I recently had the privilege of knocking a couple of items off of my bucket list. There are a few things I really want to do in life. One was to go to Hawaii – which we were blessed to do. Another was to learn to surf – which I got to do. To be honest, I expected more instruction. I expected the lesson to be longer and harder. The balance of standing up on a board flowing through the water was as difficult to figure out as I had imagined, but the process did not take as long as I thought it would.
Really were given just a few instructions. One was about how to place ourselves on the board from back to front. The second was about how to get to our feet. The third was, “look at the shore.” A pretty simple set of instructions – simple does not, however, mean easy.
As my son and I both started figuring out how to stand up and stay on the board, I realized the importance of keeping my eyes on the shore. As I watched the GoPro video from the camera I was wearing, I realized that every time I wiped out, I had looked down before I went down. I was looking at the wave and not the shore.
I am also aware that riding 30 plus waves during one surf lesson with someone helping me know the timing is far from being a surfer. I feel, however, the lessons I learned looking for the shore, catching a wave, and riding a board might help me discuss some key marks of maturity we should all strive for our as Christ-followers.
Philippians 3:12-4:1 teaches us some important lessons about maturity in life and in our relationship with God. There are three key points from this text I want to explore with you deeper. I will give a quick breakdown of all the points I shared Sunday from this text (plus one) and then go further with 3 of them.
- Remember you’re not there yet. There is more maturity. You can experience more growth. You can walk in fuller obedience.
- Keep Looking Ahead. Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus – the Author and Perfecter of your faith.
- Press for the right prize. There is nothing more discouraging to realize you’ve been running hard – just the wrong race.
- Seek maturity through imitation. Paul tells others to imitate him as he imitates Christ. We all need to find people to imitate. The right people!
- Measure your appetites. Consumption tells us where we are; appetites tell us where we are headed.
- Remember your citizenship. We are citizens of God’s Kingdom. Your life is meant to look and sound different.
- Stand Firm. It’s not always about gaining ground; some days you win if you simply do not lose any.
Keep looking ahead is the lesson we took to the water and used on a board. Michael from Houston taught me this truth on a beach in Kihei, Hawaii and I did my best to apply it. This lesson, however, is consistent in Scripture yet absent in the majority of our decisions. How often do you really consider eternity when making a decision? When was the last time you considered what effect that decision you were making about your finances or about your time was going to have on eternity? Look ahead and never forget that our life here is not the point of our life here.
Seeking maturity through imitation is a key to living a healthy spiritual life. You need people in your life that are good examples of following Jesus. You need people you can ask questions. Who are you learning from? Who are you allowing to speak into your life? One of the saddest things in Christianity is how people treat other believers when they start struggling with convictions. They distance themselves from the very people they would have said just a year earlier were key examples in their Christian faith. Then as they wrestle with issues and beliefs they lose their compass. This is usually the result of arrogance or shame. Some feel shame because they know better than where they are headed. Others are arrogant enough to believe that all the other believers they have trusted and viewed as true Christ-followers (sometimes for years) have really all been wrong about Jesus all this time. You need people to imitate and if you come across a place you feel imitating them does not imitate Jesus, don’t abandon them, influence them. You might find they are not as wrong as you think they are…and then you both mature.
Maturity will never be found through isolation – although you do need some times of solitude. It will never be found through jumping from place to place to find the truths you want to find – although God might move you along the way. It will never be found outside of strong relationships with other believers who can speak into your life and you can speak into theirs – although this is very uncomfortable. Maturity is an imitation issue and true imitation requires a level of intimacy in your relationships with other believers.
Measure your appetites; not just your consumption. What are you desiring? If you find yourself considering and thinking about the same things over and over again in life; you might be consumed. You might even have an idol. I encourage you to not just measure your consumption. Don’t just measure what you are taking in. Measure what you want to take in. What is growing as an appetite?
Is it a hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do you want more of the things of God or more of the things of this world? Which is growing? Your appetite will tell you where you are headed. Be aware. If you realize you have a dangerous appetite growing…tell someone you are imitating. Tell another someone that you believe has the spiritual maturity to help you. Don’t fade away alone.
So, set your eyes on the shore. Don’t look back. Find some people you can imitate and measure your hunger. Today’s desires will be tomorrow’s decisions.