Maturity Requires Patience

In warm, tropical areas of the earth, a caterpillar might emerge from the egg just two days after it was placed on the host plant, but in the colder, northern parts of the world, such as in the Arctic regions, it takes longer. The variations of time often have to do with the temperature. But if it survives, whether a caterpillar was in the egg 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months, the end result is the same. A voraciously hungry caterpillar bites and claws its way out and starts eating whatever suitable vegetation it can find so it can build up the bulk and stamina it’s going to need later on.

There’s an important lesson here for Butterfly Believers who live in an era of instant gratification. When we want something, we usually want it right now. But spiritual growth takes time. Personal maturity requires many years. Building a lasting relationship, whether with another person or with God, doesn’t happen instantly. So we have to be patient, persistent, and faithful.

Every college football player has the dream of getting into the NFL and being a smashing success right from the beginning of the rookie year: starting every game, being in the playoffs, winning the championship, making big money, receiving the MVP trophy, everything. The reality is that it takes most players several years to reach their peak. After years of working hard, maybe with a couple of injuries and failures, they finally get to the place of consistent, high-level performance . . . if they last long enough in the league.

The same is true in our walk with the Lord. We have high hopes. We want to be mature and spiritually deep. We feel an urgency to participate in ministry. But the sometimes-painful truth is that we might not be ready for that yet, which is why James said Not many of you should become teachers (James 3:1) and Paul wrote that a leader in the Kingdom of God must not be a recent convert (1 Timothy 3:6).

There’s another reason for being patient. When we try to rush the process, we tend to set ourselves up for failure or disillusionment, and this can be devastating, leading many to drop out of church or give up the faith entirely.

In the same way caterpillars have to be patient and hatch at the right time, and just like athletes have to develop skills over time and earn a starting spot on the team, Butterfly Believers will focus on the Lord, allow spiritually mature brothers and sisters to provide discipleship and mentoring, not pretend to be more mature than they really are, and not try to take on leadership responsibilities too soon.

The above is an excerpt from Butterfly Believers, one of several books that may be perfect for individual reading or group discussion. My wife (Linda) put together this jigsaw puzzle that shows a variety of mature butterflies.

Show Me the Money

Some men tried to set a trap for Jesus one day by asking him a trick question. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? They expected a simple yes/no, either/or answer that would force him into a corner and get him into trouble with either the Roman authorities or the Jewish leaders. It would be a win/win for them and a lose/lose for him. But as he often did, Jesus had an interesting reply . . . Show Me the Money!

“Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a denarius.

“Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.

“Caesar’s,” they said to Him.

Then He said to them,

“Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,

and to God the things that are God’s”

(Matthew 22:19-22).

In answering their question, Jesus avoided the obvious either/or, and totally reframed the dilemma. In the eternal scheme of things, it doesn’t matter who you pay taxes to. The real issue is whose likeness is on the coin and whose picture is on you as a person because the image shows the identity of the owner. Since Caesar’s picture is on the denarius, go ahead and return it to him. It belongs to him. Likewise, because God’s image is on you, he claims ownership of your life, so give back to the Lord what is rightfully his. You belong to him.

Jesus’s reply turned the tables on them because they were the spiritual leaders who were supposed to understand the scriptures. They were the ones who claimed to have the image of God. Yet in reality, they were far from God.

Give back to Caesar what already belongs to him,

and give back to the Lord what already belongs to him.

An adult insect is officially called an imago, which means image or picture. This is the stage the butterfly looks its best, is fully developed, and fulfills its purpose. This is the stage that has captured the imagination of people around the world since the beginning of history. And this is where our discussion of the butterfly life cycle comes to a crescendo.

The butterfly is a wonderful analogy of the spiritual growth among Christians because metamorphosis means transformation, and the gradual changes from one stage to the next are so appropriate for a discussion of the changes that take place in our lives. But another fantastic part of the story is that the mature or perfect form of the adult butterfly is called an imago. This is a powerful reminder that every Butterfly Believer was fashioned in the Image of God. Theologians refer to this by using the Latin phrase, Imago Dei.

