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Inch by Inch, Life’s a Cinch—Yard by Yard, Life is Hard

When I stood with my back to the “measuring wall,” and my mom marked my growth progress from the previous year, my six-year-old brain was discouraged. “Why can’t I grow faster? Why is Ronda [my older sister] taller than me?” From that day forward, I schemed, planned, and plotted to find ways to grow faster. And for those of you who know how tall I am . . . those plans didn’t work.

I’ve often been frustrated with the slow process of growth. Whether the goal is to lose ten pounds, increase financial investments, learn a new language, recover from surgery, or to become more Christ-like, progress is painstakingly . . . slooooow.

If you’re like me, I want change to happen now. I want growth to happen now. I want to overcome my bad habits now. I want to be a better person now. What I fail to recognize, however, is that change IS happening now. Growth, overcoming bad habits, becoming a better person—all of these are happening now. This doesn’t mean I’ve achieved the end result, but the process has begun, and incremental change is far better than overnight change for becoming who you want to be.

Incremental change is slow, steady, and deliberate movement in the right direction. If you’re on a diet plan to lose twenty pounds, and you achieve your goal through liposuction without any lifestyle change, those pounds lost will eventually be pounds regained.

Spiritually, if you want to overcome your addiction, or become a person of character, or know your Bible better there’s no shortcut to crossing the finish line. Spiritual growth comes through daily practices of prayer, reading Scripture, confession, and community.

My assistant, Sandy, always tells me, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard life is hard.” And so it is. Incremental, daily growth develops patterns of the heart that open the door to God’s transformative work. Get-rich-quick schemes and get-mature-quick schemes have this in common: they fail. Even if you experience an increase in your financial or spiritual bank-account through some shortcut, the increase quickly dissolves through lack of character and judgment.

What God is doing in your daily life will prepare you for your eternal life. This life is the training ground for the life to come.

Why do you think Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11)? Why did He call us to take up our cross “daily” and follow Him (Luke 9:23)? Why should we learn from the Berean believers who examined the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11)? The reason is that long-term growth comes one day at a time.

Someone told me recently, “The days go by slowly, but the years pass quickly.” And maybe this is a good thing because we don’t want to miss today by dwelling on all the years to come.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Enjoy the incremental growth day-by-day, and you will discover exponential rewards year-by-year.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Remedies are often a process, not a magic pill

I’ll never forget standing outside our little church building in Chrisman, IL after I was baptized into Christ. I was nine-years old, and my friend asked me, “Do you feel any different?” I don’t know if he expected me to have a halo hanging over my head, but I actually did feel different. I had a joy in my heart and a lightness in my step.

Fast forward. Nine years later, the joy was gone. And then I rededicated my life to Jesus, and joy returned . . . for a while. Since then, over the past thirty-plus years, my life can be characterized as a cycle of joy and struggle.

Is this the lot of the Christian life—trapped in an endless cycle of the ups and downs and peaks and valleys of spiritual joy and struggle? All Christians experience moments of spiritual joy and sadness. None is exempt from seasonal and even daily highs and lows.

We try to be “good Christians,” thinking that if we just read the Bible more, stay away from the really “bad” sins, and attend church more frequently, the darkness will go away. But our formulaic remedies fail us, and we’re left with fewer answers.

Francois Fenelon once wrote, “To just read the Bible, attend church, and avoid “big” sins—is this passionate, wholehearted love for God?” (The Seeking Heart).

The good news is there is hope for those of us who long for more than checklist Christianity. Like most solutions to problems that ail us, the remedy is a process, not a magic pill. Here are some helpful stepping stones to guide us through our search for enduring joy.

First, find your traveling companions. You need two-three people with whom you can be completely transparent and vulnerable. Jesus had his companions, and you need yours.

Second, desire more of Jesus not more religion. Duty and obligation only take you so far in spiritual transformation. Jesus is the only one who ultimately transforms the human heart. When you seek him, you will have your eyes focused in his direction away from the things that pull you back into the valley below.

Third, engage in daily spiritual practices. Commit to the way of Jesus not through rules to follow but disciplines to shape your soul and mend your heart. Prayer, scripture memorization, contemplation, fasting—these should not be practices for the spiritually “elite,” but for all sojourners bored with what American Christianity offers.

Fourth, be honest with yourself. This soul journey will have ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). But this is why we come to Jesus, because He gives us the strength and grace to take our next step. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Why don’t you pause right now and pray that Jesus will give you the strength you need to take your next step with him?

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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