Growth is an essential quality for any kind of life. "Growth is the only evidence of life" (John Henry, Cardinal Newman). "Not a having and a resting, but a growing and a becoming is the character of perfection " (Matthew Arnold).
Growth suggests expanding, gain, thriving, flourishing, increase, development, reaching for and ultimately maturity. If life does not grow, we are concerned . If the grass in the yard doesn't grow, you will be upset. If the puppy you bought for a pet doesn't grow, you will be concerned. If your child does not grow, you will be visiting the doctor to see what is the problem.
Life without growth is contrary to nature. Even as adults we expect to grow! Hopefully not in the physical sense (outward and bigger that is) but in the mental and emotional sense. We should grow in knowledge and experience. We should increase and develop and thrive as adults.
The most important growth we can encourage and nurture is spiritual growth. The highest pinnacle, the most elevated plateau, the greatest reward in this life is the experience of spiritual growth. It is the blessedness of realizing the magnificent promises of the Lord and the heavenly reward in view.
The apostle Peter appreciated the value and the need for growth in one's spiritual life. "(10) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (11) Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, (12) Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (13) Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (14) Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless (17) Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (18) But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen" (2 Peter 3:10-18).
Since we know this earth will be destroyed we look for a new habitation. We are to thrive, flourish and grow in his grace and knowledge.
The growth of the church depends on each member 1. "(11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:11-16).
Each of us are to "grow up" in all aspects. Have you ever said to a child or even an adult, "grow up"? You meant "be mature, quit acting like a child." Likewise, Paul urges Christians to "grow up" be mature and put away childish things! "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things "(1 Cor. 13:11).
Spiritual growth can continue and flourish.
This is the amazing and fantastic principal of spiritual growth. Even though our physical body may wear, tear and run down. "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).
Spiritual growth is a renewal, an inner strength that causes the spirit to soar although the body may be bed ridden. "(29) He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. (30) Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: (31) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:29-31).
Before any living thing can truly grow and realize its potential, it must be born. Likewise, one cannot experience spiritual growth without first spiritual birth. Jesus explained this principle to Nicodemus. "(3) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3-5).
How is this accomplished? By being born of the Spirit. The Spirit is the agent of the new birth by the revelation of the Word. "(22) Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: (23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet. 1:22-23).
The Spirit has given us the Word of God. One is born of the Spirit by obeying the Word given by the Spirit. We are also born of the water. Water is the medium of the new birth. When one hears and obeys the Word of God revealed by the Spirit, they will be baptized in water for the remission of sins. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Tit. 3:5).
Peter taught "repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). There are many of those who have never been baptized for the remission of their sins. Simply being baptized in water is not enough. Baptism is not simply a religious ritual. The Bible does not teach "water" salvation. If that baptism was not in obedience to the Word given by the Spirit "for the remission of sins" then you have never been born of the water and the Spirit. If you have not been baptized for the remission of your sins into the Lord's body, then you have never been spiritually born!
The Right Food
Food is an elementary prerequisite for the growth of life. Plants need water and sunshine to flourish. Animals need plenty of the proper food and water or they will die. Children need the proper nourishment to grow up and be healthy. Some are spiritually malnourished. We all have seen pictures of children from underdeveloped poor nations. Children suffering from malnutrition that look little more than skin covering a skeleton with swollen abdomens. What a sad horrible sight! Yet, how more terrible and horrifying to see the starving, malnourished skeletons of the spiritual lives of many Christians.
There are Christians who spirits look like skin covered skeletons. And the saddest thing of all is their problem is not that they don't have enough to eat, but they have a feast laid out before them and they refuse to come to eat the rich spiritual food God offers them. Jesus said, "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Mt. 4:4).
We must desire spiritual food. "(1) Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, (2) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (3) If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Pet. 2:1-3).
To spiritually grow a Christian must desire and long for the pure milk of the Word of God like a newborn baby eagerly and readily takes the milk of his or her mother. Do you desire and long for God's Word? Are you eager and anxious to learn and study the eternal principles that God has set before you in the Bible? If you truly desire and long for God's Word you would be present every time the doors are open; Bible study Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. These are the times when spiritual food, God's Word is served, studied and taught. Those who do desire and long for God's Word are present. Those who have no desire for the Word of God or spiritual growth will not be here.
Jesus pronounced a blessing upon those who desire spiritual food. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Mt. 5:6). This beatitude describes a precious few souls. I have seen those who were truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
The Hebrews writer rebuked those who had not grown. "(12) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (13) For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. (14) But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:12-14).
How many Christians have been Christians for five years or less? I know there are many who have been Christians for many more years, yet where are all our teachers? Paul says you need to be taught again! Why? Because you are not accustomed to God's Word. You haven't studied it as you should. What would you think about a 12 year old still drinking milk only because he never took solid food? "How silly! He needs to grow up!" you would say. "His growth will be stunted." Amen!
