Would you know what to do if you found out you could live forever?
I don't imagine you came out of the womb or spent your growing years considering the moment of your impending demise. No, you continued to grow with the goal to become a responsible adult, an adult with a good job and stable friendships. And then, of course, life happened. And you learned that growing up is HARD, but you still did it. Unless, of course, you're Peter Pan, but we'll get back to that ...
And then there was your spiritual birth. You remember how exciting that was? You trusted like baby ... "baby content" as the psalmist mused (Psalm 131:2, Message interpretation) and then grew like a child filled with "laughter and singing" (1 Peter 1:8). Though you had not SEEN Him, you loved Him. The apostle Peter continued this musing by transitioning into the chaos of life and talking about the shortness of the trials you may face compared to what lies in the future. And you're ready for that! Unless, of course, you're listening to Peter Pan.
I am simply proposing that we strive to stay away from a Spiritual Peter Pan Syndrome where our spiritual growth takes a backseat to our selfish nature. You and I know first hand that it is reaaaaaaal easy (and certainly more fun) to remain in a childlike state in your faith. One of the first Christian-pop-songs I learned was Fat Baby, sung by Amy Grant. Remember that one? IF you happen to recall this song and/or you need your memory jogged, I dare you to read this part of it without singing it or humming out loud:
He's been baptized, sanctified, redeemed by the blood But his daily devotions are stuck in the mud He knows the books of the Bible and John 3:16 He's got the biggest King James you've ever seen! I've always wondered if he'll grow up someday He's mamma's boy, and he likes it that way If you happen to see him, tell him I said, "He'll never grow, if he never gets fed"
He's just a fat little baby! He wants his bottle, and he don't mean maybe He sampled solid foods once or twice But he says doctrine leaves him cold as ice
by Rodney S. Robison & Steve Millikan
The music is catchy; some people thought and still may think it's a silly one (which it is, of course, supposed to be). But that cute little tongue-in-cheek song encouraged listeners to heed our brother Timothy's knowledge here:
"Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.
Through the Word we are put together and shaped upfor the tasks God has for us." (2 Timothy 3:4-17, The Message)
Okay, instead of following on with Timothy's advice to stick with what I've learned, I admit that a Spiritual Peter Pan Syndrome has applied to me at times. Hasn't it to you? If so, I am going to encourage us both to do something about it. And here are three suggestions on to how we might manage to succeed in that.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THAT CHANGE IS INEVITABLE IN THE RIVER OF LIFE. Some time after Paul, a Greek philosopher from Ephesus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” (Hericlitus) I typed out my own Angie-fied quote of this concept and put it in various places where I can see it by surprise: when you put your nasty foot in a familiar river again, don't expect it to be same place or the fountain of youth. Besides the obvious fact that YOUR foot is going to change and age as well, Peter Pan, his original thought is just a reminder of the ever-changing nature of life, inspires an OH-YEAH moment, and a gentle reminder from the Almighty that it's gonna be okay.
2. BE GLAD THAT THE SAME RIVER OF LIFE HAS ROCKS IN IT! You get it. I pray that you continue to "put your foot in the river" no matter how old your foot gets. And I believe that you will be not only older, but wiser, and not intimidated by the big rock you stumbled upon in that flowing life-river ... because that Rock is Jesus (1Peter 2:7-8). And although God may use that stone to cause you to stub your toe in the river, you, um, may have needed it. When Peter mentions that inexpressible joy of being a child in Jesus, he also continues by welcoming you to ... a stone. Yep, he said that. Not just flint or sand. A STONE. Um, yikes? But actually, that verse in 1 Peter continues and is interpreted by wisdom saying, "Welcome to the living Stone, the SOURCE of life." So ...
3. SINCE YOU 'KNOW' THE ROCK, SLAM YOUR FOOT IN THERE ANYWAY. I'm going to get a little "Greek-y" here for a minute if that's okay. When the New Testament (much more than once) addresses spiritual maturity, it uses the standard Greek word teleios, which means “perfect” or “complete.” When it is used to explain Christian growth, it shows real spiritual development in contrast to childlike immaturity. James also used "teleios" when he reminded us that if we still then felt lacking wisdom concerning said completion, our Father always gives it to us GENEROUSLY and WITHOUT blame or objection! So, guess what that means for you and me?
When you grow into physical adulthood, you usually know what to do when life throws you a curveball because you have a sense of who you are and your purpose in life. As you grow up spiritually, you become outfitted to follow God’s plan for your life as you understand the hope of what that means and get strengthened in your inner man no matter what is happening around you. You can recognise and stay with the truth that any stumbling block (or ... ROCK) is Jesus.
Yeah, I am completely aware that these are things you already know. But if you're like me, interesting mental images won't hurt to remind you that ... well, hah, that you don't have any excuses. Acknowledge, slam, walk on. If you avoid being a "fat little baby" in your spiritual walk and regularly GROW UP, you will "bear fruit" from spiritual birth and on into old age.
Expect changes, make mistakes, learn. Wash, rinse, repeat. When we have committed ourselves to Jesus the natural result is that our behavioural choices will look like His too. If this is true of you, whether you are physically old or not, those who remain IN THE NOW AND THE NOT YET are truly going to live ... forever.