encouragement for mature believers

“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 2:6)

Too often at church mature believers are subjected to rehearing the basics of faith. I even overheard someone who worked at a megachurch say that “church isn’t for mature believers”. I disagree! First of all, people younger in their faith (even if they are older physically) need mature believers in their lives to inspire them and provide an example. Mature believers still need to grow, too. As stated elsewhere in this site, if you teach to mature believers, the younger believers will still learn from such a message, too.

Fortunately, we have scripture and the Holy Spirit to teach us. Below are verses I’ve recently run across that challenged me. I have a hard time telling others things they need to hear. On the other hand, if someone tells me something I need to hear, once I get past any initial embarrassment, I’m thankful. The Bible refers that as “wounds from a friend”. The verses below might offer such correction or maybe simply inspiration. We shouldn’t let ourselves get content with where we’re at spiritually. With our solid foundation and the humility that comes from seeing that the good in us is from God, we’re at a place where He might be able to use us mightily.

a wake up call

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

The world we live in is very engaging thanks to marketing/advertising, technology, entertainment and the internet. Everything we take in nudges us in a certain direction. If we spend a lot of time watching worldly media and have little time in God’s Word or with other believers, we are in danger of losing our “saltiness”. It might also be a temptation to blend in and be off the radar, so to speak. When He saved us, we became different than the world by design. To be different means we’ll be noticed, like a candle on a tall lampstand. We are Christ’s ambassadors, but an ambassador is not someone to be hidden but clearly identified and available. We represent Christ to a foreign people (the lost who belong to the enemy), incase they have questions or should like to be introduced to Him.

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11-12)

After being a Christian for many years, we may become too content with the way things are, lazily drifting out at sea with our sails down. If you have been lulled into a sinful activity, it’s time to walk away from it and get serious about the reality that we are in. By grace our salvation is assured, but most people around us are going to hell for eternity apart from Christ. And there are younger believers that need our mentoring and our example - that they may grow up in Him and produce much fruit to God’s glory. As long as we still have breath, we have the opportunity to lead others to Christ, bless those who are in His body and to give Him glory.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Hebrews 12:1-4)

If you’ve ever done any jogging, you know that even a jacket tied around your waist can be a nuisance. In car racing, everything is removed that isn’t necessary - the back seat, passenger seat, all interior trim - it’s all about speed. What is keeping us from running the race God set before us? If you’re like me, you’re easily distracted. If we keep our goal before us, it will be easier to say no to time wasting. Fix our eyes on Jesus, who suffered as He fulfilled His purpose of providing the way of our salvation. As He calls you to get things done, keep that end goal in mind as well as His example when we feel like quitting.

a higher perspective

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

“Turn you eyes upon Jesus - look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” (Helen Howarth Lemmel, 1918)

Earlier this week I was the first person in the office and feeling reflective, I decided to stand on the table in the middle of my department to get a new perspective (and hope no one would walk in and see me doing so). From that height I could see over the wall and into the next department. I became mindful of the lostness of my coworkers on the other side of the wall, and how my thoughts seem to center just on my own wants and needs. I suppose it’s easy for each of us to get busy in the details of our lives and forget about the state of our coworkers, neighbors and beyond. As we follow God’s command to seek those things which are above, we will see beyond our own wants and be aware of the needs of those around us. As we do, we’ll become more like Him. When you think about it, He most certainly doesn’t get caught up in His own wants, but is always mindful of each of us. The more we start to see things from the perspective of eternity, the things of the world will have less of a draw on us. With a heart more like His, we will be more easily led to reach out to those around us. This will lead us to become more effective members of Christ’s body and ultimately have less regret when this life is through.

putting our flesh in it's place

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)

We know how Jesus was cruelly and violently treated before dying on the cross. But how did He suffer in the flesh during the 3 years of ministry? “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58) Not that we should sell our home and all our belongings and become homeless. “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” (I Corinthians 7:20) While God may have specific callings for specific people, generally speaking it seems God calls us to “grow where we’re planted” and minister to those around us. That said, I believe God calls us to maintain a looser grip on what we have, and in this case not be consumed by thoughts centering around our earthly home.

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2)
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.” (Mark 11:12)

I get the sense that Jesus was often hungry. If you‘re like me, you rarely (if ever) miss 3 meals a day. I personally have very little experience with fasting, but the concept makes sense. It sends a message to your flesh that it is not in charge. When you think about it, our flesh is really dumb. It doesn’t think about the future, it doesn‘t fear consequences, it doesn’t care about others and it‘s not concerned about what’s best for us. It just wants what it wants. For these reasons, we cannot let it be our boss. “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:17)

Once saved, God wants to help us understand we have a new Master. The expression “die to our flesh” might include the process of learning to listen to His Spirit and obey Him instead of always being so quick to listen to the desires of our flesh. This will also protect us from falling into a trap set by the enemy where he appeals to our flesh. His hope is that we might be drawn away from listening to the Spirit, and in sinning reap destructive consequences.

“Do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1b)

living in a material world

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Have you ever dreamt that you had something really exciting in your possession, only to wake and have it disappear? That will be our experience when we get to Heaven - everything we now possess will vanish in the blink of an eye. However, anything we did for the Lord will remain! To be realistic, we will collect possessions in this life and they may bless us to an extent. Maybe the message is to diversify what we invest in. We live in this world, and we’re going to collect things along the way, but also and ultimately be sure to used by God to produce eternal fruit that cannot be taken away from us. Strong faith, godly character, help souls to be saved and built up in Him. If our only treasure is things of this earth (or if we’re simply too fond of our stuff), our heart will anchored in this life, which takes us back to the issue of losing our saltiness.

