To live is to grow. In fact, many dictionary definitions of ‘life’ mention the capacity for growth as a central characteristic; along with activity, reproduction, etc. It is striking, how well this principle also applies to our spiritual lives. Jesus Himself compares the spiritual life to that of a vine (John 15:1-7), and Scripture further urges believers to grow up in Christ, progressing from spiritual ‘milk’ to ‘solid food’ (Hebrews 5:12-14) – in context, this ‘meat’ refers to behavioural transformation; living the Gospel, instead of just ‘knowing’ it. These are just two of many passages on a similar theme.
The Gospel is not, as one friend of mine put it, simply a passport and fire insurance; the Gospel is a message of life that applies every moment of every day. As Jesus said, He came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). That is a promise that is for right now – and it is this very promise that we begin to live out, as we engage with spiritual and personal growth.
Growth can be an incredibly frustrating process for everyone though, can’t it. I remember a period of 18 months early on in my ministry, serving under the most intense mentor I have ever had. A highly strategic thinker, this mentor saw rhyme and reason behind every comment, every thought, every idea. Nothing was worth doing unless there was a very specific reason for it, which fit into a broader strategy or goal. “Why?” was his favourite retort to any new idea. Working with him was simultaneously frustrating and inspiring. The incredible part, for me, was that especially towards the end of our time in ministry together, he placed a lot of trust in me to take charge of what he had been overseeing. In other words, this hard task-master saw me arrive at a point at which in his eyes, I was capable of maintaining and growing the ministries he had led. It was a painful 18 months, to get there. Many of my assumptions about life, ministry and God were laid to rest, and replaced with new, foreign, but more effective concepts. That process was incredibly painful, and very draining. Still, this period is one I look back on now with incredible fond- ness. My mentor loved me, and he loved seeing me glow – even if it took a bit of fire and heat for me to do so.
To what extent are you engaged in the process of your own growth? In what ways has spiritual growth manifested in your life of late? In your behaviour? In your knowledge? In a deepening and enlivening of your relationships? Are you experiencing any of these signs of growth, or has it been a while since you really thought about what could be? Whether personal growth to you is an old friend, or a bit of a stranger, the good news is that God Himself is with us all – in fact, He is leading the process of our growth, every single day (Philippians 1:6).