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Humility ... 3

Being eager to learn and grow facilitates purpose

Every child starts to learn by imitating their parents and older siblings, and by doing what they are told. Children are programmed to learn, improve and grow; but they still need to be given direction. Improvement doesn’t come by chance, it comes mainly from instruction. For Christians, this means instruction about what is pleasing to God. Healthy new believers will naturally have a yearning to grow in their faith, by following what they learn from their teachings, and joining with what other believers in their support network are doing and instructing them. Whether we are new or mature Christians, by having a hunger to know God’s Word and follow His ways, we will benefit by being better guided through the ups and downs of life.
Learning and maturing go hand in hand. As children inevitably grow up, they lose some of their innocence. This can be good and bad. Childhood innocence is beautiful in its place, but the Apostle Paul speaks of the importance of people maturing in Christ and losing some of the naivety and folly of childhood. Growing up often includes learning from mistakes and learning from instruction. It involves being self-disciplined so that we overcome childish tendencies such as procrastination or being too easily distracted, or being lazy or messy. Acquiring discipline and wisdom are vital for survival and success. Children who are too trusting of others may be easily blown off course by bad influencers. Christians are called to be child-like in trusting God over and above other cultures and the wisdom of the world’s ways. If we go astray, we need to be humble enough to accept correction and seek re-alignment.
Learning can sometimes be hard work; implementing even more difficult. An unfortunate example can be read in Hebrews 5:11-14; among that group there were people who still needed someone to teach them, even though they should have been teaching others by that stage in their walk. They remained spiritual infants, still needing milk instead of solid food, running the risk of never maturing in the faith; somewhat like ten year olds still being breast fed! The reasons that kept them from growing spiritually could have been diverse and these reasons may also affect each of us.
Perhaps they were still attracted to material things more than to God. Perhaps they were too proud of themselves. Perhaps they had little inclination to repent of wrong ways, still indulging themselves selfishly. Perhaps they didn’t even try to pursue the will of God and build their relationship with God. Perhaps they were stuck on nursery-rhyme mentalities. Perhaps they lacked the persistence and commitment that is required of purposeful growing. Perhaps they expected that acquiring godliness and perfecting love was to be an easy process in the face of an alluring world. The four main personal requirements of the Christian life are a challenge for everyone: unselfishness, holiness, sacrifice and service. They are made even harder for those lacking in discipline, courage and humility. Ultimately it’s our acts of service, deeds done in love towards others, that really demonstrate that we are the followers of our Lord Jesus.
For Christians to grow there is not much room for complacency. Being satisfied with the status quo doesn't leave the door open for changing for the better. A desire to advance causes a growing person to continually look for things to correct or to cultivate more of. If we truly desire to make a difference in the world, to find our position in God’s Kingdom and our purpose in life, we need to address our progress seriously. It is also wise to keep our spiritual passion, zeal and enthusiasm for doing the things of God, and to yearn to experience more of the Holy Spirit. In God’s Kingdom, His children will be: “Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord”. (Romans 12:11 NASB) Intentions and knowledge are fine, but only an action plan will assure we are actually growing.
For Christians to grow we must realize that sometimes we are our own worst enemy and our own biggest obstacle. We need to learn to discard our fanciful pursuits, immature ways of thinking, unprofitable emotions and sinful traits; while judiciously retaining innocence and goodness, and seeking growth through living wisely. The disciples knew this, as they instructed: “Putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (1 Peter 2:1-3 NASB) “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20 NASB) For something as important as our salvation and sanctification, it is prudent to be in regular review of our continued growth by consulting with other mature thinkers or mentors, who also value purity and integrity.
It is easy for adults to think themselves superior than others, especially children, simply because they are older, know more and have more authority. However, knowledge and power without love is lacking virtue. Jesus often liked to turn the tables on conventional thinking and flip the natural order of things upside down, placing value where it wasn’t recognised. Power from knowledge has its limitations when it comes to pleasing God. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him”. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3 NASB) Knowledge is extremely useful, but when it comes to being in touch with God there is no substitute for being a caring person. Our heavenly Father is “all knowing”, but it is love that defines Him. For us, to try to know all things about God but to fail to love is futile. A person with an empathetic and compassionate attitude for others is more pleasing to God than a dozen Einsteins. A wiser thing to know than the workings of the universe is the workings of love. While we are earth-bound, the act of pursuing good deeds despite our limitations is  earth-conquering. To continue living in love is to know God and to be known by Him.
We mature in our faith and advance in spirituality by applying our Biblical knowledge and Christian values to life’s situations. We need to keep the qualities of trust and dependence upon God; regardless of how self-sufficient or successful we become. We rely upon His Word, His Spirit and His promises, to always guide us about what is right from wrong, and what is beneficial from futile. We build our lives on the rock and help others to do the same. We trust that God is guiding us towards inner beauty, outer prosperity and roles of suitable service. They search for a purpose that is befitting of children to a Father who is good, wise and caring. For being eager to learn and grow facilitates purposeful actions.

