Climates for Spiritual Growth (6/29/14)

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Sermons | 0 comments

The sermon on June 29 was given by Larry Bakely, our church’s lay leader.  The message was entitled, “Climates for Spiritual Growth,” and the scripture was the entire first chapter of the book of 1 Samuel.
Click Here to read the story of Samuel’s birth, as told in 1 Samuel 1…

The Challange…

In the April edition of the conference newspaper (“The Methodist Relay”) Bishop John Schol wrote an article on Church Vitality.  In his article, the bishop related the truth that many of us have seen first hand.  In the 20th century, people just came to church.  It was expected.  Stores were closed.  There were  no sports or other activities scheduled.  People worshiped God on Sunday mornings.  It wasn’t a question of “do you go to church?”, but rather “which church do you go to?”

And so we kind of gave up on the idea of reaching out to the community to encourage people to come to church and to join with us in “attending to the public worship of God.”  As a result, people are now “worshiping” on soccer fields, in gyms, in malls or in restaurants.  God has to compete for attention on Sundays with a lot of other activities.

Building on our Purpose Statement…

Our church’s purpose statement is printed in our bulletin.  And, there’s even a sign in our narthex to remind everyone of why we’re here.  Here’s our church’s purpose statement…

That every person know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

That we create a climate where spiritual growth occurs,

So that God’s will to save the lost is accomplished.

Glory To God!

Other than “Glory to God” which is the bottom-line key phrase in the statement, the central line of our purpose is, “That we create a climate where spiritual growth occurs.”  Could it be that for too long we have associated that “climate” solely with the activities that happen within our own walls?  What about the people who remain “outside of our walls?”  We need to go outside of our church and build  “ClimateS” where the people are.  So what is a “Climate where spiritual growth occurs”?  What’s it look like?


Ingredients for a Climate where Spiritual Growth Occurs…

The message used the example of 1 Samuel 1 to identify five elements of a climate for spiritual growth…

1:  Intertwined with the Word of God

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Check out the context of our passage (all quotes are from the NIV version of the Bible)…

  • Judges 21:25  In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
  • 1 Samuel 3:1 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
  • 1 Samuel 3:19-21 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground.   And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.   The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

God appointed Samuel to be the first of many prophets who speak the Word of the Lord to the kings of Israel.  But check out these verses:

  • John 1:1-2, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 16:12-15 12 “I [Jesus speaking] have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

There’s a progression here.  Jesus (The Word of God) announced that the Holy Spirit would come into each of us and make the Word (or Truth) available to us.  Like Samuel, we can’t let any of God’s words “fall to the ground.”

A Climate where Spiritual growth occurs must always be connected to God’s Word.  This means we need to study and reflect on the Bible.  We need to share with fellow Christians.  We need to be in constant prayer.

2:  Values the People of God

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The husband, Elkanah loved his wife Hannah even though she couldn’t “deliver” and give him a son.  Likely because of this he went ahead and married Peninnah, and Peninnah bore him several sons and daughters.  But Elkanah gives Hannah a “double portion” of the sacrificial meat.  He constantly re-affirms his love for Hannah.

And yet, it’s very hard for Hannah.  She feels like a failure, or a “worthless women” as she says to the priest Eli in verse 16.  When Eli saw her at the altar his initial reaction was that she is drunk.  If you read the next couple of chapters you’ll see that Eli probably encountered a lot of drunks and other people who “didn’t belong” in the house of God.

But Eli lets go of that judgment and says (verse 17), “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.”

A common reason people give for not coming to church is that they’re afraid “the roof will fall down on me.”  Humorous, but many are afraid of being judged.  They’re afraid of being in a climate that somehow says “you don’t belong here… you’re not good enough.”

But God works in each of us in different ways; we don’t know the whole story of what He’s up to in someone’s life.  So, like Eli, we need to step back and let go of the temptation to judge.  And like Elkanah, we need to love God’s people even in “sickness and in health.”  

3:  Honors the Glory of God

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Peninnah constantly razzed Hannah about her inability to give birth; “the Lord had closed her womb.”  Why does the bible specifically connect this with the yearly trips they made to Shilo to worship God?  Could it be that she is judging Hannah’s faith?

“Hey- God closed your womb. Why do you keep praying to Him?

Do you think He cares? Do you really think He even hears you?

Get used to it Hannah; you’re worthless and so is your so-called faith!”

But God DOES care.  Take a look at Hannah’s prayer at the beginning of chapter 2.  God is faithful!  He hears not only Hannah,  but also us!  We can witness to His faithfulness with our experiences.  And because of our knowledge of God, we are constantly in awe of Him and we do what we can to honor God’s glory.

Our climates honor God’s glory; that’s why our sanctuary is filled with things like stained glass windows, altar rails, and vaulted ceilings.  Climates for spiritual growth witness to God’s greatness and His love and faithfulness to those who call on Him. 

4:  Is filled with Passionate Prayer

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“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord…”  No wonder we pray like that to put us to sleep!  Speaking to the Creator of the Universe is an awesome privilege!

Our climates for spiritual growth must be filled with honest, passionate prayer; prayer that expects God to hear and answer.

Hannah “poured out her soul before the Lord.”  She was so moved and into her prayer that it looked like she was drunk.

Our climates for spiritual growth must also be bathed in prayer.  We need to encourage eachother to constantly look to God.  To be totally open and to expect God to answer.

5:  Shows Integrity and Commitment to God

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So Hannah finally had her baby.  This nagging thorn is gone; she had provided her husband with an heir.  But before this happened, she made this “little promise” to God that she would give up her son to be in continual service to God.  She promised to leave her son with the priest at Shilo so he could minister before God for his  entire life.

But now she’s got her baby.  She’s raising this little boy.

It must have been tempting to forget about that little promise…

  •  Maybe it was a coincidence that Samuel came along after that prayer I gave when we were in Shilo…
  • How’s God going to use my little Samuel anyway?  What can he do?
  • Ya know, a child  belongs  with his mother; God probably wants me to keep him here with me…

And yet, the last verse in this chapter says, “She left him there for the Lord.”

What can WE do?

A climate for spiritual growth is one where we are committed to God in all things.  We fan eachother’s faith with our own integrity.  We’re not hypocrites, or actors going through the motion.  We’re truly devoted to God and ready to serve Him at any minute.  


The challenge before the church is to go out into the community and build “climates where spiritual growth occurs.”  We need to meet people where they are, to recognize their needs and to make a difference in the places where we live.   Our goal is to speak up for God and show what God means to us through our words, actions, love, and integrity.

Glory to God!

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