In chapter 5, Dr. Willard refers to Christians who hear from God [they think] but then cannot articulate a “clear, sane meaning” for their communication. Maybe they have a dream. Maybe they have a vision. Maybe they have a feeling but they are not sure what it means.
Why would God do this to someone?
Dr. Willard has an answer.
The receiver of the message does not have much maturity in their Christian experience. Frank Powell in his blog “Restoring Power through Christ” lists some signs of the mature Christian. Here are some.
Highs and lows of life don’t really affect their relationship with Jesus. We all have them but more mature Christians are consistent in their belief.
Mature Christians find value in the daily happenings of life. Most of life is filled with the small events but to the mature Christian, God is even in the small event.
When things happen beyond their control, they can find peace with their lack of control.
Discipline is a good word for the mature Christian. Whatever they do to advance their faith, they do it on a regular basis, not getting side-tracked.
Mature Christians can see beauty in the world, in fact they often are described as having a “childlike awe” about how the world works.
Mature Christians don’t compare themselves to others. This trap leads to dissatisfaction and it causes one to ignore personal blessings.
The mature Christian listens to other people, trying to learn about them and their viewpoint. They are not in the business of correcting others with differing viewpoints.
Mature Christians tend to feel a lot of pain for the poor and the marginalized in society.
The faith they believe in does not have an on and off switch. They don’t turn it on in some circumstances and off in others. They live it 24/7.
The mature Christian has a rhythm in their life. They find value in what they do and enjoy their life. They see life as worthy of living and want to find pleasure in as much of it as they can, from rooting for a favorite team, to work, to a relationship, to a hobby.
Wow, what a list. This gives us all something to aspire to. It can also scare some people to death. “I am not anything like this list.”
But what can we do? How can we become more mature? What is the purpose of the obscure message, the riddle?
Dr. Willard states that “we need to stretch out in growth in order to receive the message”. He cites Isaiah who wants God to tell him what to do but an immature Christian might have their belief destroyed if God told him or her in advance of their time what He demands. Dr. Willard says “it would literally kill us or at least unbalance us if God told us. So God in his mercy continues to approach us obliquely in one way or another, but increasingly less so when we mature—even until that time when we can safely know Him as He knows us.”
I love the way Dr. Willard says that in life “in its most important moments we have little more than the foggiest idea of what it is we are doing and saying.” He feels our ignorance is for our own good.
Let’s bring this “home” or into a workable statement. I remember when I enrolled at the university. I did not know how to survive there but I learned how to. As each semester went by, I found a way to function and actually I began to sense a growing knowledge about how to operate in this new and complex environment. The same happened when I became a father. I did not know what to expect. I was unprepared, yet the time came, the child came and I was confronted with new work to do, unfamiliar work. Eventually I learned how to do it and was glad I did.
The same applies to our Christian faith. We may not be experiencing God in a clear manner now. Maybe you are not sure what God is going to do with you. But He has a plan. He put you on earth for a purpose and He will reveal it to you when your time is right.
What do you have to do to mature?
Ask Him to show you. He may not reveal a complex, finished vision but He will show you understandable pieces. Maybe He is urging you to get regular with Church. Maybe He is urging you to help at church. Maybe He wants you to attend a Bible study. Maybe He wants you to read your Bible or start studying Christian living literature. Along the pathway to maturity is a lot of work, a lot of things to do.
The life of a hungry Christian is not a life of standing still. It is a life of moving forward. God may not tell you in detail how to live life but He will show you how to live one step at a time.
Ready to get started toward maturity? Just pray “How can I get to know you better Lord?”
That’s the first step. Eventually there will be no more riddles.