Well, I suspect that (and hope that), our first lesson on the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth has taken place. For those who were able to attend, the subject looked at the idea that growth is intentional. John Maxwell writes, “Growth is not an automatic process. If you’re going to grow, you have to grow on purpose.” The noun form of purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or created or which something exists. The point is simple, intentional growth, if it is going to be purposed (verb form meaning to have one’s intention or objective), must have a true purpose behind it.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but
I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1st Corinthians 15:10
As the apostle Paul seeks, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to defend his apostleship and exhort the church in Corinth to grow intentionally, he reflects for a moment on his own journey. He acknowledges that he was “not worthy to be called an apostle” because he “persecuted the church of God” (v9). This reality is vividly seen in Acts 9:1, where Paul (then named Saul), breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Interestingly, Paul’s reflection on his past was not uncommon as he sought to teach others in regard to their personal growth needs (cf. Philippians 3:6; Galatians 1:13, 23; 1st Timothy 1:13). His “come to Jesus moment” was questioned by some of the early disciples, for they “were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). Personal growth is always on display to those around us and some may doubt that change, and with good reason. This caused me to think, “If the purpose for change is to change another’s mind, what happens if that mind never changes?”
Paul makes it clear, the driving force behind his change of direction was the grace of God. By grace, I am talking about God’s favor towards man, with its core being the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It was the gospel of Christ (the power of God, Romans 1:16) that abruptly changed Paul’s direction in life (Acts 9:1-19). Not only that, it was that very same message of hope that opened the doorway for Paul to “preach Him among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:16), of which the church in Corinth is proof. Thus, Paul’s expression, “I labored more abundantly than they all” is not patting himself on the back; but rather, his way of showing others that God is working through him. He knew that where he was in life was because of “the grace of God which was with” him.
For change to be sustained, something has to be a driving force behind every intentional step we take. There are multiple reasons for change, many of them reasonable and worthy of our thoughts. But none can compare to God’s amazing grace, seen through the gift of His Son and the opportunities He gives us each day to grow in His love. Maybe our purpose behind intentional growth can be summed up in these two verses: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17) and “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (2nd Corinthians 5:9). For it is by His grace that I am who I am!