October 12, 2018

The Mature Coloring of Autumn

I love the fall – the cooling of the weather, the hot apple cider, the pumpkins and dried corn, college football. Autumn is surely my favorite of the four seasons. And, of course, one of the great gifts of the fall is the changing of the leaves. What a stunning work of God’s artistry are the various hues that He draws from His palette every fall! And what a blessing that He grants the leaves this flourish of beauty in the final stage of their lives.

Perhaps there is a God-given parable built into that last reality. Perhaps we should be reminded, by the changed (yet gorgeous!) autumn leaves, that a similar beauty is meant for us in what has been called ‘the autumn of life’.

It’s not original with me to say that human life has its seasons – the spring of youth, when we grow and blossom; the summer of prime adulthood, when we produce fruit and get a lot work done; the autumn of older age, when certain things begin to slow down, and yet there is still produce to be gathered; and the winter of death.

And isn’t it interesting that the leaves, in the autumn of their lives, are given a flourish of beautiful color? Yes, they have lost some of the strength of spring and summer. But they are also granted a striking splendor in this final season of life!

The autumn of the life of faith can (and should) be much the same. Yes, as we draw near to winter, we are not quite the same as we were in the spring and summer of life. The energy of spring is no more. Some of the productivity of summer is just not possible any longer. But, if we are walking with the Lord, a beautiful autumn hue will also be growing upon our lives – the mature fall coloring of greater patience, a more fully-developed eternal perspective, and an increased dependence upon God in prayer.

Don’t you find these things attractive in mature older saints? Would, of course, that we all would seek much more of them earlier on, as well! But growth in grace is progressive and, as with the leaves, some of its warmest coloring appears later in life.

So whether you are living in the spring, summer, or autumn of life – take a parable from the changing of the leaves this fall. When you notice their changed, yet stunning, appearance, ask God to make you beautiful in your older age, as well; to grant you the autumn hue of increased Christian maturity. Don’t wait, of course, until older age to seek or expect growth in the graces that are sometimes peculiarly attractive in that season of life. But ask Him that in older age, you will indeed be colored with the maturity of autumn.

October 5, 2018

"Speaking the truth in love"

This is one of the ways in which we who are in Christ are to help one another become more like Christ: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). We are to be “speaking the truth in love” to our fellow believers, in other words, so as to help one another “grow”.

And notice two aspects of this calling:

  • we are to engage in “speaking the truth”
  • and we are to do so “in love”

Now, none of us is immune to failure on either of these counts. And so I suppose that all of us sometimes fail at “speaking the truth” when we ought to; and that each of us also fails, at other times, to do so “in love”.

But I also reckon that, by nature, some of us find one aspect of this calling – or the other – more difficult.

Some Christians have the greatest trouble with the “speaking the truth” part. Maybe you are one of them. You are naturally timid. And thus you often find yourself so afraid of difficult or awkward conversations that you pull back from saying things that need to be said. Maybe you are sometimes afraid to address backsliding or sin in a fellow believer’s life. Or perhaps you are prone to shrink from correcting a fellow saint on some faulty way of thinking (v.14) which they are in danger of imbibing.

Other Christians struggle more mightily with the “in love” aspect of the calling. Perhaps you fit into this category. You are fairly assertive by natural disposition. And so, when something needs to be said, you are often quite ready to say it. Perhaps you don’t mind confronting sin, or correcting off-base theology, or tracking down a backslider. And yet you may sometimes be harsh in the way you do so.

But here’s the thing: No matter your natural disposition, you are still called, very plainly, to the task of “speaking the truth in love”! And so am I! A timid disposition doesn’t give us a free pass from “speaking the truth”; and neither is natural assertiveness an excuse for failing to do so “in love”.

And let us note that either sort of failure is a failure to love. We either fail to love by not “speaking the truth” that our brothers and sisters need for spiritual growth, or by speaking it in an unloving way!

Let us not fail one another in these ways, brothers and sisters! Let us, rather, live our lives “speaking the truth in love”.