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Spiritual Growth

Pastor Chris Spruill
Incarnation Church of Christ

(10/2016) Although you may not know it from recent weather, Autumn has begun once again. While many of our days are still reaching into unseasonable temperatures, we are beginning to notice the effects of the change that is coming. This is one of those times when we are able to experience the glory within the beautiful world that God has provided for us while also retaining a comfort level for being outdoors to enjoy Creation to its fullest. The leaves on the trees will begin to change from the regular, and some might say bland, greens we have seen since Spring to the wonderful shades of yellow, red and orange that will pepper the tree lines and mountainsides around the Catoctin Region and beyond. Cooler mornings and evenings prevail as we turn our thoughts to bonfires, sweaters/jackets and hot chocolate and we turn off the air conditioning and prepare ourselves for the warmth coming from hearth fires and furnaces.

We are lucky to live in an area where God provides us with the joy of the changing seasons so that we can see how Creation mirrors our lives as humans. Physically, we begin our lives in much the same way as the flowers that bloom, the trees that bud and the animals that are born on our farms in the Spring of each year. We grow through the Summer of our lives, changing, sometimes subtly but always steadily, as we transition through late childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. For many, Autumn is like middle-age. We begin to slow down and show the signs of aging, with our hair often silvering in the same way that the leaves of the trees change their colors, but many of us are actually at our most colorful and vibrant, just like those leaves in the trees around us. Winter will bring us further slowing of the body and the eventual transition from this life in Godís beautiful earthly Creation to the glory of our Heavenly home yet to come.

Through Godís Word in Scripture and through the blessings we receive, we are promised growth throughout life, but it doesnít always manifest through physical change. For us, it is also our spirits that grow from our early days as Christians toward a more mature understanding of our station in this world and our regard for our God. The Epistles are filled with references to spiritual growth. 2 Corinthians 9:10 tell us that our seeds for sowing and the harvest of our righteousness will be multiplied and increased by God. Colossians 1:10 promises that if we strive to please God, we will experience "bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Hebrews 6:1 says, "(t)herefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying against a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." We are given the capacity to learn more about ourselves while at the same time learning more about what is required of us Ė to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God as we are admonished to do by the Prophet Micah. (Micah 6:8)

When we are children, we speak, act and think as children. When we are childish in our faith, we want everything explained to us in concrete terms of black and white. Moral attitudes are absolute and we need to be assured that life is fair and that everything is going to turn out all right. As we age in our faith we begin to understand that there are no absolutes and there are times when we will not understand why the world turns the way it does and why bad things happen to good people but we must place our trust in God that there is a plan at work that we may or may not be able to discern.

"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness." (2 Peter 1:5-6) We are called by God to progress through our lives from one experience to the next. Through diligence we are promised that our faith will grow. As our faith grows, we are made more aware of the ways in which our lives reflect the moral nature of our inner being. Through reliance on the moral excellence that we achieve we grow in knowledge. But knowledge is just one step in the process and knowledge doesnít always equate to wisdom. If we cease to develop and grow when we attain knowledge we have only run half of the race that God has set before us. For it is through our immersion in and our embracing of knowledge that we discover the roots of self-control. Self-control means holding back on occasion when we would rather lash out. Self-control means exhibiting the love that God has for us in the ways in which we react to others when we would rather complain and cry like little children. Self-control teaches us to persevere in such a way that we move more closely toward a sense of being like God.

The spiritual growth we experience throughout our lives provides us with the courage to reach out to others who need our assistance. We are inspired to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the infirm and the captive and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel story to all who will listen. We are encouraged to look more deeply into the hearts and lives of those around us and assess their needs, regardless of whether we feel they deserve for those needs to be met. Maturing in our walk with our Lord challenges us to think about our fellow human beings with a more gracious heart and with more compassion.

As the weather changes around us, we need to remember that we are called to be ever-changing throughout our lives as we move to a closer understanding of who we are meant to be in Godís world. Each experience builds on the ones before to create in us a deeper connection to God as we grow in our faith and in our spirits. Welcome to Autumn! Embrace the change that you see around you as you watch for and engage with the change that is happening in your own faith and spiritual development. And God bless each of you!

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