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A Mushroom And An Oak Tree

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I'm bewildered when I hear some people say they are "spiritual but not religious." It has become an over-used cliché fueled by the cynicism and confusion of our contemporary religious environment. Orthodox Christian teaching from the earliest years of the Faith and articulated by the holy fathers and mothers of the church teaches that God is not abstract but personal. Genuine spirituality is one's entire life as understood, experienced and decided upon in relationship to God in Christ Jesus and empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Religion, puts into tangible practice and gives expression to our spiritual relationship with the living God. Another way of putting it is to say that what language is to thought, religion is to spirituality. Orthodoxy says that spirituality is not a "state of feeling, but a state of being." It is a life long process, not static but dynamic.

Because we are accustomed to immediate gratification in most aspects of our life, we imagine that spirituality and its fruits must produce results right now, or we move on to something else-- a new guru, another gimmick, another methodology.

If we want our life to be spiritually fruitful, we must cultivate good roots, eliminate the weeds and cooperate with God's pruning by thanking and developing an uninterrupted remembrance of Him, not only in the joys but also the struggles of life.

We must also prayerfully wait for the harvest.

Growth in faith does not happen overnight. It takes time. It's not instantaneous. God takes two days to make a mushroom; He takes 60 years to make an oak tree. Do you want to be a mushroom or an oak tree?

When you examine your spiritual growth---you may wonder, "Why is it taking me so long to get better? I've been at this for years, and I'm not seeing much change. I'm still struggling with so many problems. Why? "

Do you want to be a mushroom or an oak tree?

Spiritual growth, like natural growth, takes time: the best fruit ripens slowly.

Notice what Jesus says in John 12:24. He was talking about his death, but the principle applies to us as well. He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit". When Jesus says, "Truly, truly," He's saying, "Listen and listen well. This is really important."

The point Jesus stresses here is that death precedes life. Just as a grain of wheat must die to produce fruit, so must we die to ourselves to produce spiritual growth. And dying to our own selfishness and egocentricity takes time.

Our tendency is to dig up the seed periodically to check on its progress, instead of trusting God to do His work in our lives. The truth is---Christ will produce fruit in our lives if we remain in Him. In the Gospel of John 15:1-8, the passage on the vine and the branches--the key word is remain. We must remain in Him.

Remaining in Christ means keeping in contact with Him, depending on Him, living for Him and trusting Him to do His work in our lives in His perfect timing. Never give up! It's always too soon to quit! Wait for God's promised harvest and, in the meantime, rejoice in His presence in your life. God loves you at every stage of your spiritual growth. He's not waiting until you're perfect to begin loving you. He will never love you any more than He already does.

Are you seeing any spiritual fruit in your life? Perhaps you have reviewed the fruit list in Galatians 5:22-23. If not, I'd encourage you to do so. The scripture lists the harvest as this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Think about how these qualities could be seen in the life of Jesus, and count on Him to produce them in you by the working of The Holy Spirit. If you're not seeing as much fruit as you'd like, don't despair. Remember that growth takes time.