We are making our way through the book of James at Calvary. James is one of those guys that I want to hang out with in heaven. First I want to ask him what it was like to be the brother of Jesus. But then I just want to listen to him talk about life, I’m pretty sure that even though it would be heaven — I would learn a lot and grow even more. He tells it like it is and does so with a heart that wants us to grow.
If you read through James, you will find that one of the passions of his heart is community — living in community. In fact I think James would say, “No community — no growth.” There are all sorts of reasons… why we need community if we want to grow… for example it’s very easy for me to sit alone and convince myself that I’m a pretty humble guy. But when I get in a group and hear someone else receiving the praise — I hear this little voice inside me that struggles with humility.
All alone, I can convince myself of all the goodness in my heart, but when I commit to community… sooner or later in community, we get to the sin issues.
Can I tell you another reason why authentic community leads to growth? Because one of God’s greatest tools for growth is pain and suffering, right? The phrase, “No Pain, No Gain” is true in spiritual growth as well as physical. In Romans 5, Paul lays out the process of growth, tribulation produces perseverance and perseverance produces character.
You’re thinking… What does pain and suffering have to do with community? Oh come on… one of God’s greatest tools for pain and suffering is…people! The people in your life are going to help you grow by making you suffer, or at least by making you a little uncomfortable.
Some of you are nodding as you read. In everyone’s life there is somebody who is just a little off. They are heavenly sandpaper. Rick Warren calls them EGR’s.. extra-grace-required. Somebody (an egr) is probably coming to your mind at this moment — and if nobody is coming to your mind, you might be coming to someone else’s! :)
But the real truth is…when we get deep into community, we find that we are all egr’s. And that’s okay because it’s part of God’s plan for us to grow. Authentic Community leads to growth and God’s Plan A for growth is people. Can’t do it on your own. Can’t walk the path God has laid out for us on our own. We have to do it together. I grew up thinking that when it came to heart change, when it came to becoming more like Jesus, the ideal way for that to happen was for God to supernaturally zap me. “Okay God, I’m ready…here I am…zap my heart…change me…all at once…supernaturally…” I grew up thinking that was God’s Plan A. But the longer I live and the more I study the Bible, the more I realize that God’s Plan A is to use people…You won’t grow on your own…and when God uses people in your life to help you grow it’s not because he doesn’t have time for you, it’s because that’s the best way.
As Henry Cloud writes in his book How People Grow,
I was waiting for God to give me his grace through supernatural zapping; he was giving it to me through his people. I was waiting for him to speak to me directly; he was speaking through his people. I was waiting for him to give me direction in life; he was the strength behind the direction people were giving me.
Who are God’s Plan A people for you?