DEVOTIONAL STUDIES IN HEBREWS
A PREVAILING PROBLEM
The Problem with Spiritual Growth
By Henry Jaegers
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have a need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as need milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5: 11-14)
In chapter 5, Paul is dealing with the problem that is not unusual, especially when it comes to dealing with new Christians. To begin, Paul addresses two groups of people. The first being babes in Christ and the second one deals with those who are mature and grow in their faith. He is not necessarily speaking to two groups but what he is saying is what he desires to see happen. He expects Christians to grow and develop from being young in the faith to being wise with abilities to teach and be a good example to others.
As I understand the problem that Paul is facing, I see it as a problem that happens all the time but may go unnoticed by many. It is the problem of spiritual development. Perhaps a good illustration of this is found in the manufacturing of an automobile. When the manufacturer designed the vehicle, he designed it with three gears. Front, backward, and neutral. Imagine buying a brand-new car and turning on the engine and listening to its smooth, purring sound and never putting the vehicle into gear. Imagine the difficulties of having a new car and never getting out of neutral. Ridiculous, you may say, but what is ridiculous in the field of automation is a spiritual problem in the life of many Christians. Their whole life remains in neutral and if they stay there too long, it won't be long before they find, instead of going forward, they're going backward.
I was in a Sunday school class one day and the pastor's wife was teaching the class. She asked the question: “How do you keep a Christian from backsliding?” Immediately the thought came to my mind, “well the cure to backsliding is front sliding”. You may think that is a strange answer but it is one I have contemplated since and realize the importance of thinking that way.
There is in all of us whether a Christian or otherwise, the tendency to stay where we are. There is security in not taking any risks and playing things safe. I once heard someone say that in the Christian church (or in any type of business as well) that there are three kinds of leaders. First, there are risk-takers (the ones who are willing to see the big picture and step out on faith.) The second group we called caretakers: (they are those who are content with the way things are and have no plans or ideas of how to make things better) they are like a ship drifting from its moorings, having come loose from the dock in a raging ocean. Finally, there is a third group of leaders we call undertakers. They used to be caretakers, but because no progress has been made, the church is eventually forced to close its doors.
The point I am making is that God, like the auto manufacturer, designed for his church to grow and make progress. Sometimes growth involves neutrality and backsliding. G. Campbell Morgan has wisely observed that progress is always a result of the failure. That is a wise observation. And if we are to make progress in our Christian life, we must come to grips with failure as being our greatest teacher. None will dispute that fact.
I am intentionally sharing this material in short segments because it is the prevailing problem in the church today and in chapters 5 and 6 we see how Paul masterfully handled the problem to get the people back into gear to make forward progress. Again, that's something to consider and think about!