One of the things that I despise most in the world is when I help my wife prepare for a garage sale. Not only because I'm a pack rat, but also because of all the work involved. I was going through a sack of baby clothes and I marveled at how the small the newborn clothes were. Almost 8 months ago our lives changed dramatically when our third daughter came into this world. I can hardly remember life without her, though my wife assures me that it happened. From the moment she came into this world she has been growing, growing, and growing. She has outgrown clothes, toys, shoes, and more in only a few months, and I know from experience it's only going to keep happening.
Children never stop growing until they are brought to physical maturity. Barring a physical ailment or disease, God has built it into children to grown until they reach the point of maturity. I don't have to tell my daughters to grow, and I don't have to always remind them. I don't have a plan for them to physically grow. It just happens!
Although physical maturity happens without our planning, Paul told the church at Colossae that spiritual maturity does not work that way. Speaking of his role as a minister of God, he says this:
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. Col 1:28-29
For Paul, his role as a minister could not be more clear. He works, labors, strives2, he says, to bring people to completeness in Christ. He labors to present them as mature followers of God. And this, he says, is heavy labor.
Spiritual maturity, you see, does not just happen. My children will physically grow whether I tell them to or not. I don't have to set time aside for their physical growth each day, and it's certainly not a labor for me. But to grow spiritually takes work, takes labor, takes striving everyday to be closer to God. Paul said his purpose as a minister is to labor to bring people to maturity.
Paul's labor is specifically for people. He does not labor for his plan. He's not working to bring his ideas of ministry to maturity. He is not working for a building, for a plan, or for an organization. He works for people. He labors, he strives, he agonizes. He fights daily for people. He is not against them as they stand in the way of his plans, but for them, for their souls, and for their hearts.
And it is labor. It's not easy. Physical maturity, though it happens naturally, is full of aches and pains and growth spurts and baby teething and getting used to your body as it changes and all sorts of things. Why do we think spiritual maturity is going to be any easier? The stakes for spiritual maturity are higher, and the opposition is greater! The devil fights against our growing closer to Christ, trying all the time to get us to be complacent where we are, to be satisfied with our walk with God, even to take a step back. Nowhere in the Bible do we get the idea that spiritual growth is easy. In fact it's the opposite. Paul said it's a fight.
But although Paul fights, he does not do it in his own strength. He labors "according to the power , which mightily works within me." It is incredible, gut wrenching, soul breaking work to bring yourself or others to spiritual maturity. Thankfully it is not done in our own power which would soon run out. It is done in the power of Christ! If it is fighting, striving labor to do it in the power of Christ, imagine how hard it is to do it in your own power! It's impossible!
There's no confusing what Paul sees as his task. Spiritual maturity won't happen on accident. It takes concentration on people, not on plans, vision statements, or buildings. And it can only be done through the power of Christ.
Pastor, labor for people. Strive for people. Fight for their maturity, for their growth, for their hearts, that they might be complete in Christ.