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No Pain, No Gain?

Early this morning in the kitchen I was commiserating with one of the young people who live with us about aches and pains. Mine were from trying to keep up with my 12 year old in a father-son retreat. His were from a hard workout. As he left he quipped, “No pain, no gain!”

That may be true in physical conditioning. But is it true in spiritual growth? Do we really have to experience pain to grow in Christ? I’m hoping that there is an easier way.

On the one hand there is the passage my 12 year old pointed out to me during our retreat: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). Graham read that and said, “That’s what happened in our family when Ian got sick and died!” (That’s quite an insight from a 12 year old!)

On the other hand there is John 15:2-3. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean (literally “pruned”) because of the word which I have spoken to you.” I believe that Jesus was saying, “You’ve already been pruned by obeying what I told you.”

In other words, we can learn the hard way (trials), or we can learn the easy way (simple obedience). Or, you can learn both ways. So, I’d say that “no pain, no gain” would be an overstatement for spiritual growth.

But how far can we grow without pain? Is pain the graduate course of spiritual growth? Are there things that we really can’t learn without pain? What do you think?

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