We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare – and its lesson. Slow and steady wins the race. Careful, measured, chipping progress often proves more effective than bursts of sound and fury. The turtle is a symbol of this truth. But the turtle has another notable quality worth envying. Turtles will grow continuously, unless limited by environmental factors. While their growth slows, turtles live long and large. Unlike humans, they never reach a period of optimal maturity and then settle in for a long physical decline. Scientists have noted that the organs of centenarian turtles differed little from young mature ones. Like they way the move, slowly and steadily, they also grow — slowly and steadily.
We long for constant growth. We spend lots of time, effort, and money searching for ways to reverse or slow the effects of aging, while turtle’s bodies do not decline from age. Much like rings in a tree, turtles add rings to their shells as they age, but their bodies remain strong and growing. We would love to see this kind of growth in our intellect, strength, and investments. But, alas, there are few areas of human life that experience this kind of steady, constant growth.
The good news is that we can experience constant growth in the area that matters most – our spiritual life. While physically we mature and then decline, the Bible sets no such expectation on our spiritual lives. The exhortation we see in scripture is one of constant growth in godliness and spiritual maturity. Though it may look more like a sine-wave than a positively sloping line, our spiritual growth should trend continually upward. The Holy Spirit has given us many gracious means, such as bible reading, prayer, worship, fellowship, service and stewardship, that never lose effectiveness no matter how old we become. Spiritual plateaus or declines should never be the norm, but only temporary occurrences. They are warnings to get back to the means of grace given by the Spirit.
One of the most remarkable, but often overlooked, passages in the Gospel of Luke is the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple, listening and interacting with the great teachers of the Law. This story is book-ended by two statements about Jesus growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. Indicative of Jesus’ humanity was his progress – physically, mentally and spiritually. Though morally perfect and without sin throughout his life, in his human mind and soul, he grew and developed in his understanding and in his faith. Orthodoxy has always taught that Jesus’ mind and soul was a true mind and rational soul. Though in him we find the inexplicable union of divine and human natures in one person, his human mind and soul were like ours, only not encumbered by sin. For this reason, this passage teaches us two important truths — to expect continuous growth in our spiritual lives and to diligently use the means Spirit has given us to fuel this growth.
Join us this Lord’s Day, January 6, as we examine the story of the boy Jesus in the temple and consider what it teaches us about growing in grace. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.