It’s okay that we have to grow.
Wouldn’t it be great if the purchase of a thing made us the master of that thing? It’s true that we are masters of what we own as far as making decisions about those things. I own a guitar. I can pick it up, take it places, replace it’s strings, tune it, smash it, whatever. That doesn’t mean I know how to play it. I own a smart phone. I probably use less than five percent of its capabilities. Same with my computer. Come to think of it - probably same with my brain. I own a lot of things that I am only partially acquainted with.
“That is tragic!” is my first thought. But I think I need to rethink that first thought. Is it tragic that we own something we are not complete masters of? Not really. Where would we grow if purchasing something meant we had automatic mastery of it? Maybe it would be great to be able to purchase a sewing machine and a full brain download and skill set of how to use all its features. Maybe someday our brains will come equipped with a USB slot for that.
Futuristic dreaming aside, for now it is necessary that we learn to master things. It’s like that with our spiritual growth. I came across an example of this the Apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians.
‘This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.’ Ephesians 3:11
Paul points out that we own something. In Christ we have boldness and confident access. Cool! Let’s use it. Let’s go out and turn the world upside down. Let’s start the flames of spiritual awakening. Let’s see revival in every church. Let’s tell everyone we meet about Jesus. Let’s…
Does having boldness mean that any of the above happens quickly? What was Paul’s experience? Did he get up every morning with the idea that he was turning the world upside down? Probably not. Read what he writes just a few paragraphs later.
‘Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.’ Ephesians 6:19-20
Paul, Spirit empowered mature believer that he was, continued to ask fellow believers to pray for him to be bold. But wait, didn’t he just say, ‘we have boldness’? Why pray for something we already have? Because owning something doesn’t mean we have mastery of it. Paul teaches that in Christ we own boldness but he shows by asking for prayer that he doesn’t master it. He’s growing.
We are all growing. We may, like Elijah, have boldness when faced with terrible odds. Like he did when faced with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. (1 Kings 18) Then fail when threatened by Jezebel. (1 Kings 19:3) Spiritual life is a series of victories and defeats in every area of character growth. Boldness is just one of these areas. The most spiritually powerful characters in Scripture had to strive for mastery.
Are you discouraged about your progress in the Christian graces? Do you seem to need reassurance and prayer to do what seem to be simple things: Love your neighbor. Witness to a friend. Believe God’s promises. Overcome fear. Pray for others. Reach out to the hurting?
Guess what, it might just mean you are a spiritual giant. You stand in the same place as Paul and Elijah. In fact, spiritual giant or new believer, we all need prayer and reassurance and practice. There are no masters of Christian character. Jesus was the only Master. He owned and perfectly practiced the character of God. Everyone who follows Him needs constant encouragement and Spirit enablement.
Take heart in this. The fact that you get discouraged about your practice of boldness, or any other Christian grace, is evidence that the Spirit is working in you. People who are not striving to grow in their faith don’t get discouraged about it. It’s not on their minds. They are not sensitive to the Spirit’s moving. Knowing that you own something rich and strong is often the catalyst that makes you want to use it.
You own boldness. Ask others to pray you learn how to use it. Practice using it. Speak up and feel what it’s like to use it. Study it. See how people used it in the Bible. Read missionary stories. Ask other Christians how they do it. In short, become a student. It’s how we master anything.
It’s not a tragedy to own something we haven’t mastered. It’s only a tragedy to receive a gift from God and allow it to idle in a corner while we pursue something easier. Pick up that ‘guitar’. Learn the chords. Practice. Be gracious. Be bold. Smile, because the Spirit is working in you!