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How to Overcome Personal Stagnation, Part 1

From the series Breaking Through Life's Biggest Barriers

Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut? You know, same job, same routine, day in and day out, same old thing. Would you like to learn how to break out of that rut and experience renewed joy and motivation? Join Chip as he shares how you can overcome personal stagnation.

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Message Transcript

Does your life honestly feel more like an adventure, or does your life feel more like a rut?  See, life is dynamic.  Life is dynamic, it is not static.  You are either growing or dying.  It’s true physically, it’s true intellectually, it’s true relationally, it’s true spiritually.  All living things are either growing and increasing toward maturity, or they are deteriorating toward decay and death.  There is no middle ground.  The myth in life is that we think there is.  When we think the status quo is where we are, we’re just sliding backwards without knowing it.

See, growth is exciting.  Do you remember when your kids, those of us that are married, do you remember when your kids started growing, and they’d say, “Dad, will you measure me?  Will you measure me?”  Right?  They don’t come in and say, “Oh gosh Dad, I grew another three inches.”  When you grow intellectually, and for some of us when you get on that computer and you actually punch the right buttons and something comes up, what happens?  Wow!  This is neat!  When you’re involved in a relationship and you sense it growing, and intimacy coming, and you work through it, what happens?  You’re excited.  When you begin to come into a relationship with Christ like 20 to 25 people did last weekend alone, and when they learn who He is, and what’s going on, they get excited.

We need to remember, though, that growth only comes from God.  We can get in the right environment, and we can apply ourselves, but growth, especially spiritual growth, it’s supernatural.  You can’t make it happen.  You can just position yourself where God can do it.  It’s not automatic.  My experience is it is very difficult.  It doesn’t just happen.  There are no magic pills.

And the other thing I’ve realized is that growth can be stymied, thwarted, stagnated, and retarded.  You know, you can take a plant out of the sunshine and put it in a closet.  What happens?  You can take an arm that is growing well and have it injured, put it in a cast, and what happens?  Atrophy.  Some common reasons that I’ve found that growth is stymied is sometimes we just don’t get motivated.  Other times, there’s that initial inertia, we can’t get through it.  For others, there’s no sense of progress.  We get discouraged.  Sometimes there’s just no inspiration.  It just seems like, uh.  For others, we get stuck and we need guidance.  For others, there’s a time of change and we don’t know how to get through that period of change.

I don’t know what it is, but this is what I know.  I know that everyone in this room finds themselves, at some point in time, in some area morally, spiritually, relationally, intellectually, or emotionally where you get stuck, where you get stagnated.  And when you do, and when I do, then that area of your life begins to shrink, but God wants you to grow.

So, here’s my question.  How are you growing today?  How are you growing?  How are you growing in your relationship with God?  How are you growing in your relationship with people?  How are you growing in your family life?  And here’s the question.  Would you like to learn how to break through those barriers of personal stagnation, especially in your relationship with God and people?

I’m gonna give you seven principles from Scripture, there may be 20.  There may be 100.  But as I’ve examined Scripture and lived life, and watched people who grow, it’s obvious that people who grow have at least these seven things in common.

People who grow, number one, live daily with the end in view.   People who are really growing are motivated.  In fact, this principle is the key to motivation.  One of the great problems with believers is some believers think that their goal in life is to get to heaven.  People, that’s not your goal in life!  That’s your destination!  Your goal in life is to become like Christ.  Romans 8:28 says that God takes every situation, every relationship, every hardship, every single thing that comes into your life and He works it together for good to those who are called, to those that He loves.  Why?

Verse 29, not nearly as often quoted, because He is pre-ordained to conform you, to conform me, to the image of His Son.  God’s game plan is to make you like Jesus.  That’s the goal.  In fact, notice Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  You might circle that word “perfect.”  Other translations it says mature.  It means fully grown.  It means ripe.  The Greek word is telios.  And I only tell you that because you get the idea of a telescope or those in philosophy who are familiar with The Teleological Argument.  It’s the idea of something arriving and coming to its full development.

God is saying, Jesus is saying, be ye perfect.  Come, come and become all that God designed you to become.  The Apostle Paul will say that’s, in fact, why the Church is designed.  Ephesians 4:13, he’s gonna say that these relationships in the body are all designed in order to help you and to help me become full grown or mature.  Look at it with me.  It says, “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become,” here’s our word again, same word, “mature.”  Circle that.  “Attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  It’s God’s goal.

