by Bubba Garner
We were supposed to be doing the teaching. Melissa and I traveled to Jamaica, West Indies with 11 other people to put on a Vacation Bible School and teach those young people about the privileges of Jesus Christ. But as it turned out, they were the ones who taught us a great many things. One of the lessons I learned was how to sing a song that goes, “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”
The Lord expects us to grow. He is not satisfied with us just treading water, simply maintaining the same level of spirituality. Right in the middle of his discussion of Jesus as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek, the writer of Hebrews pauses, with great regret, to explain why he can’t fully exhaust the subject the way he’d like to. The reason? “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).
In other words, you haven’t grown. You’re still drinking milk. You’ve not reached the stage of maturity where you can sink your teeth into this meaty matter. You ought to be at the point where you’re able to teach other people, but you still need to be taught yourselves concerning the basics and fundamentals of Christianity.
How much have you grown in the last year? The last five years? When was the last time you took your spirituality to the next level? No one can say they’ve reached the point where they are through growing. But many seem to have adopted the Peter Pan philosophy of life: “Never grow up.”
Growth is a sign of life. Living things are supposed to grow. When my grass turns brown, I water it. When the plants don’t bloom, I fertilize them. If that doesn’t work, I’ll put down treatment for bugs or fungus. We all go to such lengths because we are convinced that if it’s alive, it should grow, and if it doesn’t something must be wrong.
Yet we will ignore all the warning signs that indicate that we’re not growing spiritually. We don’t think anything’s wrong, and if we do, we sure don’t do anything about it. If growth is a sign of life, what does that tell us if we’re not growing? Have we not become like the church at Sardis? “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1).
I’m afraid the only kind of growing that we’re doing in that respect is the growth that leads to death. Our hearts have grown dull (Matt. 13:15), our love has grown cold (Matt. 24:12), and we have grown weary in well doing (Gal. 6:9). Which way are you going? Which way are you growing?
Growth is from the inside out. It is not something that just happens automatically or coincidentally. It is a choice. You have to decide that you want to grow. The greatest difficulty in that is admitting to yourself, “I’m not where I ought to be.” It was Plato who said that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Upon examination, we must recognize the need for change, the need for growth.
And don’t expect to grow if you don’t cultivate the right environment. If plant life depends on water, sunlight, and nutrition, doesn’t that imply that certain requirements must be met to attain spiritual growth? It takes a balance of milk and solid food (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:13-14). It takes discipline, “having your senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). And it takes diligence. When Peter listed those qualities to add (increase, grow, develop) to your faith, he said to do it “applying all diligence” (2 Pet. 1:5-11). There’s no shortcut or quick fix for growth. Decide to be in it for the long haul.
That’s where it starts. You don’t look for the results first and then wonder why they’re not there. You must first make a commitment to growth.
Growth is sometimes painful, but always fruitful. Study after study has been conducted to determine why children experience “growing pains” when their bodies are developing. Doctors have not been able to find a cause. But they have reached a common conclusion. Growing pains are more common in children who are active.
You need to know that there are certain risks that go along with growth. That’s why they’re called growing pains. The easiest thing to do is just say, “I’m comfortable where I am. I know what’s expected of me at this level. Why should I go and change that?”
Become a risk taker. Stretch your faith. Push yourself beyond your current comfort zone and grow. There will be certain pains associated with your decision, but imagine the joys of reaching a height you’ve never experienced before.
How would you like to have it said about this church, that “your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows even greater” (2 Thess. 1:3)? If we will take care of growth on the individual level, church growth will take care of itself.
So, grow, grow, grow.