Ever swam in a pool with a shallow end and a deep end? These are wonderful, because they’re accessible to nearly everybody. If a pool is eight feet deep throughout, then it’s only usable by strong swimmers and people who are eight-and-a-half feet tall. If you’re at that pool, you don’t drop your toddler in, because it’s a literal sink or swim scenario. But if the pool has progressive depths, you can take a toddler or untrained swimmer into the two-foot section without major concerns. But as we grow in size and ability, we have the opportunity to scoot out to deeper waters. With skill and size, we can experience the four or the six or even the eight-foot section of the pool.
Not everyone makes the leap, in size or ability, to spend their time in the deep end; however, most do eventually make it out of the shallow. Our faith should be like that. We can live in the comfortable, shallow end, or we can pursue genuine growth. The author of Hebrews didn’t make any swimming pool analogies, but he did have this to say about our expected spiritual development:
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
I am thankful for everyone who has placed their faith in Christ. I look forward to gathering in Heaven with folks of differing spiritual depths. I’ve often ended messages and lessons by telling people, “The most important decision you’ll ever make in your life is what you’re going to do about Jesus Christ.” I believe that, but the scripture teaches that we should grow and mature beyond that simple decision. Just as a child moves on from merely drinking milk to dining on burgers and hot dogs (or sushi if you’re into that sort of thing), God desires that we move on from the mere basics of faith to an intelligent and wise walk with God.
Let’s be honest – if you know how to swim, you have someone to thank for it. Your someone ventured out of the shallow end of the pool before you. Knowing that God loves me and Christ died for me is the perfect entry point. We all start there when we turn to Christ for salvation. But we ought to eventually know God and live faith on a deeper level than that. Where we enter the water isn’t where we’re meant to stay. God wants us to progress from the shallow end, learn to trust Him, and even pass along our knowledge to others.
Teacher is a scary word for a lot of people. If you’re thinking, “I’m no swim instructor! Some days, I’m barely treading water myself!” – that’s fine. I’m in no way claiming to live in the deep end. Most days, I’m a big honkin’ mess! But I also know that nobody else has my exact experience of God working in their life, so the ways that I’ve learned to rely on God may be beneficial to someone else.
I also know that not all teaching occurs in a structured setting. I have learned much in my faith journey from observing those who have swam in the deep end of the pool. Those who have truly lived by faith are different. They don’t shake, scare, or anger easily. They thank God for what they’re going through because they know what they’ve been through. I’ve seen people raise their hands in praise to God when their bodies were too weak to raise their head off a pillow.
Teaching doesn’t always involve preparing a lesson or leading a Sunday school or small group. Sometimes, we teach by living lives through the week that are consistent with our Sunday praise. Sometimes, we teach by encouraging and building up others. Other times, we teach by preparing a Sunday school lesson or leading a small group (if God is dealing with you about something along those lines, I surely ain’t letting you off the hook!).
Regardless of how it shows through your life, grow. Get out of the shallow end! Shallow-end faith won’t comfort you when life is a struggle. Shallow-end faith won’t ease the worries of your mind. Shallow-end faith doesn’t reveal the purpose God has for your life. Read your Bible so you can see how God has worked in the lives of others and then trust Him to work in your own. Surround yourself with other believers who want to strengthen and grow their faith with you. Invest in yourself by spending time listening to people who have spent time with God in the deep end of the pool. If you’re just soaking your feet in the shallow, I’m glad you’ve come to the pool. But there is so much more for you in the deeper waters of God!