And when you live with the end in view, that’s who you want to become.  The question in life when you get up every morning is not, what am I going to do today?  The question in life, everyday when you get up is, who am I gonna become more like today?  When you put that out there, that target on the wall, when you live with that end in view, you know what’ll happen?  You’ll be motivated.  I’m extremely motivated, ‘cuz do you ever reach it?  No, the Apostle Paul, says what?  I attain, I strive, not that I’m already there.  You’ll spend the rest of your life until Jesus comes back or you go meet Him, going after the prize of becoming more like Christ.

The second characteristic of people who grow, is they make a personal commitment to grow.  This is the key to overcoming inertia.  A lot of us don’t grow because we feel stuck.  Newton was right; I think both spiritually and in the Laws of Physics.  A body at rest tends to stay at rest until there’s an action upon it.  And often what we need in growth is not some big thing.  We just need to get moving.  But how do we break that inertia?  I believe the Scripture teaches, and that as I’ve observed people, they make a personal commitment to grow.

Notice that Jesus called for that in Luke 9:23.  He didn’t just teach.  He called for specific commitment to grow, to follow Him.  Verse 23 of Luke 9, “Then He, Jesus, said to them all, if anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Did you hear that?  That means you sign up, I’m wanna grow.  Jesus, I’m gonna follow you.  Take up your cross means you die to your agenda, your goals, what you think is best, and you say I’m signing up, and I want to be on Your game plan.  Notice the reason being--it’s because He loves you not because He wants to keep something good from you.  “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it.  But whoever loses his life for Me will save it.”

Notice His rationale.  “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self.”  See, what God knows is this; is that you’re being bombarded day in and day out in a fallen world, and we all grew up with this baggage and these agendas, and we think if we could make a list of these 25 things that would work out in my life, then we’d be happy.  Seeking our life.  I want to be this, I want to be that.  I want to be this, I want to be that.  I’ve gotta have that, if I only have this.  And what He’s saying is you need to lose that.  Let go.  Because if God, in the next 50 years, gave you everything on your list, you would end up with everything you ever dreamed of and be absolutely an empty shell, and realize your ladder’s against the wrong wall.

But He says by contrast, the paradox of life is if you choose to sign up for what’s on His list, and there may be ones that are very similar, you sign up for what’s on His list and you let go, you will find your life.

You will become all, and beyond what, you ever dreamed of becoming.  ‘Cuz what would it gain for you or for me to have the whole world and yet forfeit, not just your soul spiritually, but notice this translation, it’s a good one, it’s your self.  Notice, it’s a specific point in time the Apostle Paul will write in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales.  Rather, train yourself to be Godly.”

There’s a decision involved.  Train yourself.  Follow me.  “For physical training is of some value, but Godliness has value for all things holding promise both for the present life and the life to come.”  Let me ask you now.  Has there ever been a point in time for all of you since you’ve become a Christian where you have driven a stake in the ground and said I’m gonna grow.  I mean come hell or high-water, come good relationships, bad relationships.  Come good circumstances, bad circumstances, I am going to follow Christ.  It’s kinda like what Joshua said, “As for me and my house…” the whole world can go a different direction, all my friends can go a different direction, but for me and my house, “…we will serve the Lord.”  Have you ever done that?

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  I’ve said it for years.  I’m not ready for that.  I’m not ready for that.  You know what the misbelief is?  The misbelief is that we grow toward commitment.  That’s not true.  The way you grow is you build on commitment.  Now, some of you; many in this room are married, so you said “I do” before a group of people, right?  And you said I’m going to stick with this person come thick or thin.  Now, do you know what the thick and thin is when you signed up for it?  Heck no!  You didn’t know.  In fact, some of you wish you would have known.  But the fact of the matter is you build on that commitment, you don’t build toward it.  You don’t live together for 49 years and say, “You know, honey, I think this won’t work.”  You build on commitment.

How many of us when you had your first child felt like, we’re ready for this.  We’ve got this wired.  You know, it’s like, and then the second one comes and you’re like, eeh.  You know what you do though?  You don’t have what you need, but you’re committed as a parent to making it.  Let me ask you, have you ever done that?  See that’s how you break through that initial inertia.

You make the commitment and say, I’m going to go for broke.  I’m going to follow Christ.  And you think, what about, what about, what about?  He’ll give you, He’ll show you what to do.  But there are people that have spent their whole Christian life waitin’ for when they’re more mature, when they’re really ready.  You’ll wait ‘til Jesus comes and you’ll miss life.

