Don’t stop growing.
Everything that has life begins at a stage of inception and goes through different phases, then matures to its fullness. All living creation may go through growing pains so as to attain maturity. Growth is an integral part of life which is nurtured by relationships, environment, guidance, nutrition and genetic programming. Every child will grow up, but the right proportions of the aforementioned will determine how they mature. Growth is dependent on others in the early-formative stages of life: What is inculcated in us becomes part of us; principles that help shape our character throughout the stages of life. Growth is nurturing the whole person. Physical growth is beyond anyone’s control as cells are programmed by our DNA; to replicate a certain way, in concert with the surrounding environment. Spiritual growth however, can be manipulated by an inner desire for change. It impacts our relationships, attitudes, convictions, emotions, and motivations. Physical growth and spiritual growth make a person complete. Whereas we stop growing physically, we continue to grow spiritually.
2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you (Deuteronomy 8).
Bread satisfies hunger pangs, but it does little for the spirit of man. We are a body with a soul. The soul is fed by the inner desires; on the things that build or destroy it. Our Creator has told us that man can’t live just by physical sustenance but by every Word that proceeds from Him. God established from the beginning that bread alone was never enough to make us complete, because we are physical and spiritual beings. To prove this, God led the children of Israel to the wilderness and there He fed them manna and gave them His Commandments. Children are completely dependent on their parents for everything; which encompasses language, nurture, rules, and a stable family structure. The children of Israel while in the wilderness, were completely dependent on God for the basic necessities. As they were led by God and kept by Him, they were fed, their apparel never wore, and they were kept from harm.
Our children don’t have to lose sleep about where their next meal will come from, because they depend entirely on us; they don’t have an alternative. As they depend on us, they must obey us. Their physical growth must be accompanied by their submission. We discipline them for disobedience. So did God discipline His people, who depended on Him. As long as we live in a world which God has created for us, we must depend on Him for our physical and spiritual well being. The wilderness is our place of growth by dependence on God. The Earth is not the promised land, but is a wilderness full of all sorts of dangers and uncertainties.
There are many things that can impede growth progress. Our emotions can get in the way of positive growth. We have to master negative or destructive impulses, by submitting to the authority of Word. Everything that corrupts will take us a step back.
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2).
As newborn babes desire milk, born-again Christians should desire the pure milk of the word, that they may grow. The proper nutrients matter for growth of a baby, so does the proper doctrine for a born-again Christian. We have left aside the things of the sinful flesh—inner desires which fed our souls, and now we are starting over as spiritual-new babes. We must be fed spiritual truth only from the Word of God; that proceeds from the mouth of God so that we can truly live in the Spirit, not in the flesh.
Growth has its purpose. Maturity is developing good traits that impact others. Why do we want our children to grow up? We want them to begin to make good choices, to become part of society by playing their part as well as they know how. We are called living stones, built up together, each one of us for the benefit of others into a spiritual household, where God dwells in our midst. God desires to dwell among His people, just as He did in the wilderness. In order for children to have the right environment to grow, they have to dwell under an authority. Our guidance and wisdom is the Word of God; the spiritual things that are acceptable to God. Doing those things that please God is offering spiritual sacrifices, in His honor; hence we are called a holy priesthood. He is Holy and we are His children, growing up into His likeness. When we understand the family and how it’s managed we will see that it’s a microcosm of the relationship of God with His children.
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. 13 Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ (Ephesians 4).
We all strive for excellence in what we put our hearts into. We get into different careers, enroll in different programs, because we have very different interests. But we must grow in the skills so that we can be on our best form. For some, tragically this is about keeping up with the Jones’s. Competition is not a bad thing as long as it’s meant to edify us, give us momentum to try harder, and help us hone our skills. In order to grow, we must be willing to learn from others and share with others tips that will benefit them. If we make Christ the standard of perfection, we don’t have to be pitted against others but have a common desire to grow up into Christ—His likeness. Growing up into Christ in all things is ensuring that we are only responsible to Him for our conduct and performance. We must also be selective with the kind information we use to help us grow. Scripture is our go-to manual and wisdom, to discern true from false doctrine. Our goal should be to reach the maturity of the fullness of Christ. What is that maturity? The fullness of Christ is love. To be mature in Christ is to love as He loves.
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. That you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3).
