Ephesians 4:14-16 [New Living Translation] – Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Someone once said that anything living continues to grow. Dead things have ceased from growth. This is true both naturally and spiritually. But there also is a glaring difference: natural growth happens spontaneously while spiritual growth requires attention.
Recently I read some statistics acquired from a national survey of churches. With over 250,000 respondents, this survey carries a lot of weight. It seems that, in measuring spiritual growth, some of the indicators were quite surprising. In the churches surveyed, one out of every four regular attendees was not growing spiritually or even interested in growth. Apparently they just enjoyed fellowship with Christians. Also it was discovered that, for those who are relatively young in the Lord, involvement in lots of church activities helped the growth process. Conversely, for those older in the Lord, these activities didn’t carry the same punch. [I guess it’s not just about how busy we are!]
There was one true indicator of spiritual growth according the book I’ve been reading. Let me give you their words:
If all churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives. The numbers say most churches are missing the mark – because only one out of five congregants reflects on scripture every day. [Move by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson]
When considering all the different aspects of spiritual growth it’s interesting that reflecting on scripture proves to be the most potent. I can’t say that I’m really surprised though. In rebuking Satan Jesus declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4] Clearly this means that it is the Word that sustains life. In Mark chapter four we find the parable of the sower, a parable that Jesus says is a key to understanding all parables. In explaining this parable, Jesus clearly states the value of the scriptures: “The sower sows the Word.” [4:14] The word of God, the Bible, the holy scriptures – by whatever title we refer to it, is the seed. It is the catalyst for growth.
The apostle Peter spoke of the Bible in this manner: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” [I Peter 2:1-3] It is the Word that provides inner strength and growth.
The apostle Paul declares: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” [Romans 10:17] Faith is a vital necessity to us as Christians. Add to that the quote from the writer of Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” [11:6] In fact, I would say that any growth we might attain without the Word of God may turn out to be growth that is detrimental to our spiritual health.
No, readers, spiritual growth is not automatic. If you’re not interested in this growth it’s not going to overtake you anyway. As a pastor I can’t pray spiritual growth on my church people in spite of themselves. Intercessory prayer makes God available, but we are each individually responsible for our own lives.
We should be asking ourselves, “Am I growing in Christ as I should? Is my relationship with Him deeper and richer now than last year? …last month? …last week? …yesterday? No one is spiritually more mature just because they’ve been saved for a long time. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. As has been said in the past, Christians have to make some effort just to stay even. We’re going uphill – against the stream. We have to keep peddling the bike or paddling the canoe if we don’t want to fall back. [See Hebrews 10:35-39]
How important is growth to you? You’re the only one who can answer that question.