His image, his likeness, his stamp of ownership is indelibly printed on our soul, our very being, and we have chosen to give ourselves back to him. This is what we were created for. This is our reason for being. This is what empowers us to reach our highest level of existence. This is what we were designed for.

No matter who you are, where you are from, whether you are male or female, or what you look like, you are made in the Image of God and there’s nobody in the world more important or more valuable than you. You are free to be yourself, free to pursue your dreams, free to express yourself, and free to fly. And in that freedom, you can liberate others to do the same. You are a Butterfly Believer. And you are beautiful.

This is an excerpt from Paul Linzey’s book, Butterfly Believers, which is available on this website and on Amazon. It is perfect for home group or Bible study discussion or for personal devotional reading.

Make It to the Next Level

Even though butterfly eggs are glued securely to the plant, they are quite vulnerable. If the weather is too cold or too dry, they won’t survive. They are often eaten by birds, snails, spiders, other insects, and reptiles. Grazing animals sometimes eat the leaves the eggs were laid on.

One of the worst problems is that microscopic wasps get into the butterfly eggs and eat the yolk.  Sometimes, the eggs are laid never having been fertilized. When this happens, the eggs will dry out and rot. As you can see, there are many dangers awaiting the butterfly eggs, which is why the vast majority will not survive and make it to the next stage. Who knew?

But butterfly eggs aren’t the only creatures whose survival is in jeopardy. Baby Christians will also experience perilous times. Peter tells us to Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul writes in his letter to Timothy that many will fall into temptations and traps that plunge people into ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 4:12). Perhaps the Lord himself described it best in his Parable of the Sower and the Seed.

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 13:1-23).

In the same way that butterfly eggs have a tough time making it to the next level, Butterfly Believers also have a tough time surviving temptations, distractions, the devil, the cares and concerns of life, deception, lack of depth, or having no roots. St. Paul would add false teachers and persecution to the list. Hebrews would suggest that there are sins that entangle us and may jeopardize our walk with the Lord.

On the other hand, there is a purpose in our struggles. James reminds us to Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

Mature and complete. Not lacking anything. Strong enough to endure whatever we face. That’s what the Lord has in mind for us. He has given us his spirit for strength, guidance, and inspiration. He also places people in our lives to encourage and mentor us. We have what it takes to make it. No wonder James can tell us to be joyful. But we still have to go through the storms and struggles.

This is what the people of God experienced during the tough days after they returned from the Babylonian captivity and started rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They faced all sorts of difficulties. Yet, Nehemiah could stand up and proclaim to the people, The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And he was right.

This is an excerpt from the book, Butterfly Believers, available on this website or from Amazon. The book is perfect for a personal 40-day devotional, but also an excellent resource for a class or home group discussion. A lot of people have given it as a gift. The photo below was taken and graciously provided by Don Biadog, a retired Navy chaplain.

Baby Steps

Whenever I take on a new activity, start playing a new game, or dig into researching a new topic, my natural desire is that I want to be good at it immediately. This is true whether playing Settlers of Catan the first time, taking trumpet lessons as a kid, or deciding later in life to get into table tennis. The problem is that learning any new skill, art, or subject matter takes time, even for those who seem to be naturally gifted. Some people pick up new skills rather quickly, while others take a bit longer.

This dynamic plays out at our house over and over again. We’ll hear about a new game from our kids or friends; we’ll buy the game and start playing it; my wife will catch on really fast and win the game every single time we play; I get discouraged and never want to play it again. But then I begin to understand the strategies, and start winning once in a while.

The same may be true for new believers. When we’re just getting started in the life of faith, we might not be very good at it yet. We continue in some of our old ways, making a few too many errors, and then we get discouraged and want to quit. But don’t give up, and don’t throw in the towel just yet, my friend. There’s hope for you. In the case of a butterfly, the goal at the start is to be a good egg. Being a good caterpillar will happen later. Eventually, you’ll have a chance at being a great butterfly.

The first noticeable change that happens to a butterfly egg is that a few days after being deposited, it starts to change color.

