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We Will GROW – we will not stay the same.

The first essential toward working to finish well. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4.23). Growth comes from the heart. How is your heart growing? How are you growing? Does this ever stop?

I'm glad you're with us to start our study on the seven essentials for finishing well. I hope these sessions will help you understand more of what God wants you to be as you age. We begin our  discussion with the statement you see on the screen: We will grow; we will not stay the same. This is the first essential because I believe that continuing to grow in our aging years is the most important commitment we can make. You’ll also see as we go through this study that growth undergirds every other essential.  

The Scriptures validate the importance of our growth throughout life. The term Jesus used for His followers was “disciple.” This word means “student, learner, pupil,” with Jesus as the Teacher. This reflects the training process He has in mind for His disciples that lasts throughout our lives. In Luke 6.40, Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been carefully trained, will be like his teacher.” There is a training process, a growing process, for every follower of Christ that continues throughout life.


We expect children to learn and grow, but learning generally slows down as we get older—not always because of decreased mental capacity, but because we may feel that we’ve learned all we need to know to get by. But that’s not Jesus’ mindset for His followers. He wants us to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually every year of our lives.  


Let me illustrate this with some key verses. In Philippians 3: verses 12 and 14, the apostle Paul said he was not done serving the Lord, even though he had taken his missionary journeys and had had a lifetime’s worth of service for Christ. Paul was focused on the future, as he explained: “Not that I have already obtained it [the resurrection] or have already become perfect. . . [but] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”


Let’s think about that for a second. Paul was not only in his 60s, but was writing from house arrest in Rome. He didn’t know what awaited him, but he was thinking about what was ahead. There's a kind of desperation you can feel in his mind and heart as he says he wants to press on because he hasn’t arrived yet. In other words, God was not done with Paul yet. As long as he was alive, Paul wanted to keep going, to reach for the prize.


Paul made another strong statement about the importance of continuing to grow in Second Corinthians 4:16: “Therefore [because God is still at work in us] we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” We can grow on the inside even though our bodies are aging. Our need to keep growing does not deny the reality aging takes a toll on us. But God has something wonderful ahead for us if we will keep pressing on—keep learning and growing.


Let me share two more passages of Scripture that I hope will be a great encouragement to you. Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11, verses 29 has become even more meaningful to me as I age. Our Lord said, “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn [mature, grow] from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus calls us to Himself to learn more about how He sustains us and wants us to grow and be the kind of person He wants us to be even in our 70s, 80s, or 90s. Then in verse 30, Jesus added, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” “Yoke” and “burden” speak of work, productive labor that produces a harvest. Jesus calls His followers to keep being productive, whatever particular form that may take in our individual lives.


The great apostle Peter also had an important message for us in Second Peter 3 verse 18, the last verse of his final last epistle—what we could truly say is Peter’s last words: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” As with all of these other passages, and many more, there is no expiration date or time limit on our growth. As Paul said, we never arrive in the sense of not needing to learn or grow anymore. In fact, one of the advantages of living long is that we have more and more years to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.


I trusted Christ as a six-year- old kid, but I feel as if I’m growing and developing more in my 70s than I ever have before. I think this is the value of aging. Howard Hendricks, my beloved former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, said, “Old age is as important and meaningful a part of God’s perfect will as youth. He is interested in both the waxing and waning of life. Just as potential is locked up in young people and often never developed, so the full possibilities of old age often remain dormant and die with a person. The work of God will be greatly enriched when more attention is given to releasing and utilizing hidden this hidden resource.”


This is one reason I began the ministry of Finishing Well. Older people represent the greatest potential resource and labor pool within our churches, though consistently ignored. Our commitment is to mobilize aging people for the kingdom of God—both in their churches and individual lives with their families and friends.

As you look at this graph, I want you to think about what growth means. It means taking advantage of the changes that life brings to learn new things, to understand the value of change, to grow in the understanding of why you're here. Growth in your aging years may mean you have more time to study the Scriptures, and more time to grow in terms of understanding your family and developing your marriage.


Then on the other side of the chart are the barriers to growth as we age. If you’re doing this study as a part of a group, you can get together and come up with your own list of barriers to growth. One barrier is that growing takes some energy. You have to go to school in a sense to keep learning, just like my grandchildren are going to school and learning.


But you might say, “Well, I don't want to go to school anymore. I'm finished. I'm tired. I’ve done my time and now I just want to coast through the rest of my life.” But remember that Paul said he wanted to keep pressing on, even in his 60s and under arrest. That's what I believe God wants us to do in our aging years.


Then at the bottom of the screen you’ll see another barrier: the devil. He doesn't want us to keep growing and maturing as Jesus’ followers. Problems can also keep us from growing. It's hard to work our way through the problems that inevitably come with aging. But we can do it in the strength God provides!

I love this illustration of growth. On the left side of the screen, you see a vineyard with Zinfandel vines that are 130 years old. Can you imagine that? Vines that have been in the ground for 130 years—but look on the right at what they produce. Their fruit is amazing. They say that the best wine comes from aging vines.


But here’s an important point about grapevines, and about growing in our older years. Even though the vines are very old, the growth they produce each year is new growth! The vineyard keeper has to prune away last year’s growth so the new can come. In other words, the fruit on the vine never comes from last year's growth.


What a wonderful picture of our lives! The psalmist said Psalm 92 verse 14 that the righteous “will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green.” That’s important because maturity and wisdom do not come automatically with the years. Those qualities have developed through growing and pruning. If I stop growing, whatever my age, I will start to wilt and be stunted. 


Think about it: your best growth is going to come from the new areas of your life that the Holy Spirit is leading you through as you continually grow Christ. So my prayer for you as you journey through the seven essentials is that you will grow spiritually in this season of life as never before.

NOTE: This text is an edited transcription of the ESSENTIAL ONE: WE WILL GROW video by Dr. Hal Habecker, edited by Philip Rawley.


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