During a dinner party conversation, the neighbor of Albert Einstein asked the white-haired physicist, “What are you actually, by profession?”
“I devote myself to the study of physics,” replied Einstein.
The girl was astonished: “You mean to say that you study physics at your age? I finished mine a year ago!”
What that poor young lady missed was that the process of learning is life-long, which is true also in the spiritual realm.
Growth is continual. It has no end. There is no sudden “attaining” to full spiritual maturity on earth. [We generally know that in theory, but sometimes live as though we don’t know that.]
This is the consistent theme of Scripture.
- God causes (ongoing) growth (1 Cor. 3:7). He grows us (but don’t blame Him if you’re not growing, since He has provided all that you need for life and godliness, 2 Pt. 1:3).
- The transformation of our lives is a regular, continual process (2 Cor. 3:18).
- As our faith grows (constantly) by exercising our gifts, the ministry of the gospel in the church at large also grows (2 Cor. 10:15).
- The goal of our continual growth is Christ-likeness (Eph. 4:15).
- The process of being built into Christ-likeness is like the building of a building — the growth upward is brick upon brick, layer upon layer (Col. 2:6).
At times, we become impatient with the process. We want maturity, and we want it NOW! Yet God has designed for us to be conformed to His image a day at a time, every day of our lives. It is a process that takes time — a lifetime, in fact — and is not quickly or instantly attained.
In The Life God Blesses, Gordon MacDonald provides some encouragement:
Unlike so many things in our age, genuine spirituality is, more often than not, going to be seen in older rather than younger people. The media will glamorize the young and beautiful woman, the talented male athlete in his twenties, or the younger man or woman who has blazed a successful pathway in the world of the professions. But youth will rarely be found among the ranks of people possessing great spirituality.
I make this observation not to discourage the younger person but to point out that spirituality is something that demands time and experience to develop. It is not found at a weekend retreat or after a year of seminary. Spirituality occurs as an accumulation of years of routine experiences and crisis moments. In fact, the growth of the soul is usually so slow that it is hardly measurable or visible.
Are you discouraged at the slow pace of your growth? Then Scripture provides some encouragement: “For by one offering, He has perfected for all time those who are [being] sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). What is completed in the eyes and purpose of God is in the process of being worked out in us. And while it is perfection that we want, we can rest assured that in the God’s arena we already stand as perfected and now He is in the process of making that a daily reality in us on earth.