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Principles of Spiritual Growth

Greetings All,

     The majority of this week's 'thought' comes from J. C. Metcalfe, though it is found in Miles J. Stanford's book, "Principles of Spiritual Growth.It has to do with the blessing of failure and the growth that comes through disappointment.  I believe there is much truth and spiritual help in understanding what he says.  Enjoy.

     "Many a young Christian, who has not been warned of the necessary voyage of discovery upon which the Holy Spirit will certainly bring him (Rom. 7) has been plunged into an almost incurable despair at the sight of the sinfulness which is his by nature.
     In the first place he rejoiced greatly in the forgiveness of his sins and his acceptance by God. But sooner or later he begins to realize that all is not well and he has failed and fallen from the high standard which he set himself to reach in the first flush of his conversion.
     He begins to know something of the experience which Paul so graphically describes in Romans 7:15: 'What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, that I do.' And as a consequence he feels that the bottom has fallen out of his Christian life. Then, perhaps, the Devil whispers to him that it is just no good even going on because he will never be able to make the grade.
     Yet little does he know how healthy his condition is, and that this shattering discovery is but the prelude to a magnificent series of further discoveries of things which God has expressly designed for his eternal enrichment. All through life God has to show us our utter sinfulness and need, before He is able to lead us on into realms of grace, in which we shall glimpse His glory...
     The believer who is going through struggle and failure is being carefully and lovingly handled by the Lord in a very personal way. He is being taken through the experience (often years long) of self-revelation into death; the only basis upon which to 'know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death'  (Phil. 3:10).
     God works by paradox. Success comes via failure. Life springs out of death.  The only element in the believer's life that crumbles is that which has to go anyway. The new life can never be harmed or affected by this process of the old self dying.
     This disintegration is something the believer cannot enter into nor engineer on his own -- self will never cast out self. He has to be led into it by the mercy of the Holy Spirit -- into failure; abject and total... So often the means utilized by the Spirit is an unsaved mate, or even a saved one! Or poor health, yes, and good health too! A thousand and one things are used by Him -- in fact, everything -- to bring out the worst in us, ultimately enabling us to see that the Christian life has to be, 'not I but Christ.' People, circumstances, etc., are never the cause of our failure. Self's reaction to them is the cause, and the one problem to be dealt with...
     It has often been noticed that where there is greatest exuberance of joy in young converts, there is often a levity which fails to take into account that the 'flesh' is still intact. In such cases the grace of God is taken up in a self-confident way; there is very little self-distrust, or sense of weakness and dependence. And the inevitable consequence is a fall, or a succession of falls, that gradually bring home to the consciences of believers their utter weakness and incapacity...
     We must act on the fact that we are dead in reference to sin. We shall not then speak of difficulty as to resisting temptation in reference to ourselves. We shall take the lowest place and say it is impossible. But we shall know that what is impossible with self is possible with God. We shall take our place of the resurrection side of the cross, and in so doing leave behind the self-life [the life of self-effort] for the new Christ-life. To live in Him who is our life is to be in the power of God."
     It didn't take me long in the Christian life to realize that all Christian responsibilities are beyond mere human ability. "The duties God requires of us," says John Owen, "are not in proportion to the strength we possess in ourselves. Rather, they are proportional to the resources available to us in Christ. We do not have the ability in ourselves to accomplish the least of God's tasks. This is a law of grace. When we recognize it is impossible to perform a duty in our own strength, we will discover the secret of its accomplishment. But alas, this is a secret we often fail to discover."
Hoping it is now clear if it was not before! Pastor Jeff