I'm about a week away from giving birth to our second child, and it's gotten me thinking a lot about spiritual birth and growth.
You see, as a child of God, when your life is surrendered to Jesus and his way, the Holy Spirit is actively working with you to bring about new life in you--all the time. As you grow in him, he is calling you to give birth to new ways of being Christ's: submitting more to the will of God, growing in the virtues, testing new spiritual muscles, reaching out to people with God's love. We don't become "holy " overnight, even though in God's eyes, washed by the blood of Jesus, we stand justified. It takes time, practice, faithfulness, and plain ol' obedience.
The Christian life is, as Eugene Peterson once ably put it, "a long obedience in the same direction." (Actually Peterson was quoting, of all people, Frederick Nietzsche, who wrote: "The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is. . . that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living." Well said, Fred!)
So what does this have to do with giving birth? Well, just as we can "give birth to sin" as the book of James describes it (James 1:15), we can also give birth to the work that the Holy Spirit has done in us.
What is the Holy Spirit birthing from within you? What new challenge, what new test of faith, what new level of commitment or character is he calling out of you?
It may involve pain, but the pain of labor always fades and pales compared to the new life that comes after delivery.
Is there an area in your life in which you are resisting him? Are you trying to ignore the new thing that he is doing within you? That tactic makes just as much sense as a pregnant woman ignoring her expanding belly, or ignoring the signs of labor and going about her life as if this impending miracle weren't real. We would question her sanity, for sure. It's the same with a believer who resists the labor pains that the Holy Spirit stirs within her.
Spiritual growth, like the labor pains of pregnancy, can involve real suffering and pain, but it's always pain with a purpose. Our Lord does not abandon us even as he calls us forward; our holiness in Him is what he's all about. He is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness, more concerned about our character than our comfort:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:1-5)Let him produce these traits in you. Give birth to what he has planted within you. Nurture the life that stirs within you with regular feeding on the word of God and regular check-ups with fellow believers. The Christian life is not static; it is ever about giving birth and growing.