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Christian Spirituality, We Never Arrive

I would think that after having been a Christian for 37 years now, I could finally say, “I’ve arrived.” But I haven’t. In fact, in many respects, I feel that I have more to learn and develop spiritually than I did 25 years ago. It’s probably true that 25 years ago I thought I had arrived much more so than I do today.

What does it mean “to arrive”? Do we ever think we reach a level of spiritual growth where we can put our faith on auto-pilot? Unfortunately, I think many of us do. In the past, we read the Bible with passion, but now we do so simply to check that off our spiritual to-do list. Many of us reach a point in life where we cruise through our Scripture reading, drift through our worship, and slumber through our prayers. Gone are the days of intensity, intentionality, and diligence in deepening our faith.

But we can recapture the fire once again. This is not to suggest that living the Christian life is always one of deep-seated passion. Periodically we experience the mountaintops, but most of life is lived in the valley. But it’s in the valley where the ground is fertile and the rivers flow. The valley affords us seasons of growth—if we watch for them and enter a rhythm of planting, watering, weeding, and even, at times, pruning.

Spiritual development is not an event but a process. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” One day after another of dedication and sacrifice, rest and renewal, all in a cadence covered with the peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). Following Jesus is keeping in step with His Spirit (Galatians 5:25), where we take up His yoke and learn from Him all the while finding rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29-30).

An ancient tale is told of someone asking a monk, “So, what do you do in the monastery?” The monk responds, “Oh, we fall and we get up. We fall and we get up.” In Christian spirituality, we never arrive; we are always arriving. May one day the words of the Apostle Paul be true in our lives as well: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

One Person at a Time

When I read through the Gospels, I’m amazed to see how Jesus took time for individuals in the midst of the crowds. In Matthew 8, right after the Sermon on the Mount, great multitudes were following Jesus. He was in the height of His popularity! Imagine the fame and glory brought by the throngs of adoring fans who wanted just a glimpse of this remarkable Teacher and Miracle Worker. After healing Peter’s mother-in-law, “many who were oppressed by demons” were brought to Jesus, and he “healed all who were sick” (v. 16). Two verses later “Jesus saw a crowd around him” (v. 18). And the very last verse in Matthew 8 tells us “all the city came out to meet Jesus” (v. 34).

What would you do with all that notoriety? If you were Jesus, wouldn’t it make sense to capitalize on that popularity and turn it into an even broader evangelistic campaign that could sweep the region, the country, and even the world? If you have that type of following, don’t waste it on individuals! You’re too big, too important, and too much in demand to limit your scope to a single person when you can change the entire world.

What did Jesus do? Just the opposite. When He saw the crowds, He focused on individuals within the crowds. In the midst of the masses, a leper came to Jesus, knelt before Him, and asked, “`Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, `I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (vv. 2-3).

When He entered Capernaum, Jesus took time for a centurion and healed his servant who was lying paralyzed at the centurion’s home (vv. 6, 13). When He spoke to the multitudes, He was speaking to individuals. When He healed those brought to Him, He did so one person at a time.

Ministry may affect the masses but only insofar as it impacts individuals. Sometimes I think we forget that in church life. We want to reach dozens of people, even hundreds and thousands. We want to change our city and region. We want to reach the world. But we do so, just as Jesus did, one person at a time. This is not individualism; it is helping, serving, and loving people as individuals.

In the eyes of Jesus you are more than your demographic; you are a person. You, as an individual, were created in the image of God. God knew you personally before you were formed in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16). God doesn’t define you by your group. Your identity is not crafted in your community. God formed YOU. He knit YOU together, and YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made.

You are a part of a family, community, small group, and, hopefully, church, and we do need one another. But when we are in our family, community or group, our identity is not absorbed in the pool of persons, and we cease to exist as individuals. That’s called Hinduism. Christianity teaches that our oneness is not singularity nor absorption. Our oneness in family, community, groups and church is based on the oneness of the Trinity: One God in three Persons.

If you ever feel like you get lost in the crowd, or that you’re unimportant, because you’re just one person in a church, school, or city, know that you, individually, are vitally important to God. Jesus died for you personally, not just the whole world. When He sees the crowd, He sees us as persons. And if we want to “reach the world,” we do so one person at a time.

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