Ephesians 4:11-12 reads, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
The Spirit’s focus in these verses is not God’s gift of servants or ministers to the church, but the task of discipleship they are to fulfill. They are to bring about the unity of faith, the intimate knowledge of God and the spiritual maturity of Christ Himself. These are not things that can be accomplished by human skill, ability or effort. Such discipleship can only be developed in the presence and power of God.
There are a number of spiritual disciplines and aids to spiritual maturity, but they all involve prayer. The most important thing a pastor can do to grow the church spiritually is to get people to pray as they have never prayed before. He must begin this by developing his own prayer life and then by praying for his church members.
The list of spiritual maturity begins with unity in faith. The two most important factors in developing spiritual unity are praying for one another and praying together. When this passage speaks of the knowledge of God it does not mean knowledge about God, but intimacy with God. The key factor in getting to know God personally is spending time with Him in prayer. I would also include reading the Bible prayerfully, prayerful obedience to what God is telling you and struggling in prayer through difficulties that you face. As we grow in prayer through the hardships and trials we must deal with, God’s Spirit matures our souls to become more and more like Jesus.
"Since hardening of the attitudes typically sets in long before hardening of the arteries,
I must pursue those calisthenics of spiritual consecration that make me vibrant within."
"The Old Man in the Mirror"
Yesterday, I turned 54. It is truly hard to believe I am one year away from that golden age where AARP torments me with their recruitment tactics and restaurants give me the old-wrinkled-guy special.
How did this happen? Just yesterday I was playing baseball with my buddies in the neighborhood park, enjoying dodge ball on the playground, running the mile relay in junior high, and catching touchdowns in high school. Just moments ago I was traveling on a singing team for my college, inspiring my peers as their Student Body President, and cramming for a theology exam in seminary.
Was it really almost 30 years ago that Rosemary and I exchanged vows? Can all our children really be in their 20s? Where did all those years escape when I was the young pastor, performing weddings for the children of those “mature” parents?
Alas, reality prevails. I have become that decrepit dude who has reached the age of balding, bifocals, bulging, and bunions. I thought only geriatric white-hairs in wheelchairs were grandfathers. Yet, I am one... twice.
The Old Man in the Mirror
If mirrors did not exist, I would be 35. It was Satchel Paige who asked, “How old would you be if you did not know how old you were?” My answer is still 35.
Paige also said, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” I am working on that part. Just last week I was talking to a guy who looked pretty old. As we conversed, I noticed how worn his face was. His eyes had bags underneath. He looked like he had logged a good number of miles on his body. I felt a little sorry for him until he made some comment about his age, which happened to be five years less than mine. At my next opportunity, I looked at my face in the mirror. Let’s just say, it’s been on my mind ever since.
Grace to Choose
So, now I have a choice. I can become a grumpy old “prayer man” or I can trust God for the grace to make the rest of my life the best of my life. Thank God for the grace to choose door number two.
Of course, there are many other choices that accompany that one. I must choose to regulate my diet and reduce my portions. I can get serious again for the 100th time about exercise. I can even scrub the moon-crater-like pores on my nose and put some kind of magic lotion on my face to wage my losing war on these obstinate wrinkles.
Most importantly, I must make some spiritual choices. Paul, who really knew how to finish the race, said, “Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Since hardening of the attitudes typically sets in long before hardening of the arteries, I must pursue those calisthenics of spiritual consecration that make me vibrant within.
A Vision of Vibrancy
I love the biblical vision of the best kind of aging where it says, “Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:13-15). While I cannot control the creep of crow’s feet and the appearance of age spots, I can cultivate the character of a fully-alive inner man that is fresh, flourishing, and fruitful until my final breath.
The Eternal Exercise Plan
First, I can exercise my feet, standing firm, “planted in the house of the Lord.” I find it sad when people mature physically but shrink into spiritual pygmies because they stop choosing to plant their lives in the place of passionate worship. I want to keep “pressing on” in my pursuit of God in my everyday practice of His presence. Someday, I want to be that old dude who the young people laugh at (but secretly admire) because he is unrestrained and cuts loose in worship, even if he looks like a "doofus." I don’t want to stay home and watch “senior citizens' church” as long as I can stand among the godly with my heart soaring in His presence in the courts of our God.
Second, I can exercise my tongue, “declaring that the Lord is upright.” When this kind of praise frames the substance of my speech there is little room left to whine about the parts that don’t work and complain about my pain.
Third, I can exercise my heart,trusting fully that “He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Of course, energy wanes, days get lonely, and the scoreboard of significance becomes blurred – but the Lord is still my security and there is no unrighteousness in Him. I will trust and obey these great truths – and be happy in Jesus.
Finally, I can exercise my eyes, focusing on the reality of eternal significance, not just the earthly vapor of this physical life. Paul says it this way: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man 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, 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 4:16-18). As a child I sang, “Be careful, little eyes, what you see.” As I approach the finish line I must sing, “Be careful, little eyes, HOW you see.”
A Birthday Resolution
Thank God that, in Christ and by His grace, every birthday can find me standing firm in worship, speaking loudly in praise, and trusting boldly in the One who is my rock and righteousness. And every day, I can see the world through the eyeglasses of eternity, even when I look at that old man in the mirror.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.