One of my favourite places in Hamilton, Ontario is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. I’ve lived in Hamilton twice, once as a seminary student and then later as a pastor. During both stints, I made multiple visits to the CWHM – I love the place. If you should ever happen to visit, at the front you’ll see a beautiful plane going nowhere fast.
It’s a Canadian-built CF-104 Starfighter. It’s mounted on a pedestal and headed skyward. During the Cold War this pointy jet was flying at supersonic speeds over northern Alberta and West Germany, but now it’s looking good but going nowhere fast. It’s what we call a static display. “Static” means it’s going nowhere.
The Warplane Heritage Museum is unique because it not only includes static displays like the CF-104, but also vintage aircraft maintained in flying condition. The most famous of these is the World War 2 Avro Lancaster. It’s not a fast plane: cruising speed is a measly 210 mph. A few years ago, the old bomber made a trip to the UK. On the way back, it left on a Tuesday morning and arrived back in Hamilton on Sunday. They didn’t fly the entire time – there were weather delays and such things as they crossed the North Atlantic. The Lancaster has never been known for its speed. Yet, compared to the Starfighter out front, it’ll still get you from point A to point B.
Now which of these do you suppose would be a good illustration of the life of a Christian? Does God want the life of a Christian to look like the Starfighter on static display? Does he want our lives just to look good, but actually go nowhere? Or is God’s purpose and plan for us to look more like the Lancaster? Perhaps not the prettiest plane in the hangar, perhaps not the fastest, but at least it moves. Does God just desire the status quo for us? Does he want us to reach a plateau and then stall there? Or is it his will that we continue moving forward, even if it is at a glacial pace?
Consider these Bible passages:
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 3:18
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” Eph. 4:15
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation…” 1 Pet. 2:2
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” 2 Thess. 1:3
Clearly growth is, in fact, God’s will for us.
While some of those passages speak about growing in faith (i.e. trust), the thrust of most them is directed towards sanctification. Sanctification, I remind you, is the process by which we grow to reflect the image of Christ. It’s the process of growing in holiness according to God’s will. The key word in that definition is growing. Growing is never a static thing – it involves movement, progress, development. This spiritual growth we call sanctification is God’s will for Christians who’ve been bought with the blood of Christ. It’s his plan that we be moving forward. It’s sometimes slow and oftentimes not a pretty sight. It’s a whole lot more like the Lancaster than it is like the Starfighter.
The big question then becomes: how do we keep on growing? In brief, it starts with these four elements: communicating with God in prayer, delighting in God’s Word, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and enjoying fellowship with other believers. Pursue those things and you’ll find yourself growing. However, neglect just one of those and your spiritual life will begin to lose steam.
Here’s where the Lancaster/Starfighter illustration breaks down. The opposite of a growing Christian is not really a stagnant Christian. You’re either growing or you’re backsliding. In reality, there’s always movement one direction or another. Which is it for you at this moment?