– Akin Akinrinmade
Galatians 4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.
Ask any mother about child birth and they will describe to you two very different experiences ensconced within the same event. The one is the excruciating pain of labour and the second is the indescribable joy of bringing a new life into the world. These two experiences encompass the same event but could not be farther from each other as they are. No matter how joyful the new mother is about holding her brand new bundle of joy, she does not want go through the pain she just went through again. In the same vein, no matter how painful or difficult labour was, most women are still glad to have their children. As a medical doctor, who has oft witnessed these two extremes (pain and joy) in the delivery room, I am baffled by this conundrum.
It is the same sentiments that the Apostle Paul shared in the passage above. Paul was saying in effect, though it was excruciatingly painful to give birth to you in the first instance (the circumstances through which Paul spread the Gospel was one of pain, persecution, near death experiences, beatings and the like), I am doing it all over again.
That’s just crazy. Why would someone want to push through limits of agony, have an episiotomy (a cut on the birth canal made using a scissors in other to widen the birth tract and facilitate the delivery of the baby’s head), go through hours of unrelenting painful contractions and other such torture? Women have been known to
roll on the floor, wail and gnash their teeth, contort their faces in sheer agony, and other such expressions in response to inconceivable pain. Why would one go through this again for a child that is already born? The scriptures tell us in six beautiful words:
TILL CHRIST BE FORMED IN YOU!
The formation of Christ in the believer is considered so precious by the Apostle that he would be willing to go through the gory, bloody mess of labour pains again. That must be something. This formation business must be a big deal. In fact, it is THE BIG DEAL. The very essence, the very purpose, the very reason why the entire ministry exists is for this very reason.
Ephesians 4 (Berean Study Bible)
11 And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
As you can see, this “being formed” business is pretty central to our Christian existence. The singular purpose of every church, ministry, conference, seminar, building project, or whatever else done in the name of ministry should bear the same birth pangs that Paul describes, the same passion, the same love that will cause a
mother to push through till the baby is born despite the agony, the same singular purpose: to bring people to the maturity, to the full
measure of the stature of Christ. This is what is known as “spiritual formation”.
The primacy of spiritual growth is paramount in the life of every believer. We must be transformed, refined, and sharpened if we’re going to break from old, wicked patterns and grow in grace and godliness. The Christian life is an unending one inner journey toward Christlikeness.[/blockquote]2 Corinthians 3 (International Standard Version)
18 As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are becoming more like him with ever-increasing glory by the Lord’s Spirit.[/blockquote]
I have often heard believers who though they mean well, yet ignorantly opine that “me I just want to make heaven”, others spend their time engaged in one thing or the other, maybe chasing or performing miracles, concerned about prosperity and other such things. These may not be wrong in themselves, but the Bible says
to us, our one pre occupation, our prime purpose, our ad summum is that we become mature, that we become like the full measure of Christ, that Christ be formed in us. Now that is a very big deal.
This will be our journey this week. The subject of our spiritual formation.
Dr. Akinyemi Akinrinmade is a graduate of Rhema Bible Training Center in South Africa and an instructor in Rhema Nigeria. He leads Energeo: a ministry with expressions in media, events, publishing, church planting, training and ministry advisory. He is a medical doctor by training and is married to Dr Zizikazi. They reside in South Africa from where he itineraries.