A lot of us as Christians understand the need to “grow” as a Christian. From when we first repent and turn to the Lord Jesus, up to and beyond the times we go into ministry and start serving and bringing others to Christ, we always need to strive to become more Christ-like. Some of the things we do in the process of “growing” as a Christian includes: reading and understanding the Bible, practising godliness, and earning skills needed to serve and train others. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when we feel we cannot grow anymore, or that it feels like we are growing much slower than we used to when we were younger in our faith. What happened?
Whether we turned our lives to Christ somewhere down the course of life, or whether like you me you grew up gradually learning about God and the Bible, we all come across a period of time where we learn a considerable amount of who Jesus is and what it means to live for Him. For me in particular, this was during my university years, where the Christian group on campus provided talks, Bible Studies and seminars to help us study the Word of God almost as intensively as we did with our academic studies. The amount of time and effort me and my friends spent on campus being trained to handle the Bible rightly (and then to serve the people around us with it) arguably helped us grow the “most” in our years of being Christians.
As a full time worker now, my growth as a Christian really feels like it has slowed down heaps (if not halted completely). But this is to be expected when the opportunities to go to Bible talks or sit down with a circle of Christians to dwell on complicated topics about Christianity whenever, are no longer there. Sometimes, reading the Bible feels a bit bland, because studying it so intensively for a number of years in succession may leave us feeling like we “know it all”. And though we know we don’t fully understand Scripture, we feel we have a fairly good understanding of it, good enough to share it with someone who has never read it before. Sometimes we may feel like there is not much more to learn, and not much more we can get from reading the Bible. Our motivation to frequently read the Word of God dwindles because we fear it doesn’t give us the same level of newfound realisation and understanding that it used to.
Having gone back to read through Genesis with a younger Christian from church recently, I was still surprised how I again picked up something new from chapter 1 that I hadn’t before in the previous dozens of times that I had studied it. I remember once having a mindset that went: “How much more can I get out of Genesis 1, I’ve read it so many times, there can’t be anything more in it.” Learning something new from a passage you’ve read countless times is both humbling and encouraging. And one incident involving Jesus in the gospel of Mark comes to mind:
13People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. – Mark 10:13-16
We need to continue being like children as we approach God’s Word and as we try to live under His rule. It doesn’t mean we act immature and ignorant about the things that we already know. But we must continue adopting a child-like humility before God, knowing that reading any passage multiple times will never allow us to call ourselves “experts” as though somehow we knew God better than God himself. God and His Word should always dictate the way we live, and we will never know His Word well enough to have greater authority over it. Instead we should be ready to find something new that we didn’t see before; and letting the Word affect a part of our lives that it hadn’t before.
Even re-visiting some of the basic truths of the Bible that we are confident about is a good test to see if we have persevered in our faith. Part of growing and living as a Christian requires us to “hold firmly to the trustworthy message” (Titus 1:9) that has been given to us. Though we may not be learning as many new things about the Bible as we used to, perhaps the goal for those who regard themselves as “mature” in their faith is to continue holding onto it, which is a lot of what Paul preaches in his epistles. Hopefully this gives us reason to keep reading the Bible with passion, because we knew, we know, and we continue to affirm that we need to hold onto the Word who gives eternal life for the rest of our mortal lives.