One day Jesus told a parable about a man who scatters seed on the ground, then simply goes about his daily routine. Mysteriously, as he sleeps by night and rises by day, the seed sprouts and grows, even though “he himself does not know how” (Mk. 4:27).
The Lord presented this story to illustrate a bigger lesson about the kingdom of God, but the parable also provides us with this fact: Growing is mysterious. It just happens! As we go about our business, God works in us to help us grow.
However, even though growing is mysterious, we do have a part in it. In previous articles we have considered opportunities for personal growth in the moral, financial, relational, and physical aspects of life. Just as we can support our own growth in those areas, we have responsibilities for spiritual growth as well. It’s a mysterious, God-ordained process, yet Christians are required to participate with God as we grow in our spiritual lives.
Spiritual growth is the last in this series not because it is least important but because it undergirds and gives meaning to everything else. We are more than just our bodies, relationships, and bank accounts. Therefore, as you cultivate your inner life, you are focusing on the real essence of your identity, the you which God has always wanted you to become.
The Bible presents a number of specific ways to grow spiritually. Here are a few examples.
- Faith should increase, and love should abound (2 Th. 1:3; 1 Th. 3:12).
- Both knowledge and wisdom should be increasingly evident (Rom. 15:14; Jas. 1:5).
- There should be more spiritual fruit, deeper spiritual endurance, and a greater readiness to support the Lord’s work financially (Jn. 15:8; Heb. 10:36; 2 Cor. 8:1-7).
Perhaps there is no more direct exhortation for spiritual growth than the words of the apostle Peter: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Therefore, if you have been a Christian for any length of time, spiritual progress is expected.
Preparing for growth
In summary, then, we are to be partners with God as His Spirit works in our lives. It’s as if we are tilling the soil of our hearts, loosening the unplowed ground so that conditions are right for spiritual growth. As Hosea 10:12 says, “Break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD.”
But how is this done? It is a large subject, and many books have been written already. Here, though, are three essential practices which will always promote spiritual growth.
1. Attend Christian meetings.
All fruit-bearing plants and trees, from cucumbers to coconuts, will never yield even one crop if their flowers are not pollinated. In a similar way, Christians need to be pollinated, too. Although God surely works in our lives personally, He has designed us to live in community with other believers, sharing the pollen of Christian growth, so to speak. Hebrews 10:24-25 and other passages specifically encourage us to meet together regularly. As you gather together regularly with other believers, you will hear the Bible taught and see examples of Christian living. The apostles’ doctrine and fellowship were the first two marks of the earliest followers of Jesus (Acts 2:42), and this is still true.
You may also experience discouraging things as you meet with other believers. Some of them will have difficult personalities, while others will be needy, demanding, unreliable, or even rather selfish. That’s perfect! How else will you learn to practice biblical Christianity if it’s not put to the test?
Despite any discouragements, remember that Christ gave His life in order to create this unique brotherhood of believers. Stay connected! You will never experience anything else like it.
2. Do Christian work.
This does not mean you must take on some kind of full-time Christian service. It means you should actively search for something to do in the name of Christ.
God has already planned and prepared the type of Christian work He wants you to do, and you simply have to notice the opportunities as you walk along through life (Eph. 2:10). Sharing the gospel message and serving fellow believers through words and actions is a key aspect of spiritual growth (1 Pet. 4:10-11)—not just for you personally, but for the whole body of Christ.
3. Read Christian instructions.
As you might guess, “Christian instructions” refer to the Bible itself. Perhaps you have sung the Sunday School chorus which declares, “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” That simple statement is full of truth. It’s impossible to overemphasize the value of Bible reading when it comes to spiritual growth. Christians grow from Bible reading the way babies grow from milk (1 Pet. 2:2).
Develop the habit of reading something from the Bible daily, or as close to daily as you can—not only devotional books, as helpful as they are, but the Bible itself. In particular, focus on the broad teachings of Christianity. What does it mean to be justified, sanctified, and forgiven? What is God’s plan for the world generally and the Church specifically? And how is the Christian life to be displayed in a world full of trouble and distraction?
While you read, remember this: You can trust your Bible! As ancient literature, the reliability of its manuscripts is unparalleled; in archaeology, no discovery has ever contradicted its statements; in history, many prophetic declarations have already come to pass with precision.
But more importantly, the Bible is living and powerful when it comes to spiritual growth. You will develop a transformational, biblical worldview as you read and study. Everyone has a worldview by which we try to make sense of our experiences; yet only the biblical perspective is truly reliable and cohesive when placed alongside the realities of life. A biblical worldview has great explanatory power for every question about God, yourself, and all the joys and sufferings of the world.
A Christian who seeks spiritual growth without reading the Bible is like a ship captain who becomes lost at sea because he has never consulted his charts. Yet those who seek truth in its pages will grow spiritually in wisdom, confidence, faith, and direction.
Are you growing?
When Jesus Christ lived on the earth, He was God’s faithful and true witness. Now He is no longer here in person—but we are here! As God’s witnesses, we are actually intended to do the work which Christ is no longer here to do (2 Cor. 5:20).
Therefore, pick up this mantle of responsibility with seriousness and determination. Develop moral insights; care about relationships; use money properly; treat your body well; and most of all, seek to grow spiritually. Then you will truly embody the words of the Scriptures: “If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8).