I want to commend the spiritual growth of those who have not been Christians for very long but have taken up the challenge and work of being teachers. I know it is not easy, but it is rewarding in terms of spiritual growth.
The Proper Climate
Proper growth requires the proper climate. A tropical plant could not survive in a snowstorm, nor could a polar bear survive at the equator. Each requires the proper climate to grow. Likewise, the best spiritual growth for a Christian requires the proper climate to maximize that growth. "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33).
We understand this principle when it comes to the companions our children choose to run around with. We tell them that if they run around with the wrong crowd will get they will get into trouble. Why can't some Christians understand this simple principle? I think we all understand it. It is just a matter of whether or not we want to grow spiritually.
Consider how the companionship Herod chose in Herodias got him in deeper to trouble than he really wanted to go. "(3) For Herod had laid holdon John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. (4) For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. (5) And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. (6) But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. (7) Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. (8) And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. (9) And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. (10) And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison" (Mt. 14:3-10).
Free from Disease.
Good growth requires freedom from disease. When life encounters a disease or parasite, growth is hindered. Several years ago, my body had to battle a terrible infection from a ruptured appendix. For three weeks, with the aid of modern medicine, my body battled. During that time my body had such a struggle that it had no energy left for anything else. I certainly didn't thrive, flourish or grow. As a matter of fact, the infection almost killed me. Forty or fifty years ago it probably would have. Sin is the deadly disease or infection of the soul.
Similarly, as infection affects physical growth, sin affects spiritual growth. Sin will take over and grow like a disease rampaging through your life if you don't take steps to avoid it and fight against it. If sin continues unchecked, like an uncontrolled infection, it will bring death. "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
We need to treat sin like we would a dangerous disease. If you knew someone who had a highly contagious deadly disease, you wouldn't embrace them for fear of the disease. Yet, should we embrace the deadly spiritual disease of our souls, sin? No! We should put it aside, don't love it, avoid it, stay away from it!
Just as we can protect ourselves from disease, we can protect ourselves from sin. "(1) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Heb. 12:1-3).
As Christians, we must vaccinate ourselves against sin. Sin attacks not the body, but the spirit through the mind. We must vaccinate our mind and protect ourselves. "I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one" (1 Jn. 2:14).
"(9) Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (10) With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. (11) Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psa.119:9-11). You can innoculate yourself against sin by infusing your mind with the Word of God. It will protect you, be a lamp to unto your feet and enable you to grow spiritually.
Life cannot grow as it should without regular exercise. Imagine a high spirited young colt of championship breed living its life in a cramped stall. This colt is never allowed to run free in the fields, never receiving the proper exercise for its legs, never knowing what its legs are for? Would you ever expect that horse to win a race?
The Christian life is a race that requires exercise "(24) Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (25) And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible" (1 Cor. 9:24-25). Are you exercising for the race?
Are you exercising for spiritual growth? I imagine all of us at some time or another decide we are going to begin exercising in some form or another. Paul wrote: "(7) But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (8) For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The times I have started running or exercising, it is painful, especially if I haven't done it in awhile. Likewise, spiritual exercise is painful at first because it is new and difficult. But constant exercise of Christianity is rewarding. Paul says it "is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8).
Spiritual exercise conditions us for the exhausting journey to heaven. Would you attempt to climb a mountain without the proper conditioning? Yet how many Christians are attempting to achieve the higher elevation of heaven without any spiritual exercise? Put your Christianity to work if you ever expect to grow! Just as a colt will never be a champion cooped up in a stall, you will never reach heaven without the proper exercise.
"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth" (2 Thess. 1:3).
How did their faith and love grow? They put them to use! "(5) And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; (6) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (8) For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (9) But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. (10) Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (11) For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-11).
Spiritual exercise requires we put the Christians' active verbs to work: "(19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Mt. 28:19-20). The active verbs are "go" "teach" "baptize" and "teach" again.
Many people when they begin physical exercise keep a chart of their progress to measure their growth and improvement. They evaluate themselves. Why not keep a chart of your spiritual growth? Evaluate your progress. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves " (2 Cor. 13:5).
During the presidential campaign debate of 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan asked a very important question that many still remember to this day. "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" More people remembered that question than any other aspect of the debate. Ask yourself "Am I better off now spiritually, then I was one year ago?" "Have I grown spiritually?" "What evidence can I see and others see of my spiritual growth?"
Sit down and seriously evaluate your growth the last year. Consider the things you have achieved and those things you have failed in. Then prepare a list of spiritual goals you want to grow in and work on for the next year.
Without a goal or a target you will never accomplish anything.
Every member here can think of several areas they want to grow in. Set those ideas down in writing and plan to grow spiritually this year and the following year and for the rest of your life on this earth.
by Wayne Greeson
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