Third, people who grow not only live daily with end in view, and so it’s the key to motivation.  Not only do they make a personal commitment, which is the key to overcoming inertia.  Third, they value process more than event, and that’s the key to progress.  See, what happens is we think growth happens in these huge spurts.  We think that there’s a magic pill, there’s a seminar, there’s a book, there’s a secret teaching, there’s a second experience, there’s something, somewhere, somehow.  There’s an area of the country and if you go visit that area of the country you get holy, and you get powerful, and everything’s gonna change.  You’re dreamin’.  That’s not the way life works.  People who really grow understand it’s the every day nickel and dime, tiny little decisions you make.  It’s the process that produces real growth.

Notice the writing to the Hebrews, written to a group of people that had stopped growing.  They started to grow, they were Jewish Christians, and then the heat turned up.  And there was persecution, and they were moving back into legalism and to the Law.  And the Book of Hebrews is written to this group, say, hey, Christ is superior to the Law.  Christ is superior to the priesthood.  Christ is superior to angels.  Christ is superior to Moses.

He’s saying, hey, get with the program.  It’s grace, baby, there’s a new covenant.  And he writes to this group of people.  Verse 11 is sort of a reproach, a little rebuke.  He says in Chapter 5:11, “We have much to say about this,” talking about spiritual growth, “but it’s hard to explain because you are slow to learn.”  They’re not growing.  “In fact though, by this time you ought to be teachers.  You need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again.”  He goes on to say, “You need milk like babies, not solid food.  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.”  

Now, get the next verse.  Notice how growth occurs and look for the concept of the process.  “But solid food is for the mature” circle it, that’s our word again, telios“solid food, spiritual food is for the mature,” now get this, “who by constant use have trained themselves,” does that sound like a process?  “to distinguish good from evil.  Who by constant use,” not a big event – a little here, a little there, “constant use have trained themselves, the secret to your future is hidden in your daily routines.

Luke 16:10 says, “He that is faithful in a very little thing will be faithful also in much.  He who is unrighteous in a very little thing, is unrighteous also in much.”  You know, people tell me I really want to walk with God.  God doesn’t care about how I drive.  God doesn’t care whether I talk this way or do that.  God doesn’t care about those little decisions.  God doesn’t care about this.  I’ve got news.  God cares about that.  Because if you’re not faithful in little things, if I’m not faithful in little things, why would He entrust you with more?

God wants you to know it’s the very little things, the tiny attitudes with people, the tiny disciplines with Him, the little things.  A decision here, integrity here, relationship here, and you build on ‘em.  One Russian philosopher said, “A man spends the first half of his life building habits and the second half of his life will be determined by the habits he or she builds the first half.”  I’ll tell ya’, the most profound, beyond words, impact in my life in terms of whatever usefulness God has for my life now and in the future, was not a big event, it was not the schools that I’ve been to, it is not any great spiritual awakening.

You know the greatest impact when I look back, if someone said what’s the one thing that has shaped your life, Chip, more than anything else other than people?  I would say it was a bricklayer with a high school education shortly after I became a Christian who came to my dorm room and taught me how to have a daily quiet time.  And I couldn’t get up for the first year or so.  And then the next year I spent 5 – 7, maybe 10 minutes with God every morning before I went off to school, but, the discipline of on a daily basis, not a big deal, not mastering the Bible, not memorizing it all, but on a daily basis reading systematically through the Bible.  Meeting with God before I meet with people.  You know, you are what you eat and it’s true physically, it’s true psychologically, and it’s true spiritually.

And over the past 20, 23, 24 years that I’ve been a believer, I miss a day of course here and there, but it’s kinda, you know, I miss a meal now and then, too, but not many.  And so it’s just become a part of my life and you know what I’ve learned?  Is over the years I just get up and I read the Word, and I ask God, sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes I don’t feel much.  But I say, “God, I want You to speak to me, and I wanna learn who You are.  I wanna draw close to You and I know that You’re more important than the whole world, and the only way I can demonstrate that is stop and be with You first.”

And then I pray through my day.  And then I sit quietly and I ask Him to search my heart, and sometimes jot down some things He makes me aware of.  And for 23, 24 years I’ve just been going through the Book.  You know, there are pressures I’m facing now, and opportunities we’re having as a church.  I would feel overwhelmed, but you know what I know?  I’m going to get up tomorrow, and I’m going to meet with God, and He’s going to show me what to do next.  I don’t have a clue.  There are situations as a parent, you know, my teenagers have been through some hard times.  You know, we’ve had financial struggles, we’ve had marital struggles, we’ve had, I’ve shared most of ‘em.  But you know what the constant has been?  The rudder of my life?  God shows up every morning when I do.  And inch by inch over the years, little by little, that has been the primary shaper of my heart, my life, my values, and my relationships.  It doesn’t happen overnight.