Tension reigned. Indiana Jones must find the Holy Grail and bring some water of life back, or his dad will die. Blocking his way are three “biblical” tests that he must pass. The first was repentance – “the repentant may pass.” At the last moment he decided repentance meant to kneel, and he dropped to the ground just in time to duck under a blade destined to slice off his head. Next was “the footsteps of God.” Indy faced a floor made up of individual stones with letters etched in Latin. He must step only on the stones, in the correct order, to spell out J-E-H-O-V-A-H. After almost falling through for a spelling error, Indy safely arrived at the third test: “a leap of faith.” Now he finds himself at a huge chasm, needing to get quickly to the other side. It’s too wide to jump across. His whip won’t work here. How will he get over? After a moment of fear and indecision, Indy determines a blind step into the opening is required. With eyes closed he takes a big step and lands safely on a narrow bridge. It was there all along! Scurrying across he finds the Grail, fills it with the water, and brings it to his dad. The senior Jones is brought to life and they live happily ever after, or at least until “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

If you watched “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” all that was familiar to you. Why am I bringing it up here? To make a point about our faith. Faith – the God-kind – is not blind. Harrison Ford may have been required to take a step with eyes closed, but the God-kind of faith requires EVIDENCE.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

There’s a vast difference between “blind faith” and faith in things not seen. Consider another scripture passage:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:17, 18

There is an “unseen realm.” God dwells there, along with angels, demons and other spirit-beings. It can’t be seen with the naked eye. Faith is required! And the God-kind of faith gets its evidence from there.

Consider another verse of scripture:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. II Timothy 3:16

The word “reproof” here is a translation of exactly the same word in the original Greek translated “evidence” in Hebrews 11:1. Do you see the significance? “Faith is … the evidence of things not seen,” and “All scripture is … profitable … for evidence.” Therefore, the most important place to get evidence for our faith is from the “unseen realm” of the Bible – the Word of God.

Here is how it works: when I find that I’m in need of something promised by God, I must believe – have faith. “All things are possible to him who believes.” [Mark 9:23] “Miracles aren’t for the deserving, they’re for the believing.” [Dr. Jim Richards] When I need healing, my physical senses (including my sight) bring evidence that I’m sick. I look sick; I feel pain; etc. Sometimes sickness even smells bad! So my responsibility becomes finding evidence in the unseen realm to counteract and overcome the physical evidence. While the sickness may be “real,” the Word of God is even more real! Jesus bore my sickness and pain. [Isaiah 53:4, 5] By His stripes we are healed. [I Peter 2:24] You see, I’m gathering EVIDENCE. When that evidence gets stronger in me than the symptoms, the pain, etc, then I’ve made divine healing mine and it will come to pass.

This is the way it works regardless of the need. Is there a promise in the Bible for a remedy? Then faith is required, a faith fed by evidence!

Are You Growing Spiritually?

Ephesians 4:14-16 [New Living Translation] Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Someone once said that anything living continues to grow. Dead things have ceased from growth. This is true both naturally and spiritually. But there also is a glaring difference: natural growth happens spontaneously while spiritual growth requires attention.

Recently I read some statistics acquired from a national survey of churches. With over 250,000 respondents, this survey carries a lot of weight. It seems that, in measuring spiritual growth, some of the indicators were quite surprising. In the churches surveyed, one out of every four regular attendees was not growing spiritually or even interested in growth. Apparently they just enjoyed fellowship with Christians. Also it was discovered that, for those who are relatively young in the Lord, involvement in lots of church activities helped the growth process. Conversely, for those older in the Lord, these activities didn’t carry the same punch. [I guess it’s not just about how busy we are!]

There was one true indicator of spiritual growth according the book I’ve been reading. Let me give you their words:

If all churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives. The numbers say most churches are missing the mark – because only one out of five congregants reflects on scripture every day. [Move by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson]

When considering all the different aspects of spiritual growth it’s interesting that reflecting on scripture proves to be the most potent. I can’t say that I’m really surprised though. In rebuking Satan Jesus declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4] Clearly this means that it is the Word that sustains life. In Mark chapter four we find the parable of the sower, a parable that Jesus says is a key to understanding all parables. In explaining this parable, Jesus clearly states the value of the scriptures: “The sower sows the Word.” [4:14] The word of God, the Bible, the holy scriptures – by whatever title we refer to it, is the seed. It is the catalyst for growth.

The apostle Peter spoke of the Bible in this manner: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” [I Peter 2:1-3] It is the Word that provides inner strength and growth.

The apostle Paul declares: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” [Romans 10:17] Faith is a vital necessity to us as Christians. Add to that the quote from the writer of Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” [11:6] In fact, I would say that any growth we might attain without the Word of God may turn out to be growth that is detrimental to our spiritual health.

No, readers, spiritual growth is not automatic. If you’re not interested in this growth it’s not going to overtake you anyway. As a pastor I can’t pray spiritual growth on my church people in spite of themselves. Intercessory prayer makes God available, but we are each individually responsible for our own lives.

We should be asking ourselves, “Am I growing in Christ as I should? Is my relationship with Him deeper and richer now than last year? …last month? …last week? …yesterday? No one is spiritually more mature just because they’ve been saved for a long time. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. As has been said in the past, Christians have to make some effort just to stay even. We’re going uphill – against the stream. We have to keep peddling the bike or paddling the canoe if we don’t want to fall back. [See Hebrews 10:35-39]

How important is growth to you? You’re the only one who can answer that question.