Jill's self talk
"Three things that go hand in hand with Christian humility ... a selfless and sacrificial approach to serving others, a simplistic and teachable approach to pleasing God, an empathetic and virtuous approach to purpose and success."

Concluding remarks

Jesus taught His followers not to look down on children just because they are immature, weak or naive, but to consider that entry and success in the Kingdom of God is benefitted by certain child-like qualities, like humility. It is a typical paradox of the Christian faith, to regard people who are humble enough to learn, humble enough to trust, humble enough to obey, and humble enough to serve, as being wise and spiritually superior. Indeed, those who adopt a child-like acceptance of Christian principles, are more highly valued in the Kingdom of God than those who are intent on seeking power, glory, position and pride, by the rules of their own making. We can become useful and pleasing to God when we balance our growth to be both God-smart and spiritually prosperous, and street-smart and materially prosperous; thereby adding value and making contributions to God’s work on earth.
With God’s general purposes for us in mind, let us reflect on what it is like to be young, and how child-like qualities could assist us to better relate with Him. We have discussed how being humble promotes Christian conversion, how being trusting and dependent promotes son-ship, and how being eager to learn and grow facilitates purpose. These child-like qualities help our soulful transition from Earth to Heaven, from innocence to wisdom, from care-free to responsible, and from weakness to strength, all while keeping our faith intact. And in all these things, God’s grace assists the humble and lifts us up so that our soul prospers, even in the face of life's uncertainties and difficulties. God is able to make all things work together for our good, sometimes good means getting us to the point of entering His Kingdom like a child.
Humble children are well suited to being shaped by their parents and elders into becoming persons of virtue and character. They are teachable and correctable, quite unlike some adults who are full of pride, conceit, ambition and self-indulgence. In Ephesians 4, Paul reveals that the purpose of our new birth is to give us a new self, created to be good, pure and godly, as God’s much loved children. As we proactively embrace this new self from the inside out, God will assist us to mirror Him in all ways, for us to grow to become like His Son Jesus Christ, in whom He was well pleased. We can’t see God because God is not a physical being like us, but our actions can mirror His Son's, and similarly please Him. For all intents and purposes we are His workmanship, therefore we are wise to choose to live to please Him and to beautify our souls with humility, unselfishness and holiness.
Since we are all different in personality and disposition, our growth is individualistic. But since all of us are wanting to please God, we also hope that we’ll become wise and beautiful souls in our own individual ways. Our individual talents and gifts combine to add value to the body of Christ through the co-operation and contribution and performance of good works. Practical forms of good deeds and good gifts are an essential element of loving our neighbors and walking by faith. The Apostle Paul thanked the Philippians for "... the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God." (Philippians 418 NIV)
Christians are re-born to become God’s children, not focused solely on being materialistic, but intent on becoming spiritually rich, free of corruption, and being disposed to exhibiting Christ-like qualities, regardless of our age. It is marvelous to think that Jesus referred to His followers and those who put His words into practice, as brothers. We are brothers, related to Him by spiritual birth, identical in purpose, and fellow heirs of God.
 As children of God, we look up to our heavenly Father and put our confidence in His greatness, His ability and especially His promises to continue to work in us and our lives by the power of His Spirit. And regardless of our level of achievements, it is our aspirations to be godly, with pure hearts of devotion and admiration, as befitting of being His beloved children, that will ensure we remain obedient, humble, dependent and purposeful.

Jill's prayer
"Lord Jesus, Help me to embrace the essence of Your Kingdom with child-like qualities like humility, dependence, and being eager to learn and grow. As your born-again child, create in me a pure heart that is eager to live by your values and principles. I pledge to have a compliant attitude and a modest servant disposition. Teach me more how humility works, show me the subtle connections that humility has with all other virtuous qualities; like gratitude, confidence, empathy, generosity, love, and even greatness."
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