The Complete Green Letters, chapter 2
“But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land
would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” Exod. 23:29-30
Sound familiar? How often is it that we just don’t understand how God wants to work in our lives? We want things now, quick and in a hurry. We often figure that just because God can do something in our life (such as “fix it,” to be exact), then he must want to do it…and do it now.
Stanford’s insights into the Christian walk seem to be dead-on in my mind. He connects with me well. And this chapter on time and it’s role in our spiritual development is powerful–especially for someone who’s experienced seasons of rapid spiritual growth only to be followed by seasons of apparent stagnation, if not backsliding.
But Standford is quick to point out that they likely are not seasons of backsliding…that it’s possible the Lord pulled the reigns on the growth for our own good.
“God himself will modify the pace. This is important to see, since most instances when seeming declension begins to set in, it is not, as so many think, a matter of backsliding.”
An insight I had never thought of is this:
“Since the Christian life matures and becomes fruitful by the principle of growth (2 Peter 3:18), rather than by struggle and experiences,’ much time is involved.”
So, Stanford poses, what do we want to grow to be? An oak, or a squash? Do we appreciate the investment in time God puts into the mighty oak? 100 years? Then we must be willing to abide in the process.
“Growth is not a uniform thing in the tree or in the Christian. In some single months there is more growth than in all the year besides. During the rest of the year, however, there is solidification, without which the green timber would be useless. The period of rapid growth, when woody fiber is actually deposited between the bark and the trunk, occupies but four to six weeks in May, June and July.”
And some more key quotes:
“Unless the time factor is acknowledged from the heart, there is always danger of turning to the false enticement of a shortcut via the means of experiences and ‘blessings’ where one becomes pathetically enmeshed in the vortex of ever-changing
‘feelings,’ adrift from the moorings of scriptural facts.”
“Fruit ripens slowly; days of sunshine and days of storm each add their share. Blessing will succeed blessing, and storm follow storm before the fruit is full grown or comes to maturity..”
“The temptation to shortcut is especially strong unless we see the value of and submit to the necessity of the time element; in simple trust resting in His hands, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6
I’m learning that everything requires committed communication with the Lord, including this “time” thing. We need to talk to him about the process we’re in. We need to speak our occasional frustrations with the process so that he can respond to us and assure us he’s in control and has us on a path.
When I don’t dialog with God about what’s going through my mind, I end up having weeks like this past one where I feel kinda aimless…and lost and without purpose.
But all isn’t lost, because in spite of the temporary aimlessness I sometimes experience, there exists a gnawing, underlying sense that I’m on some sort of journey…some sort of path. And though I might be in the middle of a wilderness and misplaced my compass and feel like I’m going to arrive at my destination a few decades too late, I am still en-route. And just as he’s still in control of Saturn’s orbit around the sun, he’s in control of my life.
2 replies on ““Time” or “Green Letters 2””
Is he saying that we grow because of the principle of growth and not by struggles or experiences? I need clarification.
I think there is a really fine line he drew that you just crossed. He said nearly word for word in the second quote what you just asked, except for your “not” and his “rather than.” Your phrasing excludes struggle while his orders them. So, my answer to your question is yes, he is pretty much saying that, but not exactly what you said. Let me explain.
I didn’t come away from reading the chapter with the impression that he doesn’t think we grow through experiences and struggles. I think of scriptures like Romans 5:3-4 and James 1:2-4, which show the clear role trials play in our lives. They develop us and I can’t image Stanford would disagree.
But it seems in this chapter he is asking us to recognize that the principle of growth supersedes “experience.” That no matter what is going on in the natural world, the spiritual path God has you on will trump it. If you’re in winter, probably no matter how many “good” things happen, you might not feel like you’re growing. And in summer, crap can happen every day and you won’t miss a beat. Quote 4 touches on that a bit.
Anyway, the lesson I took away from this is more faith-in-the-journey based than meaning-to-the-madness based. I want to enjoy my discipleship-relationship with Jesus as much as possible. I don’t think franticly running from experience to experience trying to stimulate and/or seek out growth will help. But I do feel understanding the time element involved in becoming Christ-like will.