Many eggs start out light colored like an off-white to a yellow color then change to a dark color or black before the caterpillar comes out. Most caterpillars hatch out of the eggs in 3-7 days. It can vary depending on species and other conditions.

Green or blue eggs may also turn gradually darker, and if you were to look at the eggs through a microscope at just the right time, you’d be able to see the tiny caterpillars starting to develop.

The butterfly life cycle is one of complete transformation . . . in every stage . . . in every part of every stage . . . all the way to the end of its existence. It never stays the same. It’s always changing in some way. Sometimes the changes are easily observable. But sometimes you might not even know the change is happening because it’s subtle . . . or invisible.

This is helpful for us to keep in mind as disciples of Jesus Christ. Change takes time. Learning is incremental. Like Bill Murray’s character in the movie What About Bob, we start with baby steps.

So hang in there. Don’t give up the faith or let go of your commitment to Christ. Don’t quit the church. It may be that the changes are happening at the invisible level right now, and in just a few days you’ll be ready to hatch and become a caterpillar. And then a whole new existence begins.

As the apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18, We all are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory. First steps are always tricky for butterflies, puppies, and people.

The above is an excerpt from my book Butterfly Believers, which can be found on or on this website.

Counting the Cost

The average female butterfly will deposit from one hundred to three hundred eggs, some will produce as few as a dozen, and others more than a thousand. Some butterflies will place the eggs on the leaf one at a time. Others will deposit a group or a cluster of eggs, stacking them neatly, one on top of another. Still others will release a mass of eggs in a pile. Whatever method the butterfly uses, she will glue them onto the leaf, stem, or flower to make sure they won’t come off. The glue is so strong that it’s impossible to remove the egg without destroying the creature inside.

There are two similarities to Butterfly Believers I’d like to point out here. First, in the same way some eggs are laid one at a time and others are piled or grouped in a mass, some people come to faith in Christ individually while others are part of a large gathering where there may be hundreds who respond to the gospel at the same time.

The other similarity has to do with the church or fellowship we choose to attend. Some people live in a place where there is no church or congregation, so they worship, read the scriptures, and pray all by themselves. Many people around the world attend small churches of anywhere from ten people to fifty or sixty. And a lot of people prefer what may be called a megachurch, which may have hundreds or thousands gathering at the same time and place.

I met one man who dreamed that he met Jesus. That dream led him to “count the cost” and commit his life to Christ, even though he lived in a place where there was serious persecution. The expression “count the cost” comes from Luke 14:28, where Jesus said to a large crowd:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? Later, when talking to his disciples, he told them, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny the self, take up his or her cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).

I was six years old when my mother took our family to a camp meeting in a revival tent. Listening to the preacher, I understood for the first time that Jesus went to the cross for my sins. I turned to my brother and said, “I’m going up to get saved,” and he replied, “Me too!” We ran up the center aisle, around to the wooden benches behind the platform, and knelt until someone came and prayed with us. I don’t remember if there was anyone else praying to receive Christ as Lord and Savior that night, but there were at least two of us.

Years later, I attended several Billy Graham rallies in huge stadiums. When Dr. Graham gave a salvation altar call, literally hundreds of people left their seats, found their way to the ball field below, and en masse, committed their lives to Jesus Christ. It was an individual decision each person had to make, but it happened in a much larger setting than my boyhood experience or the man who had the dream.

There are many ways to come to and participate in the body of Christ. Size or numbers isn’t the point. What matters is devotion to the Lord, growing in your faith, and recognizing that you are part of the family of God.

This is an excerpt from the book, Butterfly Believers, a collection of devotional readings based on Romans 12:2 and butterfly metamorphosis. Paul Linzey is a former pastor & military chaplain, now teaching Spiritual Formation and Practical Ministry at Called College & North Central University.

What’s for Dinner?

When it’s time to lay the eggs, a female butterfly searches for the appropriate host plant for her youngsters to grow up on. She instinctively knows that her hatchlings are limited as to what kind of plant they will eat, and places her eggs only on that plant.

