A Long Journey to Maturity

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 6.11-12
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Reflection: A Long Journey to Maturity
By Jon Polk

“Now I know my ABCs. Next time won’t you sing with me?”

Letters of the alphabet are the elementary building blocks of language. The learner must comprehend the sounds of letters before combining letters to make works, before combining words to make sentences, and so on.

Once the student has mastered a language, it would be foolish and useless to continue to rehearse the very basic ABCs.

Like language learning, there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity, but how will we know when we have arrived? We must move past merely knowing the basic teachings about Christ’s life, death and resurrection and beyond simply acknowledging our need for faith and repentance.

To be sure, no one but our sinless high priest Jesus will ever be fully spiritually mature in this lifetime, but there are some indicators to help us know we are headed in the right direction.

As rain-soaked land is expected to produce a bountiful crop, the mature Christian should produce what Paul describes to the Galatians as the fruits of the spirit, i.e. God-honoring, selfless character traits. As land that produces thorns instead of crops is worthless, James declares that faith that does not produce actions is dead, useless.

Marks of spiritual maturity include character growing in likeness to God and actions that demonstrate our love for God and care for his people. In reality, we can never truly arrive; this is a never-ending process.

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson describes discipleship—the process by which we mature spiritually—as a lifelong journey:

For recognizing and resisting the stream of the world’s ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that seem useful: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. Pilgrim tells us that we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ.

Indeed, the journey of spiritual maturity is a one-way trip. We are warned of the dangers of falling away after tasting the goodness of God. Our calling is to diligently work until the end of our lives, moving forward ever onwards towards maturity.

As the writer of the anonymous hymn succinctly stated, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. — Psalm 85.13

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 6 (Listen – 1:48) 
Hebrews 6 (Listen 2:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
Song of Songs 7 (Listen – 1:55), Hebrews 7 (Listen 4:01)
Song of Songs 8 (Listen – 2:23), Hebrews 8 (Listen 2:22)

Read more about A Sign of Immaturity
The immature demand signs because they walk by sight—not faith.

Read more about Work, Ministry, and Generosity
Generosity transforms our work into an instrument for cultivating faith—planting seeds for the spreading of the gospel of Christ.

Prayer and Faith

From John: 
Rather than strictly following our readings in Hebrews or Kings and Chronicles this week, we will pursue a week of thematic reflections on one of the issues closest to the heart of the mission and vision of The Park Forum—prayer. 

Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: Prayer and Faith
By John Tillman

“In any study of the principles and procedure of prayer, of its activities and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be given to faith.” — E.M Bounds

E.M. Bounds’ classic works on prayer are a staple of many theological libraries.
At the beginning of his volume, The Necessity of Prayer, Bounds is clear that what is necessary for prayer, is faith.

“Faith is the initial quality in the heart of any man who essays to talk to the unseen. He must, out of sheer helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must believe, where he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue, prayer is simply faith, claiming its natural yet marvelous prerogatives— faith taking possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is just as true, steady and persevering in the realms of faith as it is in the province of prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.”

Does our faith falter and feel weak? Reconnect our faith to the power of prayer.
Do we feel that God is distant from us? It is we who have moved. Draw near in prayer.

“Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In his cursing of the fig tree, our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that, he proceeded to declare, that large powers were committed to faith and prayer, not in order to kill but to make alive, not to blast but to bless.”

Can we truly, and honestly say that we have consistently wielded the power of prayer to bless rather than blast our enemies?

“Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith stand strong and foursquare, these days, as iniquity abounds and the love of many grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as religion tends to become a mere formality and worldliness increasingly prevails? The inquiry of our Lord, may, with great appropriateness, be ours, ‘When the Son of Man comes,” he asks, “will he find faith on the earth?’ We believe that he will, and it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith is trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that right early.”

*Quotations condensed and language updated from The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds.


Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.”— Psalm 12:5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 24 (Listen -3:21)
Hebrews 6  (Listen -2:5)

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Read more about Faith Requires Humility
One reason faith is so difficult for today’s culture is that we devalue humility. And faith cannot exist without humility

Read more about A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice
The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

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