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Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.
Galatians 4:19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.4.19.NLT

Paul was a man, but he talks to the Galatians about having labor pains. And he says that he’s having them again for his children. As Mandee and I read this verse for our devotional this morning,  she asked,  “Who is this talking?” And I told her this was Paul in his letter to the Galatians. Her next question was, we’re these his words to them or was he repeating Jesus’s words? She immediately realized, “At first, I was clearly reading this too literally. He is a man,  he can’t have labor pains.”

We then continued digging into what this verse was saying as I prodded her with questions about what it might be saying to us. And Mandee quickly Her that he is now feeling pain because they are not growing and maturing with Christ evident in their lives as Paul wished and she stressed the importance of spiritual growth as opposed to relying only upon a once upon a time yes or no acceptance of salvation.

So I asked,  why do you think that this is the second time that he is feeling pain? And she grasped onto the fact that he had first felt pain for them when they were lost and we’re not saved. Man,  I have to tell you,  it is so amazing to see my wife maturing in the Word of God,  learning to examine the divine instruction handed to us in the Scriptures and to rightly divide the Word of God,  learning to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and discern truth for herself.

You see, I have been blessed with the opportunity to have labor pains for my wife. My life was touched and I was called shortly before she was led to the Lord. And my very heart cried out for her soul because she was not yet seeking the Lord for a short while. But I did not judge her, I did not condemn her. I did not beat her up with scripture. I loved her and prayed for her,  and I made it my focus to be so loving and dedicated to both the Lord and her that she could not deny that my life had been touched. And some time later, she came to know the Lord.

And with the calling upon my life as is upon every Christian man to lead our family in our spiritual growth, I get to continue hoping and caring for both hers and, Mia’s spiritual growth. And it is so beautiful to see it in action, so much so, that it helps me see past their imperfections with a loving heart – not because I’m satisfied with where we are today,  but because I can see and know that He’s working on us,  that we are in the potter’s hands. So even when I see an imperfection, a visible crack on the outside of the cup,  a fault that causes me pain remembering that we are fallen and are not yet a perfect reflection of Christ – I am also encouraged to know that the Holy Spirit is clearly at work on the inside, because the cup is becoming more and more beautiful each day as my wife is drawn closer to the Lord – as our family grows and learns and loves together.

And we see and understand the message of spiritual maturity that Paul is tali about in this verse. It isn’t about knowing the scripture more and being able to review it or talk about it – but it’s about allowing Christ to live through us and in us. It’s not about our perfect attendance record on Sundays at a religious service,  it’s about His perfect attendance in our lives, touching our lives and the lives of those around us as we learn to care for and love others and have genuine concern over their salvation and the state of their spiritual walk with the Lord.

Do you think that Paul would have “labor pains” over people’s salvation if they were just a number to him? If they were just another spiritual notch in his belt of baptisms or raised hands or people who came to the altar to accept Christ? If he saw them as trophies or crowns to be earned for his own honor and glory? No, he had labor passions for these “children” of his because he loved them each. He cared for them as individual souls who have value and purpose and meaning in their lives.

And isn’t this the lesson of spiritual maturity? Not that we learn to practice religion better,  but that we learn to love and care about those lost and in need of salvation and those who are not yet living faithfully and mature in Christ. Not that we learn to exalt and honor one another with empty kisses, but that we learn to love each other enough to encourage each other to press on towards a spiritual maturity that sees past self and loves God and loves one another not just in our words but in deeds and actions.

God is so good. We are not meant to be a child forever. We are each meant to grow. We are each meant to go forth and sow the seed of Jesus Christ into the world. We are each meant to care and love for those around us in need. We are each meant to share the Good News of, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior through the testimony of our lives.

Are you not yet a Child of God, do you not yet know Him as your personal Savior? This isn’t a question of whether you know ABOUT Him,  but do you KNOW Him? If not, then I encourage you to pray with me –

Lord, I have heard your name before, and I have heard about you before, but I’m afraid that I don’t know you. Please,  Lord Jesus Christ, I ask you to come into my life and fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I might know how to love and serve God more by loving and serving others. I repent of my old,  sinful ways,  and ask for your forgiveness and your power to lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. I pray that your Kingdom will be come and your will be done in my life from this day forward – for your honor and glory,  I surrender my life to you. I pray this in your Holy Name,  Amen.

If you know Him,  but are still walking like a child today when you should by now be shortfall mature and teaching and leading and caring for your your brothers and sisters – may you remember the mountain of evidence that the enemy has stacked up against you and the price that was paid to cast that mountain into the sea,  to cast your many sins as far as the east is from the west,  and may you know the grattitude of the whore at the feet of Christ Jesus.

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.  When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.  But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:36-50 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.7.36-50.NLT

Are you sowing seed, Christian? Is your life producing children of God? Are you even feeling any labor pains yet? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit today, or will your life prove barren and fruitless?

I don’t ask these things to shame you,  friend, unless we need to know shame and be humbled to repentance together. I have confidence that you arewalking upright,  friend,  and I only hope to encourage you to find value and purpose in each breath of life,  in every “now” that have available.

May His healing hand drive away any bitterness or unforgiven or sin of any kind that was keeping you separated from the love that He has to be poured out upon your life and spilled out onto those around you. May you know spiritual maturity,  and may these birth pains become familiar to you as well.