Recently I received a message from a close friend regarding the above question. At first I thought that the question is about our direction in life: “which way are you going”? However on closer look, it is about the way we behave and become. I would like to share this message with you because I am convinced that God has something to say to all of us both young and old. Perhaps our Lord is challenging us to pause and take a good look at our life and see how we are growing in Christ. Are we like the tree of Psalm One: “…planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps.1: 3), or are we being described by others as a ‘dried up old stick’? “Which way are you growing? Some folks grow old gracefully while others become grouchy and ill tempered. It’s important to know which way we are growing. People do not get irritable and short tempered merely because of aging. Aging does not have to make us hypercritical and cranky. No, it’s more likely we have been becoming like that all along. Surer than the autumn’s harvests are the harvests of thought and deed; like those that our hands have planted, the yield will be like the seed. Gal. 6: 7 reminds us, ‘Whatever a man sows, that he will reap.’ The seeds we sow today determine the kind of fruit we’ll reap tomorrow.”
This short message reminded me of a saying I heard long ago. I wrote it down in the back cover of my bible so that I would not forget it: “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Of course it is almost axiomatic that we do not become what we are overnight. It takes decades of daily routine and unconscious habit forming practices that somehow mould us into what we are today. Which way are we growing? Are we growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus? The apostle Peter exhorts us in his epistle that we are to grow constantly in our Christian life by making every effort to supplement to our faith “with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1: 5-8 ESV). In short, the apostle Peter exhorts us to grow to be like Christ. However growing in Christ-likeness takes effort and discipline. Paul puts it like this, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3: 10). He uses the example of an athlete to get across his point. He said, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3: 12-14).
First, Paul warns us not to let our past paralyze us. Don’t hold on to our past. Learn to move on. Second, we are to focus on our present. The goal of an athlete is to cross the finish line and win. It takes focus and strenuous effort to succeed. Finally, we must trust God for our future.
The Christian life is not a hundred meter dash. It is a long marathon race where endurance is a vital key to success. Sometimes as we grow older and tired the race gets tougher especially when we are at the last stretch of the course. A lapse of concentration or a small distraction might cost us dearly. At the end of the day, the important thing is about celebrating our victory not counting our wounds or lamenting our sacrifices. Which way are we growing? Let us follow Paul’s recommendation which is the ‘upward way’ of Christ.
Rev. Mark Tay