An excerpt from our free eBook on Christian encouragement: Some Days We Soar. You can download the book without cost here.
Have you ever had a friend thank you for something that you perhaps were not even aware you did? Sometimes I think spiritual life can be like that, too. It’s easy to be aware of our failures and the many areas in which we want to grow and to miss the fact that growth is taking place. God does work changes in those who desire and ask for transformation (Psalms 51:10, Ephesians 4:22-24), and perhaps if we walked with Him much more closely, growth would be more obvious, but that doesn’t mean growth is not taking place because we do not always see it.
Think about the disciples for a minute. By the time of the last evening of Christ’s life, probably every one of the disciples had exhibited enough human faults, failures, fumbles and foibles to indicate to them all that perhaps they hadn’t learned that much from their teacher. We might think of Peter’s many mistakes, but others even wanted to bring down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54), and it looks like they were all arguing about who was the “greatest” among them on that last evening (Luke 22:24). Additionally, Jesus probably knew that they would soon sleep as he agonized in Gethsemane, that they would all soon desert him, and that even the most dedicated among them would deny knowing him.
Yet despite their track record of failures and little apparent growth, Luke records Jesus as making an amazing statement regarding the disciples at that last Passover meal: “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials” (Luke 22:28). It seems that Christ did not judge the disciples on their failures to date – or even those he knew were coming up soon – but on the right things they had done, on the areas where growth had taken place. He saw it in them even if they perhaps did not see it themselves.
It’s like the Parable of the Growing Seed that Jesus had given earlier in his ministry:
“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4: 26-29).
This is a time-lapse parable like the time-lapse videos that speed up time to show plants growing and other slow-changing things happening before our eyes. But the good news is that just as the farmer in the parable does not see or comprehend it, the slow-growing plant is growing nonetheless; and that, Jesus said, is how the kingdom of God grows.
Once we come to understand this we can be encouraged that growth is growth no matter how small it may seem right now. And that helps us to focus on the value of every small – even seemingly insignificant – advance we make. Each right decision, each right choice, adds up, no matter how small it may be. As C.S. Lewis wisely wrote years ago in Mere Christianity:
“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”