If only spiritual growth was like microwave popcorn. You put the bag in the oven, and it’s not long before you hear the popping. You know you are making rapid progress, a brief wait away from enjoying the warm, salty snack. In a few short minutes, the microwave dings, and there you have it. Freshly popped popcorn!
But following Jesus is a journey. It’s not microwave-fast. As the cliché rightly says, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” It doesn’t reward you every three minutes with the smell of popcorn. It takes patience, perseverance, and persistence. But most of us prefer the quick fix. In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1980), Eugene Peterson writes,
“We assume that if anything can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by thirty-page abridgements. It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain that interest…There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”
Following Jesus—being his disciple—is intended to be a lifelong process, not a gimmicky solution to an urgent problem. We need to practice discipline—praying regularly, faithful obedience to Scripture, reading the Bible regularly, spending time with other believers, sharing what we are learning with believers and nonbelievers alike, celebrating God’s goodness and His gifts, sacrificially giving to others. As we practice these things in following Jesus, we’ll find that we are slowly becoming more like Him. As Luke 6:40 states, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
My late friend at Preserving Bible Times, Doug Greenwold, wrote this prayer, that I’ll close with:
“Lord, I do want to follow You; I do want to be Your disciple. Keep me “poor” in my perspective so I can more fully experience abundant living in You. Open my eyes more so that I can see more of what I am missing. Empower me to stay the course of growing in You and grant me the courage to keep on keeping on. Continue strengthening me so I can finish well to honor You. May Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done in every part of my life. Amen.”