Spiritual Growth Isn’t Manufactured at Chick-fil-A
I love Chick-fil-A. A lot. In fact, sometimes I think it should be illegal for someone to love a fast food as much as I love Chick-fil-A.
But why is Chick-fil-A so amazing? Is it just the waffle fries? Is it the sweet tea? The Chick-fil-A sauce? Or perhaps it’s the friendly staff, making you feel like you’re the first customer they’ve served all day as they hand you your tray with an enthusiastic, “My pleasure!”
I love all these things about Chick-fil-A. But I think the real reason I love Chick-fil-A goes deeper. I think I love Chick-fil-A because it always meets my high expectations. It’s reliable, it’s quick, and it’s high quality. I rarely have to wait more than seven minutes to get my food, and if any of the staff make a mistake with my order, they make it up so well that I’m actually thankful there was a mistake!
Great customer service, high quality product—these are elements of smart business management. Chick-fil-A knows this. They know how to make the whole Chick-fil-A experience enjoyable by placing the customer at the center. As long as the customer’s wants are satisfied, as long as the lines move quickly and the food is hot, Chick-fil-A has been successful, and the customers keep coming back.
At the risk of sounding irreverent, something I’m learning is that God doesn’t use Chick-fil-A’s business model. Quick results aren’t God’s focus when it comes to personal spiritual growth in the lives of His children.
I mentioned my school’s Bible Conference in last week’s post. This is a time each year when classes are canceled for a few days, guests come to campus, and students receive sound biblical preaching three times a day. I’ve always viewed Bible Conference as an opportunity to take a break from school and spend more time with God. It’s a time of careful introspection and spiritual renewal.
I come to these weeks with a list of things I want God to do in my life. Whatever my struggles have been that year, whatever decisions I need to make, and whatever spiritual growth I feel like I need, I come into Bible Conference week expecting God to make those changes, to give me a fresh perspective, and to correct me where I’ve been wrong. I expect the process to be as quick, as painless, and as effective as possible.
It’s almost like the way I approach Chick-fil-A. I know what I want, I know how to get it, I know how long it will take, and I know the quality will be good. I expect to have my food in less than seven minutes, and I expect the waffle fries to be hot and fresh.
Those expectations may work for a fast food restaurant—but they don’t work well for God. As much as I would like to hand God my personalized order for what I think I want and need, the items on my list probably don’t match the items on God’s list for me. The changes I want and the plans that God actually has for me may be two completely different things.
And as much as I would like for God to take one week—like the week of Bible Conference—to make the changes I need, His timetable is much different than mine.
Spiritual growth takes time. It takes days, weeks, and months of faithfully pursuing God and yielding to His Holy Spirit. It takes hours spent in Bible reading and prayer. It takes waiting on God and on His timing, knowing that He has a plan for the waiting and a plan for the finished product. We can trust Him as we wait because He knows what the finished product will look like, and we don’t.
My own spiritual growth isn’t even about me—and it never has been. Unlike Chick-fil-A where the customer is the center of attention, in the process of spiritual growth, God is at the center. God works in our hearts and lives because doing so will bring Him the most glory.
He delights to take broken people and transform them for the sake of His own name. While we shouldn’t minimize His love for each one of us, and while we shouldn’t minimize that we do receive tremendous benefits from His work in us, we do need to understand that God chooses to make us more like Him for His own sake.
I have the right mindset toward my spiritual growth when God’s highest goal is also mine. When my goal is to bring God the most glory, then I’ll start to see the long, slow process of growth as being necessary and good. I’ll start to view waiting as being valuable because what I’m waiting for—conformity to the image of Jesus Christ—is completely worth it.
And finally, I’ll start to pursue a deeper and more intimate knowledge of God each day. Growth doesn’t take place in isolated days and weeks throughout the year. Spiritual growth takes place through a consistent, aggressive pursuit of God.
So when I look at my list of changes that I think I need, instead of expecting those changes to happen overnight, or during a week of Bible Conference, I’m going to consider how God might be using the ordinary days of my life, stretched out over a longer period of time, to draw me ever nearer to Himself.