I don’t like to exercise. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t experience the euphoria some people talk about. I don’t feel better afterward. I find nothing pleasurable in it whatsoever. For me it is just hard work and a lot of sweat. It’s a hassle.
I also know it’s “good for me.” So I grudgingly do it. As little as I have to, and as infrequently as I can get by with. Saying “I don’t like it” is a poor excuse.
That’s me. Of course some of you have different priorities. There are some people can work out all day as long as they don’t have to read a book.
The point is that any kind of growth takes effort. Physical health, mental and emotional health. And also spiritual health.
Which is where the author of Ephesians is going today. Ephesians starts with a big picture and keeps getting more specific and detailed as the book goes on.
Chapter one points out that God’s plan for redeeming all of creation is now in place.
Chapter two says that part of that involves reconciliation between us and God, between us and each other. Human divisions are irrelevant because of the creation of one new humanity in Christ.
Chapter three suggests that we need to gain understanding of all that. That’s what the church is for—to put skin on God’s love in the world and make it visible.
And now, in chapter four, the author explains that the church, knowing what it needs to do, must prepare for its role in God’s work. We are to be spiritually healthy to function as church, in the way God intends. God has even given the church gifts to help with this spiritual growth.
11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
Different gifts scattered throughout each congregation. Why?–
12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity.
Spiritual growth toward maturity in Christ is essential for the church to be about its purpose of showing the world what God is up to. The author urges us, writing,
14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine . . . . 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up . . . into Christ.
A church that isn’t growing spiritually, that isn’t maturing into Christ will become less effective in doing what the church is created to do. Which means we have to be growing spiritually. If we are to reveal God’s love for the world, we have to grow into the love God has for us. If we are to show the world God’s reconciliation, we have to grow into the reconciliation God has already done for us.
Like physical or mental exercise, spiritual growth takes deliberate effort.
Unfortunately, spiritual growth is like physical exercise for me. Not my favorite. Not easy for me to do. Because I generally move everything to my head. That is my favorite. I like thinking. I like logic and rationality. Heart things feel gooey.
But the reality is that spirituality doesn’t work out of our heads. It’s much more about hearts than heads. Saying “I don’t like it” is a poor excuse.
We have to practice, work for spiritual maturity. We have to be deliberate in growing in faith. Who said it was easy? Who said it was natural? Who said it happens automatically? It doesn’t. Like anything else, it requires practice and exercise. You have to do it on purpose. It doesn’t happen by itself.
So for someone to say, “I can’t pray very well so I’m just not going to,” would be like me saying, “I can’t run a marathon so I’m going to sit on the couch and watch TV.” It’s a poor excuse. Rather than not praying, we practice prayer. We seek out people who are good at prayer who can help us do it better. Saying “I don’t like it” won’t cut it when it comes to growing spiritually.
Maybe some of us struggle with growing and expanding our spiritual lives. But as church, it’s a necessary part of who we are. So get help praying in a different way, commit to a few minutes each day reading scripture, contemplate what God is up to that you haven’t seen before, begin a journey of discovering new things about God, maybe even learn to sing a new song. Saying “I don’t like it” is a poor excuse, and isn’t good enough when it comes to growing spiritually.
We can expand our awareness of Jesus. We can grow up in him. We can practice spirituality. Our faith can mature. And it must. God is at work, divisions are erased, we are new people with a purpose as Christ’s church. Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up into Christ.
Ask yourself, what will you do differently to help you grow spiritually? Write it down and take it with you. Let us mature into Christ.