This can also apply to spending much time and money trying to maintain this body of ours. This keeps our eyes on ourselves instead of being mindful of the Lord and the cares of others. Not only can we not take this body with us, but there’s only so much we can do to prevent the inevitable. Our body is temple of the Holy Spirit, but there is a balance in caring for it.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

This next verse sums it up with a challenging call to look beyond what we can see with our eyes to that which God sees and ultimately cares about.

“While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

stay alert

“Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)

As the years go by, it’s easy to become complacent in your faith. Don’t forget that we are in a battle for souls. Did you ever play capture the flag? If the game goes on too long a player may sit against a tree and kind of check out. In the meantime there are teammates that have been captured across enemy lines that need to be rescued, and maybe some on the opposing side that would like to defect and join your team. What we’re involved in isn’t a game, but involves where people will spend eternity. Guard your thoughts. Don’t let the enemy lead you astray. Remain effective in God’s Kingdom!

going forward

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)

As time rolls on our circumstances change. Maybe we’ve gone from single to married, from no kids to having a family, from a full house to an empty nest, from busy with work to retired, maybe we’ve lost a spouse or downsized from a house with a lawn to an apartment. As your life changes, so might the plans God has for you. Remember to check in with Him and ask what He has in mind for you within each new circumstance. God knows all about the details of each of our lives before they unfold. As He prepared the works He wanted to produce in us He factored in our changing life circumstances.

redeem time wisely

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time (redeem the time), because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

When I turned 50, and realized my time on earth will eventually come to an end, “redeem time wisely” became my motto to live by. I had goals but I wasn’t doing anything more than talking about them. The word “redeem” makes me think of spending or turning in something we are given in limited supply. My daughter took a couple friends to an arcade where you play games by inserting tokens, earn tickets and then turn them in for prizes. I gave each girl $20 worth of tokens to spend. My daughter’s friends raced through the tokens as if the goal was to burn through them as fast as possible. My daughter on the other hand, because she respected me and knew those tokens cost me something, made every decision carefully. She would look at all of her options, weigh what they cost vs. what they paid out and then methodically played the games and got the full experience. What a picture of using our time wisely, realizing the value of what we’ve been entrusted with, who it comes from, and that in the end it’s a limited resource.

Please be mindful of how you redeem the time you are blessed with. Don’t think of it as something to just get through as fast and painlessly as possible. Consider the options before you and which would be the most beneficial, both to you and in light of God’s Kingdom. Remember - each one of us has a limited numbers of days with which to use. Once we’re gone, we personally can no longer make an impact in the lives of those we leave behind.

The verses also speak of understanding God’s will. He is, in a sense, our employer. We better be looking to Him - seeking Him out - to make sure we accomplish the plans He had in mind for us to do.

with great power comes great responsibility

This is an inspiring line from the original Spiderman movie. Most of the Marvel movies give us a valuable picture of what to do when you wake up and realize you have special gifts. You don’t sit at home on the couch playing video games, you get out there and tirelessly engage in battle against evil forces for the protection of those around you. As believers, we’ve been given the Holy Spirit who has given us special gifts to minister to the body of Christ and to the lost. God has also given us authority over the enemy (see spiritual warfare category). When this life is through, like the 3 men given varying degrees of talents (Matthew 25:14-30), we will be held accountable for what we did (or did not do) with what we’ve been given.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

effective fervent prayer

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” (1 Peter 4:7)

Wow - there is some serious urgency described in this verse. Keep yourself in check and be clear-minded. Why? So that you can pray effectively! Prayer is more powerful, impactful and necessary than we realize. Even Jesus regularly stepped away to pray (checking in with headquarters). Because this is so important, you can be sure the enemy works to discourage us from it.

There was a Star Trek episode where the captian of the ship was captured by aliens on their home planet. He was taken inside of a mountain cave and a big metal door shut the entrance. Back on his ship, his crew was trying to blast the door open but saw that their weapons were having no effect so they gave up trying. Later we find out that they had in fact all but destroyed the door but the aliens had created an illusion to make the door appear unharmed. Our enemy may try to discourage us from persisting in prayer and try to lead us to think it’s having no effect. Be encouraged, your prayers ARE heard (even if you don’t see an answer early on). Keep hammering away through prayer and you will see results.

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16b)

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Also, the more we are transformed to be like Him, the more likely will ask for things that He will be happy to give us.

“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22)

glory only in God

“Thus says the Lord: ‘let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight’, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

As time goes on, hopefully we will become more wise. Some work hard at being physically powerful. Over time, our income tends to increase. And yet, the Lord cautions us against taking pride in any of these things. Instead we give thanks that by His grace we know Him who is so loving, just and truly good.

thoughts for the spiritually AND physically mature (and the young who are wise enough to look ahead)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

As mature believers, we have certain advantages or strengths working for us. Unlike our physical bodies which year by year remind us that we’re not 20 anymore, as we mature in Christ our faith becomes stronger as we gain a better understanding of all that is in His word. Through the sum of trials in our lives (which now includes physical ailments) our character is richly developed. Our faith grows with each instance of seeing God work in our lives and in the lives of those around us. As our physical bodies deteriorate, it humbles us and is a reminder that all glory goes to God and that our time on earth is limited. I believe this is also a way that God mercifully gives older unsaved people a reminder that their time is wrapping up and they need to stop running from Him.

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” (I Timothy 3:1,6)

With inexperience comes the risk of ungodly pride - which is to say that with experience may come valuable humility. With time we learn more and more how much we need the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that all glory goes to the Father.

Any questions or comments? tom@gospelguardians.com