<<enlargement, increase>> 

Growth is a progressive development, increasing in size, capacity or ability. The principle of sowing and reaping, where the expected result of a seed being sown is a crop being harvested, is a good example of this. At creation God decreed that all things would produce after their own kind and expand in quantity. This ‘law’ of natural increase applies to both desirable and undesirable seed, and also to humans to whom God said “Go and increase” (Gen 1:11-28, 8:17, 9:1).

Just as God makes things grow in the natural world so He does in the spiritual realm (1 Cor 3:6,7).

Both Paul and Peter encouraged the believers to ‘grow up’, becoming mature in their understanding of what Jesus did for them (Eph 4:14,15; Heb 5:12-6:2; 1 Pet 2:2). Growth requires time and effort, but if there is no increase, something is drastically wrong.

We make progress in our Christian life when we become vulnerable by being stretched beyond our comfort level, and we need to rely on Jesus in humble obedience. God is never content with our present state of being because it is less than

Challenging circumstances are growth opportunities – can you see some in your life?

our ‘positional state’ of perfection through the blood of Christ. He keeps refining us in the process of conforming us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). We stop growing when we lose the tension between where we are and where we should be, thus to experience the new we must surrender the security of the known and comfortable to go into the risky unknown, yet Jesus has promised to walk with us (Josh 1:9; 2 Tim 4:22; Heb 13:5). As He knows our capability in Him, (which is so much greater than anything we could envisage), step out in faith, seizing or creating opportunities, and take calculated risks, accepting the challenge for greater potential (Jer 29:11; Eph 3:20).  A goal provides focus and motivation with faith seeing and speaking things into being before they are, yet patience and effort are required to bring them into reality.

Growth means development over time, in a process involving the discipline of putting into practice the knowledge gained, moving from theory to experience. Don’t minimize or consider the foundational training period unnecessary; it is essential to support whatever you are called to do. Even Paul said, “I haven’t attained yet but I’m pressing on [inferring effort, focus and determination]...confident that which He has started will be completed”. Try not to be impatient if you don’t seem to be growing as fast as you would like, remembering crops take time to develop (Phil 1:6, 3:12-14; 1 Tim 4:15; Jas 5:7). 

As there is always more to learn, be proactive, looking for opportunities to grow. Utilize the resources available like a plant that sends out roots for sustenance so it may survive – development will come from the nutriments which it draws in. In faith pray that God will

Am I stagnant or growing?

enlarge your sphere of influence and financial resources so you can invest in greater measure in His Kingdom (1 Chr 4:10).

As we grow in our relationship with God, and in spiritual knowledge this will help us to resist the attacks of Satan, and recognise false teaching by knowing the truth (Col 1:10, 2:6,7; 2 Pet 1:5, 3:18). We grow spiritually by diligently studying the Scriptures (with the aid of the Holy Spirit) and applying the Biblical principles to everyday life, being involved in some form of ministry to others, praying ‘in the Holy Spirit’, having a vibrant relationship with Jesus, obeying His voice and being joined together with other believers in a local church (Prov 27:17; Jn 10:14; 2 Tim 3:16; Heb 10:25; Jud 1:20).

Signs of growth

1/. Christ is the foundation and goal of the Christian life. As we learn to ‘love one another’ we will be seen actively serving and “Speaking the truth in love”. Thus we will ‘grow up...into Him’ (Eph 4:15; 1 Thes 4:9,10; 2 Thes 1:3). 

2/. Perseverance and deepening devotion is a mark of spiritual growth (Rom 5:3,4;
Jas 1:2-4). God wants us to be overcomers, in control of the situation as we work with
Him continually ‘taking new ground’ (Deut 28:13; Josh 1:3; Mk 16:20; Lk 10:19; Act 1:8;
2 Cor 10:5).

3/. The appearance of the fruits of the Spirit in a person’s life points to increasing maturity. Paul observed a ‘harvest of righteousness’ in the people of Corinth (Mt 7:16; 2 Cor 9:10; Gal 5:22,23).

4/. Like vines, productive lives need pruning (Jn 15:2). Cultivate good routines and thought patterns yet deal quickly and severely with bad habits, carnal desires and actions which are not God-honouring to prevent Satan getting a foothold in your life (Eph 4:26; Phil 4:8; 1 Pet 2:1,2; 2 Pet 1:5-9).

5/. Spiritual growth is also evidenced when there is a godly response to pressure, grief, trials and suffering with an increase in faith. Paul said, he delighted in tribulations as they outworked God’s nature in him, and he was stronger because of them (2 Cor 12:9,10). The Bible says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God”, so welcome them as growth opportunities in your life (Act 14:22). See them as opportunities to draw closer to God and develop His character.

6/. One of the tasks of the more mature in the faith is to instruct others and pass on their learning, encouraging others to grow in their faith (Act 18:26;
1 Tim 5:17; 2 Tim 2:2 ).

7/. Although persecution against those who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour is intended to deter others from taking a similar approach it often has the opposite effect with a significant growth, both in numbers and vitality (Act 8:1-4, 11:19).

Practical considerations

Just as the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land little by little, we increasingly receive and appreciate what Christ provides for us in a similar fashion (Deut 7:22). As we submit to Him, building on our foundation experiences of His saving grace, and applying ourselves to continually put into practice His commands we appropriate God’s blessings one by one.  This is also described as the process of sanctification – the benefits of salvation are all ours by right yet it is a process of dealing with one area after another of our lives to experience greater freedom and victory.

We grow and develop in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and encouragement, while judgement and condemnation hinder or prevent desirable growth.

Some inhibitors to growth come from within and include:

* Procrastinating – have the courage to face the discomfort of breaking old habits to embrace new ones.        

* Impatience – any worthwhile goal is more difficult to achieve, besides taking more time and money than envisaged.

* Negative self-talk – focus on the value you will bring to others rather than drowning in self-pity. Fear of failing is a possibility but success is more likely.

External causes:

* Problems – view them creatively as challenges to overcome; use them as stepping stones to advance, not as stumbling blocks.

* Personal inconvenience – there can be no gain without pain, complaints and disruption. Growth takes place when you learn from your mistakes and failures.

See also: application, comfort zone, fruit, harvest, knowledge, learning, maturity, mistakes, opportunity, potential, process, progress, seed, sow and reap, trials.