Just one more thing: Do you have it made?
I just heard the saddest news a person could hear. Three families my wife and I were very close to have all died.
We labored together, we suffered trials together, we bore children together, we laughed together for 20 years. We had one thing in common — we were all members of God's Church. But now, they have been disfellowshipped.
I tried to analyze what brought about our friends tragic demises. Did they underestimate the enemy? Did they not recognize Satan's constant attempts to divide and conquer? Were they unaware of his ongoing efforts to destroy God's fledgling, Spirit-begotten Family? Perhaps they failed to realize that they were facing the greatest battle a human can wage.
Maybe they didn't know where the battle was being fought — that it was right there in their minds. Day after day they should have been fighting and winning those battles — consistently saying no to self, the world and Satan, and yes to God.
We receive a small amount of God's Spirit at baptism, but we are supposed to grow in grace and knowledge. We do not have it made. The Holy Spirit must be exercised daily.
Did our friends not understand how God's Spirit works? Were they sitting back, year after year, waiting for some kind of special inspiration, for God's Spirit to move them in some mystical way? Did they not expect to be beset with every kind of physical and spiritual struggle imaginable? Were they not aware of Satan's devices, or of what conversion means — change? Receiving the Holy Spirit at baptism is not the end — it is only the beginning.
When you first plant a seed in your garden, it would be ludicrous to invite friends over to look at beautiful flowers or vegetables there aren't any yet. The seed must germinate. The first buds must poke their heads out of the soil. You need to water and fertilize the plant and make sure the dirt around it is loose. In the case of fruit trees or some types of flowers, it may take years before any fruits or blossoms are produced. But only then has the purpose for which you planted the seed been realized.
It is the same way with conversion. God places His Holy Spirit within us to begin the process of our spiritual growth toward His Kingdom. But much must yet happen. We need to be fed with the food of God's Word. We must properly adapt to the hostile environment around us. We must exercise our spiritual muscles and become stronger.
God will chasten and test us prune us, if you please — to further our spiritual growth until we have the quality of spiritual character He desires. Only when we have attained "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13) will we have won our struggle to qualify. We can then be spiritually born into God's Family.
Every Christian needs to understand this process of conversion, and that's what it is — a continuing process, We are to stir up the Spirit — use it to grow — exercise godly character. Otherwise we, you and I, are prone to suffer the tragedy that creates for our brethren "the saddest news a person could hear" — the tragedy of spiritual death.
Follow-up: Just one more thing: Note of encouragement