SOME YEARS AGO we planted a tree on the west side of our house expecting it to grow and eventually shade us from the afternoon sun. We were disappointed because, for some reason, the tree didn’t grow. It didn’t die, but neither did it grow. Possibly, it was because it was poor stock to begin with. After some effort to spur its growth, we finally had it removed and replaced with a tree that happily has grown. Soon this tree will be tall enough to fulfill the purpose for which it was planted. It will shade our house from the hot afternoon sun.
Growth is a normal expression of life. Whether we think of plants, animals, or people, we expect them to grow until they reach maturity. When something or someone doesn’t grow, we know something is wrong.
Growth is also a normal expression of the Christian life. The New Testament writers assume growth and constantly urge us to pursue it. Peter urges us to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Paul instructs us that by “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
In fact, in distinction from the physical realm, Christians should never stop growing spiritually. Paul commended the Thessalonian believers for their seeking to please God and to love other believers. And yet, in both instances, he urged them to do so “more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 10). He wanted them to continue to grow in these aspects of their Christian lives. There is no such thing as an “adult Christian” who no longer needs to grow. Growth is not only normal for new believers but also for those who have walked with God fifty years or more.
Of course, almost all growth (both physical and spiritual) is incremental. We can’t watch either plants or people grow before our eyes. We can only observe it over time. This is also true in the Christian life. And, of course, different people grow at different rates. And none of us grow at the same steady rate all the time. But even when we allow for differences in people and different eras of growth in our individual lives, the fact remains that we should all be growing spiritually. When a believer doesn’t grow, something is wrong!
Bridges, Jerry. 2004. Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.