Who of us in today’s society doesn't hope for that quick-fix—the seminar, the experience, the program—to instantly solve problems, relieve stress and strain?
God’s ways, as usual, prove different and well, more stable. As obsessed as we are with speed, God knows that deep-rootedness, strength and stability can only happen gradually and with care. Real maturity can never result from a single experience, no matter how powerful or moving. By tests and trials we grow and learn.
Jesus took 30 years to reach the maturity required to enter ministry and ultimately fulfill his reason for being born. Even his overt ministry of several years of teaching and healing, while full of joy and strength, also entailed battles and struggles on a cosmic scale.
Accepting his life into ours, believing the truth of his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, understanding that he now “is at the right hand of God ... interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34)—that forms our initial and often instantaneous catapulting into Kingdom life.
From then on, though, each of us is on an individually-tailored growth program to best enable us to fulfill our own purposes for being born ... which will involve not only our own development, but, as we learn how best to fit into His plans, betterment in our entire spheres of influence.
To quote from Rick Warren’s best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life:
"The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose.”
So while seminars and seminal experiences of God’s sovereignty often do help promote our moving closer to God’s purposes for our lives, the journey brightens and strengthens best when we keep our focus on Him and His purposes alone. This section from Hebrews in Eugene Peterson’s The Message puts it so well:
"God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn't punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” Heb. 12:9-11)
While Christlikeness is our eventual destination, the journey lasts a lifetime. “And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Cor. 3:18, The Message)
Further, deeper and perhaps most wondrous, we're to find JOY in the journey!
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)