.
Many of you who are sincerely tired of feeling spiritually sluggish. You want real life-change in your spiritual life. So applying the truths of Hebrews 5:14, there are six practical suggestions that will help you move toward maturity in your Christian life.
1. Confirm your relationship with Christ.
Make sure you really are a Christian. You can feed your dog steak and potatoes forever, but he will never turn into a human. Before someone can grow as a human, he has to first of all be a human.
That is a simple truth, yet there may be some of you listening today who may be motivated to read your Bible more or to attend worship more regularly, or to teach a class thinking that will help fill the spiritual void in your life. But you can never grow as a Christian until you first become a Christian.
2. Build some spiritual disciplines into your life.
As I often say, I don’t think you have to spend hours every day in prayer and Bible study to have an effective spiritual life—but you do have to spend some time.
Robert Foster has written a wonderful little book, Seven Minutes with God. In the booklet, he suggests that if you are not having a regular quiet time with the Lord each day, that you begin by spending just seven minutes with Him each morning.
The apostle Paul addressed discipline in 1 Timothy 4:8: “For bodily discipline is of only little profit, but godliness [spiritual discipline] is profitable for all things, since it holds the promise for the present life and also the life to come.”
3. Learn to listen attentively.
Whether it is in the Sunday School class, Bible study, or a worship service, learn to ask yourself: “What is the Lord saying to me? What is one thing I could do differently because of the truth I am hearing?”
Teach your children to do the same. When I was a child, I was pretty restless in church. Amy is convinced that the reason I became a preacher was so that I wouldn’t have to sit still in church. But my parents, sensing my difficulty listening, offered me a nickel for everything I could remember that the preacher said. There is nothing wrong and everything right with rewarding your children for doing what is right. Learning to listen attentively will help prevent spiritual sluggishness.
4. Find a place of spiritual service.
There is something about being involved in ministry that increases your appetite for spiritual food. The person who is exercising and burning off fat is going to develop a healthier appetite.
But being involved in ministry not only increases your spiritual appetite, it also deepens your spiritual conviction. There is an interesting verse in 1Timothy 3:13 that says, “those who serve well as deacons obtain a great confidence in the faith.” That truth applies to all of us. When we are actively involved in seeing God’s Word change the lives of people, it gives us great confidence and renewed excitement in the Word of God.
5. Obey what you know to be true.
If you find yourself spiritually sluggish, dull, and unmotivated, it may be because you have hardened your heart to the truth of God’s Word. Maybe there is one area of your life that you know is displeasing to God.
Instead of being under constant conviction, you have learned how to turn off spiritual truth. You have developed a habit of not listening to or reading God’s Word.
6. Make spiritual growth a priority.
Steven Covey tells about a time management seminar he once attended. At one point, the leader said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar. He set it on the table next to a platter with some fist-sized rocks on it. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar he asked?”
After we made our guess, he said, “Okay. Let’s find out.” He set one rock in the jar, then another, then another. I don’t remember how many he got in, but he got the jar full. Then he asked, “Is the jar full?” Everybody looked at the rocks and said, “Yes.”
Then he said, “Ahhh.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar and the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Then he grinned and said once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time, we were on to him. “Probably not,” we said.
“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and the gravel. Once more he looked at us and said, “Is the jar full?”
“No!” we all roared.
He said, “Good!” And he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in. He got something like a quart of water in that jar. Then he said, “Well, what’s the point?” Somebody said, “Well, there are gaps, and if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.
“No,” he said, “that’s not the point. The point is this: if you hadn’t put these big rocks in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?”
If you are ever going to be successful in life, you must determine what the big rocks are in your life. And if you are ever going to grow spiritually the biggest rock has to be your relationship with God.