Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV)
Often when I read a passage, like the one above, I almost immediately place myself into one group or the other. Many times the thought is something similar to, “at least I’m not one of those milk people.” The reference to milk catches my attention and triggers a vague memory of another passage which I later locate in Hebrews chapter five.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)
Dull of hearing describes my recent condition. Not a problem of hearing with my ears, but rather a problem hearing with my heart. How did I arrive in my dull of hearing need for milk state? I believe the dullness is a gradual erosion of my heart. Like the Corinthians chasing after and quarreling over Paul and Apollos, I too chase after and quarrel over my leader. But unlike the Corinthians my leaders are many. My leaders include desires to perform acts of service, to improve my fitness and eat better, to complete household tasks, to relax and watch sports, and to read a good book. To catch up on the latest news, to pray more, to spend time with my family, to spend time reading the Bible, to do something more important, to find a better solution, and a desire to do less.
None of these “leaders” is bad in itself, but I allow the totality of these competing desires to weigh me down creating within me a joyless spirit of impatience and frustration. My effort to try to follow all of these leaders causes me to unknowingly take my eyes off of the one true Lord.
I receive a text asking me if I’m willing and able to facilitate a Tuesday morning men’s Bible study in two weeks. My impatient spirit wants to immediately decline this invitation, but I reply back that I need to check my work calendar secretly hoping for a conflict. Seven hours later, out of an obligation to help a friend, I reluctantly agree to facilitate 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. A few days later I’m sitting in Sunday worship, not because I want to be there, but because I feel I need to be there for my family. Hymn after hymn and word after word bounces of off my unhearing heart. I think these specific songs and words don’t really apply to me now and I should be out doing things rather than sitting here. And then Pastor Steven drops the bomb on me when he says, “If the cross itself is not central to everything that you do in life, if Jesus dying on the cross for you doesn’t equate some kind of emotion of thankfulness and gratitude, you need to ask God, God restore to me the joy of my salvation, I need help.”
A shockwave hits me and I feel tears well up in the corners of my eyes. I immediately begin praying: “God restore to me the joy of my salvation, I need help; I believe in the Holy Spirit; God restore to me the joy of my salvation, I need help; help me to hear from the Holy Spirit.”
It was like the proverbial weight had been lifted off of me and I no longer labored under the dullness of hearing. Oddly struggles can increase hope and faith. Hope doesn’t come from understanding why God allows a struggle to occur. Hope doesn’t result from toughing our way through. True hope only comes from the presence of God. God is with us, for us, and in us; even when we do not deserve Him. Now that’s a reason for hope.