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.


Romans 12:2 indicates that we are to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. The word in the Greek text is where we get the English word metamorphosis. Translated as transformed, it is what we use to describe the continuous, remarkable change of form or structure in an individual after hatching or birth.

Several insects undergo complete metamorphosis, such as bees, ants, ladybugs, wasps, and flies. But the most spectacular of the metamorphosing creatures are the butterflies. This is because they are safe, easy to observe, and they are beautiful. These marvelous creatures are called Lepidoptera, which means scaly wings.

Butterflies are special to me for several reasons. First is the fact that they represent the internal and external changes that take place when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ. Second is the mystery, or as some writers call it, the “magic” of the changes that occur during the transformation process. Third is the gorgeous coloration of so many species. They are delightful to find and examine.

Amazingly, transformation occurs in every stage of the butterfly’s life. There is never a day when an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or butterfly is the same as it was the day before. Theirs is literally a continuous transformation. This is also true of people. We are always growing, changing, and becoming. There’s always more to learn, and always room for refinement.

The bottom line is that I find butterflies to be interesting and fun. In the same way, living for Jesus Christ is supposed to be interesting and fun. Many of the terms and processes we use when talking about butterflies are perfect for discussing our growth as children of God.

May the Lord continue his remarkable work of shaping and transforming each of us into his image.

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