Spiritual Growth is Not Automatic

If I had my way, every automobile would have a manual transmission.  It offers faster acceleration and better gas mileage.  It gives you more control over your vehicle.  Of course, most folks don’t share my preference.  They like an automatic.  An automatic is easy to drive.  It demands little effort and less thinking.  All you have to do is put the car in drive and press the accelerator.  You don’t have to worry about the balance between the clutch and accelerator or engine RPMs.  It’s easy.  It’s automatic.  The car is in control and in our culture of convenience, we like that.  Unfortunately, we want to apply the “automatic” concept to a lot of other things in life that do not operate as well with such little attention and effort.  Consider a few with me.

Marriage does not run well in automatic.  Many people seem to think that a marriage is something that takes little effort and attention.  They have become easily convinced that all you have to do is whatever comes naturally – automatically.  They fail to see that creating a healthy and happy marriage takes work – hard work.  A husband has to work to communicate.  He needs to figure out when to talk and when to just shut up and listen.  He has to work to understand how to properly handle the fragile vessel that the Lord has blessed him with and that loving leadership demands his submission to her needs (1 Peter 3:7; Eph. 5:27-29).  A wife has to work hard in a marriage as well.  Sometimes she has to work on submitting to his lead and offering him words of love and admiration (Eph. 5:21-22).  Marriage is hard work.  It demands not change from your spouse, but transformation in you.  However, instead of working hard to work it out, a lot of folks seem to think that if the marriage isn’t working, then the automatic thing to do is get a divorce.  That’s not God’s design.  You can’t just do what comes automatically and have a marriage that brings you happiness and glorifies God. 

Raising kids does not run well in automatic either (Eph. 6:4).  If I had ever experienced the reality of raising children before I had them, I might have quit before I began.  That is not to say that my children have been difficult or that I don’t deeply love them.  They have brought to me some of the greatest joys in life, but raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in the corrupt world we live in is hard work.  They constantly need your attention, time and money.  Their needs always seem to come before your own, yet with all the work and the occasional heartache comes the joy of seeing your very own excel and blossom to be capable servants of the Lord.  However, you can’t just always do what comes automatically.  Raising children demands thought and unconventional thinking.  It requires learning from others who have been successful in raising their children and making changes when necessary.  It demands constant self-examination to insure that the example you are leaving is one they can follow to spiritual success.

Worshipping God is not something that we can put in automatic.  Oh, yes, the one who loves God and seeks Him is one who will find worship to be fulfilling, joyous and eventually natural, but how many times to do we sing a hymn of praise with our voices and discover our minds drifting back to yesterday’s activities or life’s anxieties.  Worship demands focus and determination.  It requires giving your all – all your mind, all your affection, all your attention, all your effort.  God doesn’t want spectators, but active participants.  That means you can’t worship with cruise control on.

Finally, spiritual growth is not automatic.  It doesn’t accidentally happen.  Growing in a relationship with God requires spending time allowing him to speak to you and you speaking with him.  It requires the inconvenience and challenge of change.  It demands deliberately forfeiting our fleshly lusts and pursuing our spiritual needs (Eph. 4:17-32).  It only comes with the crucifixion of self and the exaltation of others.

Really, every aspect of the Christian’s life requires taking control and paying attention to how you’re driving through every scenario of life.  Life just doesn’t run well in automatic.

Norm Webb, Jr.