by Rev. John H. Farmer
Nothing catches my mind’s eye and heart as quickly as the sight of a little baby. I even love it when babies cry and fuss… goodness knows there are enough things that go awry in this old world to make a body fuss. One of my fondest memories is of my own son and the first time I saw his little wiggling fingers.
Lee was a ”blue-baby” with a bright shock of orange hair. He might have been the original Smurf. But I thought he was the prettiest thing I had ever seen, blue skin, fire hair and all! Even though he is grown and with a married lass of his own, I still love to look at him. I rally each time he calls on the phone. He may be the pastor of Coan Baptist Church, and is now a grandfather himself, but he is still my baby boy.
What he and other youngsters taught me is how dependent babies are on others to meet their care needs.
Over the span of my son’s life I have found delight in each epoch, each turn of events. He has grown from the innocence of babyhood to adulthood overnight. Indeed I must have missed spans of his development. Where, oh where has the time gone? He has changed. He’s grown. I marvel at where his growth has taken him.
Our images of Jesus evolve from the innocence of the baby in the manger, to the young man falsely accused and hung upon an old rugged cross. What we need to remember is, that unlike us, his innocence continued until he left this earth in his physical form.
Over the span of my ministry I have observed that too many of us never get beyond our baby faith. We stay too dependent on others for our spiritual care. We lean too heavy upon external influences that continue to insulate us against personal responsibility.
The Bible teaches us that we each need to claim a right relationship with Christ and become followers of his in order to find personal salvation. That’s growth.
I will admit that being young in the faith is easier than maturity. But we sell ourselves, our congregations short, when we fail to develop to the next levels of our faith’s experience.
We all need some time to bask in the newness of personal faith. But we should expand beyond that, to being persons of faith who allow, and are tugged along by a maturing faith. Life will throw hurdles at us. Time will bring us to stand before great chasms. The faith that moves us toward antiquity needs to grow old not just with us, but also slightly ahead of us, calling, pulling us forward.
Look at the New Testament story of Saul of Tarsus (AD 3—67), a Jewish Rabbi of Roman descent. He was an adherent of a faith community antagonistic toward Christians. He was a zealot. He took personal inventory at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 6:8-7:60). He was no longer accusatory from afar. He stood and held the cloak of a man being stoned to death for his maturing faith.
Eventually Saul was struck down by God. He ended up sitting upon the road on his backside. Many Christians want such an experience to know that they have personally found God’s calling upon their lives. That’s a shame, for they have failed to read the whole story. When Paul survived the swat of hand from an angry God he didn’t pop up out of the dust and become the great missionary. Blinded, severely handicapped, he had to be taken to the home of loving Christians. There they fed, bathed, and clothed him until his eyesight returned. He changed. He grew.
I personally believe that such nurturing care was his Christian infancy. He launched into his new faith community with a similar zeal as he had prior. Good for him. He compared spiritual growth to how he acted as a child, to how he anticipated his countenance and demeanor to be appropriate to his maturity.
“Saul” grew into “Paul” as a reflection of his new-found humility.
Later he was jailed for his faith. His faith grew so secure that he was willing to run afoul of the law. Later still, he taught us from his house arrest that a person of faith could speak from avenues of distress to other people and encourage their faith to grow.
One cannot allow one’s faith to remain in church and go on off to our various homes, recreation and jobs. We can’t come back to church some next Lord’s Day and reach into our locker and put on our faith’s worship robes. We cannot trust our faith to architecture, denomination, culture, preachers, custom, beautiful stained glass, mighty organs, and inspiring choirs. Our faith must be tested upon the waters of life. In the stretch between doubt and faith—we obtain a faith that can last our lifetime.
Grow up Christians, we are not alone. Christ said he would always be with us.
Take personal responsibility to the foot of the Cross—to the feet of the Savior who authored salvation. It will be a different journey for each of us. The training manual for growing Christians is God’s Holy Bible—read it for yourself.