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But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who byreason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14 KJV)
When I was in school, my teachers loved to use this verse to remind us that the only way we would get better at and remember the concepts we were learning was by using them over and over again. “Practice makes permanent,” they said. They were right, and the same thing goes for our spiritual lives.
How do we grow? By practicing. By constantly discerning between good and evil through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, communion with God, and familiarity with His Word. Not only do we have to discern what is right, but then we have to go a step further and act on that belief. Exercise the physical muscles as well as the mental ones. By repetition of an exercise, you will condition your muscles to make the correct movements. If you do something often enough, it will become second nature. Lately I’ve found this principle to be true when it comes to singing. I went to a week-long music camp and learned a lot about how to sing properly. I was told (and already knew) that in order to sing well, one has to learn to breathe properly. But even more important than the actual knowledge of how to sing is practicing and developing the muscles used, specifically the muscles of the diaphragm that are needed for proper breath control. Yes, you have to actually strengthen the muscles. So I went home and practiced every evening (lip trills and all kinds of other silly-looking breathing exercises), and now two weeks later I am amazed at how right my teachers were: it takes repeated practice to build muscle, and build muscle I did! Breath control is so much easier now! In every aspect of life, consistent practice based on knowledge is necessary in order to achieve an end goal. This is nowhere more true than in our spiritual lives.
Unfortunately, in today’s world where right is wrong and wrong is right, it is so easy to become desensitized to evil, and the lines between good and evil are a blurred mess. We as followers of God must constantly be on guard to recognize evil for what it is and sift out the good from everything bombarding us today. So much evil has infiltrated everything we know, and it is all being served up on a silver platter for our consumption. It looks awfully good, especially when compared to the dismally scorned path of the politically incorrect. But remember: God never promised the Christian life would be easy. On the contrary, we are called to participate in Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-16). The beauty of it all is that when we do suffer for Christ’s sake, we can be at rest in God if we so choose to be. Yet again, we see one of God’s paradoxes that makes no sense to the world.
So how do we grow in God and become mature Christians instead of babies? We have to exercise our spiritual discernment over and over again until it becomes second nature. God is always faithful to give us opportunities to do this when we ask. This reminds me of something I heard explained one time; I’ve never forgotten it because it’s so true. It goes something like this: we pray and ask for patience, but does God give us patience? No. He gives us opportunities to build patience. Yet again, we have to strengthen those “patience muscles” by reason of use.
Study God’s Word and commune with Him so you have the information with which to discern between good and evil. Then, act on that which is good. By doing this repeatedly, you will build spiritual muscles and develop into a functioning, mature Christian. The Christian life is never easy, but it will come more and more naturally the more you exercise. And when you are living a life of voluntary submission to God, you can be at rest in God.