Jump Starts Daily

Jump Start #3565

Jump Start # 3565

James 1:3 “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

  God provides lessons for us every day if we have open eyes to see them. In a recent lesson about Developing Deep Roots, I used the illustration of tree rings. We’ve all seen a log or tree cut down and maybe as kids even counted the rings to see how old the tree was. The rings are not the same width. Some are very narrow and others are very wide. And, right there is a great spiritual principle for us. That tree was always growing. In wet seasons, it grew a lot. In droughts, it grew, but not nearly as much. The rings were narrow. However, the tree grew.

  And, before us is a lesson we need to take to heart. We must always be growing closer to the Lord. There are seasons when that is easy. Life is going well. Great preaching. Good fellowship. Lots of opportunities. Our spiritual rings ought to show a lot of growth. Yet, in the dry seasons of life, when there has been a lot of heartache and hardships, still our spiritual ring gives evidence of growth. We have grown when it was hard to grow.

  Our verse today magnifies that idea. In testing, your faith still produces. It produces endurance. Your faith continues to grow, even when it is hard to grow. There has been a family crisis and tragedy, yet you have grown spiritually. Things down at the church house have not been pleasant, yet you grew. Fellowship has been strained and nearly broken, and still you grew. The preacher is fired. Elders resign. People leave. Things have been said that should never have been said. Through that you have still grown spiritually.

  I’ve known people who buried a spouse on a Friday and on Sunday they were sitting in the church house worshipping God. Growing through trials and troubles.

  Some lessons for us:

  First, our growth is dependent upon us. Some have simply stopped growing. Some have a stunted growth. They got through the basics, but decades later, they don’t know nor act much beyond the basics. Preachers need to continue to grow. Shepherds need to continue to grow. All of this begins with the attitude and spirit of learning. I have learned so much from younger preachers in recent years. I am amazed at their insights into the Scriptures. Now, I could use my age and years of experience and try to intimidate them, but why would I do that? They are helping me grow and I’m thankful for that.

  Why have some stopped growing? They just did. Busy lifestyles. Dysfunctional churches. Poor leadership. Lots of ways we could pin this on others, but the truth is, through all of those things, some have continued to grow. The dry seasons, wet seasons, fires, diseases, that ole’ tree kept growing and growing. And, so must we.

  Second, some will use a difficult season for a reason to stop growing. I just can’t right now, because mama died. And, they hang their hat on that nail for years and years. Some of the greatest lessons come from challenges, trials and even troubles. We see things in the darkness that we never see in the sunlight. If we only grow when things are going well, then large sections of our lives will have no growth. We would have learned nothing through adversity. The trials that come upon us will have no positive impact. Endurance will not be part of our character simply because we refused to see lessons and grow during difficult times.

  Our culture doesn’t do well with hard times. We need pills to deal with anxiety and animals to give us support. Sometimes those things are necessary, but only sometimes. A good ole’ dose of hardship, hard times and trials and troubles can really help our character more than any animal or medicine can provide. The ole’ tree grows through storms, droughts, fires and hard times. And, so much our faith.

  Third, those dark valleys of the shadow of death can certainly frighten us. But knowing that the Lord is with us and that we are passing through, and not staying there ought to provide hope and strength. The story of David in 1 Samuel 30:6 is a powerful reminder about spiritual growth. David had been chased around the countryside by Saul. His life was constantly in danger. He and his men finally make it home only to find their homes burned and their families kidnapped. David’s men were so distraught that they considered stoning David. In this passage, we learn, “David strengthened himself in the Lord.”

  There are times when you need to do that. Don’t count on Saul helping you. He’ll try to discourage you. Don’t count on those around you to help you. They have rocks in their hands, ready to throw at you. But David strengthened himself. There may be times when brethren let you down. The shepherds don’t call. The preacher doesn’t come and see you. Deeper and deeper you get discouraged. You can let yourself fall to the bottom, or you can strengthen yourself. You pray. You get to worship. You open that Bible. You know what the Lord has promised. You pull yourself up and you get going again. And, oh, the lessons you will learn. You can be a stronger and better person because of that. You can, if you allow yourself. Or, you can become bitter towards every one and use that experience to hurt people.

  Tree rings—the sign of growth. What do your spiritual rings show? Are you always growing?