Growth also enables physical strength. Spiritual growth develops spiritual strength which is endurance and patience. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ is the might given to our inner man. He emboldens us to do what is right consistently, irrespective of the outcome. We are compelled by our love for Him because He first loved us. We know the love of Christ in that while we were imperfect He called us His own. We are now of the family of God, and are called by His Name. Proper growth is impossible in isolation. Just as children growing in a family become acquainted with the love of a parent, and getting along with siblings; we are learning all the nuances that come with a family name: We trust, we share with those in our family, we love each other, are patient with others, we forgive, we repent, we disagree, we obey, we share joy and sorrow, we are rewarded, and we have an inheritance. To grow is to keep learning of The Lord’s Love. To mature is to be filled with the fullness of God’s love.
The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile. 12 Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law; 13 that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked (Psalm 94).
We all know that a child who hasn’t received discipline or correction growing up, is going to have many problems within society. If left to their devices, they are disruptive, destructive and dissipated. Children are disciplined early in life by correction, punishment, and repetitive warnings; so that choosing right from wrong becomes ingrained in them. By disciplining them, we save them from harming themselves, hurting others, and a future riddled with trouble. Growth is never apart from discipline. Discipline is an act of love.
10 But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.11 My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.12 I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth, more than my necessary food (Job 23).
Just like precious gold is put into a crucible of fire to remove impurities, our God wants to make us pure. There’s a battle for our soul and the Devil would like nothing better than to perfect us as his own. We must be tried and prove our calling sure by staying the course. Where is our treasure? May it be found in the words of His mouth. This is the hallmark of a growing Christian; they yearn to spend time in God’s Word and strive to walk in it. No Christian has reached the fullness of maturity in Christ, because He is the perfect Son of God who obeyed His Father from the time of His birth. So we as children, are often in need of discipline. God may choose whichever means necessary to bring us back to our senses; chastisement and rebuking from His Word. He does so because He has a day of judgement prepared for all. He doesn’t want to lump us together with the wicked on that day, but to spare us as His beloved.
9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12).
When humans discipline others, they do so because they have been disappointed with their performance or conduct. They discipline those who have not met the human standards set for them, and have fallen short of human expectations. The discipline in this case, gives a painful reminder that compared to others, their conduct was abysmal. Human discipline is based on the expectations of others and it’s an expression of their disapproval. God’s discipline is based on His Holiness, that we may be partakers of His holiness. It hinges on His approval for His children to become better. It is a standard above any human one, and requires no comparison to other’s standards. God’s chastisement is the gateway to acceptance, by grace. He is our Heavenly Father, and we have to admit that our rebellion to Him requires His attention. When we are trained by the discomfiture of God’s discipline we earn righteousness, which is a godly trait.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrew 5).
When children are adults they don’t get a time-out, or get walloped on their behind for making wrong choices. They have reached a chronological age of maturity and should be teaching others good principles. They should be the ones disciplining their children or those in their care. Mature Christians don’t need to be reminded of the rudimentary Christian doctrines. They should be skilled in the word of righteousness, seeking out deeper truths and applying them in their day to day interactions with others. Daily exercise builds muscle, so does daily intake and implementation of God’s Wisdom: It strengthens our resolve. By our obedience, we grow closer to being more like our Lord Jesus Christ, in the full measure of His love, by loving others. We have hope during times of repentance that if we are under chastisement, we will be partakers of His holiness. We grow with others by edification and playing our part for the benefit of the whole spiritual household of God. We are still growing until we are changed to His glory, by the Life of the Spirit of Christ in us.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord ( 2 Corinthians 3).
Liberty is being able to boldly live what one believes. It’s not cowering to pressure but holding firm against it. Pressure to be bitter, to be indignant, to indulge in activities of darkness, to please others at the expense of our integrity, all these curtail freedom. Growth has to produce fruit—intangible and enduring characteristics, otherwise it is of no value. Growth happens with increments in quality and quantity of end-products, which have their purpose. Born-again Christians grow in the knowledge of Christ and in His love, by being fruitful. They increase from glory to glory, in greater measure in the likeness of The Lord. The outcome is not to have labored in vain, nor become unprofitable spiritually, and of no purpose to the Master. Being fruitful is the evidence of growth. Having gained the knowledge of Christ it behooves us to develop and nurture godly traits. It’s intentional commitment and discipline, to continue to grow so as to attain the full measure of Christ.
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter:1).