(First, I’m trying to be less exaggerative in my language. If it isn’t ALL or EVERY or NEVER, etc, I’m working to practice finding the right/best/simple word to describe it. That being said, the below admission is not dripping with shame or guilt or condemnation, but clarity and curiosity. Maybe you can relate.)
For most of my adult following-Jesus-life I prioritized accumulating information and public activity over enduring, hidden-to-most obedience. I’ve given more mental real estate and hours of the week to the consumption of spiritual content or a Christian checklist than I have quiet, yielding submission to the Spirit of God. I’ve considered the appearance of knowledge and staying up with popular Christian voices more important than living in simplicity and grandeur and sharpness of Scripture.
Mostly because it’s immediate, tangible, easier. Honing an ear for God’s voice takes more patience and discipline.
It’s like a pile of rocks versus a strong, fruitful tree.
Accumulating versus actual growth.
You can technically “grow” a pile of rocks, by continuing to add rocks to the heap, right?
But a pile of rocks isn’t truly growing. It definitely doesn’t grow like a tree would grow.
Digging deep roots. Bearing fruit. Providing shade. Enduring seasons. Changing forms.
I consider Matthew 7:16-20, By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
I heard Marty Solomon say once, “You tell a tree by its fruit — not by its location, appearance, or the sign posted next to it.”
Maybe it’s the same with me. You tell a disciple of Christ by the fruit of her being — not by where she lives, what she looks like, how much she knows or what her online profile (or blog) might necessarily say.
Psalm 1:1-3, The person who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it… He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Jeremiah 17:7-8, But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
You tell a disciple of Christ by her root system — firm, nourished, stable — not by the podcasts she listens to or the authors she quotes or how well others think of her or how much she accomplishes.
Galatians 5:22-24, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
I really want to be a tree, not a pile of rocks. And I think it starts with fearing God rightly and living into my belonging-to-Him. I think it requires a perspective shift.
Christian practices, Christian resources, Christian ministry are good things and they have a place. But they mean less if they aren’t actually forming and re-forming me into a version of Chelsea that sounds, speaks and lives like Christ.
If those things are the end in themselves, if my soul orbits around anything other than God, if I use anything other than Christ’s finished work on my behalf to determine my identity, security, purpose or eternity, I’m missing something essential about living and walking in step with His Spirit. This living and being led by His Spirit will make me into a different person.
Not only accumulation. Obedience. Surrender. Growth.
Every day, in both private and public ways, my faith is tested. Will I choose to trust or fear? Will I speak life or death? Will I wallow in self-pity, self-preservation or self-protection or lean low in self-denial and humility? Will I have joy or peace in the face of disappointment instead of grumbling? Will I worship the God who is alone worthy or will I create my own golden calf? Will I rely on my own merit or will I stay on the sufficiency of Christ? Will I hoard from scarcity or give from abundance?
We persevere by persevering. As James writes, “the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (1:3b-4).
I used to think that spiritual maturity was best marked by knowledge or habits or public perception. I now see a little differently. Spiritual maturity is also (and maybe foremost) consistently living and being led by and obeying His Spirit as He makes me into a different person, someone I could never hope to be apart from Him.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”Matthew 7:24-25