When the caterpillars emerge from the eggs, they will stay on that particular host plant until they are adults who can fly. People who want to attract certain kinds of butterflies will do a little research to find out what that breed will eat, because the egg-laying butterfly won’t be fooled. For example, a Monarch eats only milkweed. A Viceroy has a few options: willow, poplar, aspen, apple, cherry, or plum. The Zebra Swallowtail needs pawpaw. And the Pearl Crescent is limited to asters. The list goes on and on, and is particular to each variety of butterfly.

The context for this discussion is Romans 12:1-2, so it may be helpful to understand that we are instructed not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). According to the extended metaphor of metamorphosis, the food we’re concerned about is what we’re feeding our minds, because that’s the point in this verse and in our day-to-day lives. It’s crucial that we select the appropriate “host plant” for our mind and spirit.

The kind of Butterfly Believer you are will determine what you feed on, where you spend your time, what you read, who you hang out with, and what you choose for entertainment. A few relevant questions include: “Who and what are you allowing to influence you?” “Are your choices helping you to be strong in your faith and more faithful as a follower of Christ?” “Are you developing a keen sense of discernment, or like the butterflies, a well-developed instinctive knowing what is right or wrong when it comes to feeding?”

The apostle Paul wrote to one congregation: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

There is no “one size fits all” approach. What you do to care for and feed your mind and your spirit is extremely important, but also highly personal. Like the butterfly that looks for the right host plant to land on, you have to discover what works for you. And yet, you can also learn from others. As it says in Philippians 4:9, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The above is an excerpt from the book, Butterfly Believers.

The Little Door

The exterior of a butterfly egg has at least one tiny opening called a micropyle, while the egg of a different species may have an entire “system of tiny canals.” These microscopic openings permit the entrance of the sperm, so that the egg may be fertilized shortly before it is deposited by the female. Interestingly, micropyle is the transliteration of a Greek compound word meaning “little doors” or “little gates.” Plant and insect eggs have these miniature openings. Otherwise, there would be no fertilization.

Jesus mentioned moths and gnats in his teaching, but I don’t know whether he ever talked about their eggs. But he did talk about doors and gates. In fact, he specifically mentioned a small gate in the Sermon on the Mount:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Mat 7:13-14).

Later on, he said, I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved (John 10:9).

There’s another scripture that ought to be included in this discussion. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone hears my voice, opens the door, and welcomes me in, I will come in and fellowship (Revelation 3:20, paraphrased). This is a specific invitation for Butterfly Believers who are looking for spiritual direction and fulfillment.

A friend of mine has a saying: “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.” I like that emphasis because it captures the essence of what Jesus is all about. Living for Christ is not about liturgy, ritual, traditions, or rules, even though many of those might be good and helpful. I’ve discovered that genuine Christianity involves growing a deep relationship with the Savior who calls himself our friend.

Room for Individuality

I used to assume that all butterfly eggs were identical regardless of the species. Maybe some were slightly smaller and some a bit bigger, but otherwise, one butterfly egg would be just like every other butterfly egg. Oh, how wrong I was! When I started investigating, I discovered that the eggs of different types of butterflies are sometimes quite different from every other kind.

Some are round and others hemispherical. Some are conical, cylindrical, or shaped like a barrel. Some resemble a cheese wheel, while others actually look like a turban. Many butterfly eggs are angular, and many appear to be flattened at the ends. There’s a wide variety of textures, sizes, designs, and colors. There are blues, reds, greens, yellows, purples, oranges, whites, and browns. Oh, my goodness, there are some fascinating differences among them!

The same is true among human beings, and even among Christians of similar theology or the same denomination. We have different personalities, talents, and preferences. We don’t have the same spiritual gifts, callings, or interests. We definitely don’t look alike. We don’t agree on every doctrine, type of music, or choice of liturgy. In addition, there are many different relationship styles among us. Who we are and what we are like depends so much on our genetics, our upbringing, our experiences, our health, and so much more.

