It’s a new year. Time marches on. The world changes. What about us will change? What new level will we go to?
Wherever we are at with God, it’s safe to assume that he wants us to go to another level. He has new horizons for us to view, more to share with us. He wants to partner with us to set people free around the world.
The Bible is full of admonitions that we go to another level:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.” Rev. 3:16
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Heb. 12:1
“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” 1 Cor. 3:2
God wants us to move toward intimacy and away from complacency. The problem is that growth requires work. Few of us like change.
Look at Peter’s example after Jesus died and came back. For three years Jesus had taught Peter and the disciples how to live in the kingdom. Over time, they grew in authority and discernment. But they needed more – they hadn’t arrived yet.
Jesus was particularly interested that his disciples go from being consumers to providers. Being a consumer can be a comfortable place. Learning to provide for others takes work.
Look at the scene at the lake where Jesus spends one last morning with them (John 21). One more time, maybe for old-time sake, he meets their needs. There’s a big catch of fish and he prepares breakfast for them. He feeds them.
Then it’s time for a graduation ceremony. If there was a valedictorian in the class, it might have been Peter. The most gung-ho of the disciples, he’d most recently failed spectacularly when Jesus needed him most.
Peter couldn’t stay in that place of failure – he needed go to another level. For three years Peter had been a consumer, following Jesus around and expecting him to provide. Now it was time for Peter to do the same thing for others. Peter needed to graduate from being a consumer to being a provider. Jesus emphasized this by asking Peter three times to “Feed my sheep.”
Many of us need to graduate in this same way. If Jesus were to walk into your home and cook you breakfast and review your life, would he see you as a consumer or a provider? Would he encourage you to feed his sheep as he did Peter?
1. Four Levels
It helps to understand the level you’re at and what lies ahead. How do you know what level you’re at and what level God wants you to go to?
One way is to evaluate who you give life to and who they in turn help. Paul identified four different levels of growth for Timothy: “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2
Look at the four levels in this verse:
- Level 4: Paul (his job is to cast vision for Timothy and to share stuff worth repeating)
- Level 3: Timothy (his job is to find reliable people who have what it takes to keep imparting)
- Level 2: Reliable, qualified people (their job is to teach others)
- Level 1: Others (repeat the cycle)
2. We grow by feeding others
So how do we actually go from one level to another? By doing what Jesus asked Peter to do: Feed his sheep. Paul said as much: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” Hebrews 5:12
Initially we are fed, then we become self-feeding, then we feed others. We feed sheep by tending their hearts – helping them process life, encouraging them and challenging them.
3. Look for reliable people to pour into
If you’re ready to grow in the new year, to go to another level, a good place to start is to identify your current level. Does anyone look to you for regular encouragement? Are you feeding sheep? Do they in turn do the same thing for others? Can you count on them to be good stewards of what you impart to them – are they reliable?
If you’re like Paul, you’ve been walking this out for a while now. You have Timothys who you are helping to grow. You feel responsible for them. And learning from you, they know that part of their life involves pouring into others and encouraging them in their growth.
Or, perhaps you’re more like Timothy. You’ve been at this for a few years. You are ready to pour into reliable people and to become a life source for others.
Or maybe you’ve been a spiritual consumer for a while now. Maybe church doesn’t meet your needs and you’re looking for more. If so, consider the possibility that God may want you to move up to another level, finding those whom you can encourage and help grow.
No better time to do it than in this new year. Let me encourage you to respond to God’s call to go to another level.