The Apostle Paul takes this into account when he discusses the Gifts of the Spirit.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. There are many parts, but one body. 1st Corinthians 12:12, 20.

Another take on the differences among the people of God can be seen in Galatians 3:28. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

It’s important to understand that the differences among us are good. We shouldn’t try to be like one another, nor should we try to force others to be like us. In fact, there is greater health in our fellowship and friendship circles when we invite diversity into the mix.

A Butterfly Believer in the egg or embryo stage might want to keep in mind that even though there may be some important changes ahead, you don’t have to become just like everyone else. There’s plenty of room for individuality. You can still be you. A better aim for all of us would be to give each other space to grow into the likeness and the image of the Lord. That’s what we were created for.

An excerpt from the book Butterfly Believers, a set of devotional readings based on Romans 12:2 and the butterfly metamorphosis.

Embryonic Faith

When a female butterfly places an egg on the leaf, it contains the yolk: a thick liquid that has the “germ” of the future caterpillar, plus the food it will need until it hatches. This is crucial because even though the critter might be in the egg for only a week or two, it requires immediate nourishment or it will die. It is fascinating that in every step of the metamorphic process, there is a marvelous combination of beauty and function.

I think this is also true for human beings, especially in the context of the quest for spiritual growth. When we start our journey as a disciple, everything we need to sustain our new life of faith is in place. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We have a sense of faith, even if it’s at the embryonic level. These two will sustainment us and carry us to the next level.

According to 2 Peter 1:3-4, His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

In the passage above, do you notice the goal of participating in the divine nature? That will be the focal point when we discuss the adult butterfly. The creature still in the egg isn’t even close to looking like or behaving like the mature insect, though. It’s not even a crawling bug yet. There are many changes that will have to happen before it gets to the finish line.

Similarly, there are many changes and much growth a believer has to experience before getting to where the Lord wants him or her to be. So, we take it one day at a time until we see the Lord’s handiwork manifesting in our life and character.

There’s nothing wrong with being in the egg if you’re brand new to the life of faith or haven’t even started yet. It’s totally fine to be where you are at this stage of your spiritual life. Take nourishment from what’s around you, learn from others, and ask the Lord for his help. I guarantee that his divine power will give you everything you need for a godly life, and if you hang in there, you are well on your way to participating in the divine nature. That’s God’s promise . . . even for those who are still in the egg.

The Butterfly Lays an Egg

When discussing plants and animals, a fundamental principle of modern science is that every living thing comes from an egg, and this is where the story about Butterfly Believers begins. After mating, a female butterfly deposits her eggs on or under a leaf, gluing it on so that it cannot be blown off or removed. In many species, the caterpillar hatches in just a few days.

Every one of us begins the spiritual journey somewhere. We might have grown up in a Christian family. Some are invited to a church or a small group that meets in a home. Others come to faith in Christ later in life. Whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves spiritually, the Lord reaches out to us and provides the spark of faith, fans it into flame, and our relationship with Christ begins.

This can be seen in my own family. My grandfather converted to Christ at about age seventy-five, living the last twenty-four years of his life as a dedicated Christian who read the scriptures every day and became a deacon in the little Baptist church near his farm. My father was a sailor in the Navy when he met a young lady who invited him to church. He became a Christian and they eventually married. I grew up in a Christian home.

I know people who turned to God during a crisis and found that the Lord provided the help they needed. I’ve talked with others who just felt there was something missing in their life and discovered a God who filled the emptiness inside. A few have told me they had a friend who changed so much after experiencing Christ that they were drawn to the Lord. There are others who came to faith because of a miraculous experience.

In 1st Corinthians 3:5-7, the writer uses a different metaphor.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

In these verses, the Corinthian believers are likened to a plant or a crop. Their faith journey began when someone planted the seed. The Lord sent someone else to provide the water. The seeds sprouted, took root, began to grow, and then flourished.

The point is that we all have to start somewhere. In the same way that every plant or animal comes from an egg, each of us begins the spiritual journey like that butterfly egg. We are alive. We have potential. The Lord wants to take us step by step on a path that will help us develop emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

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