No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. Ephesians 4:14-15 (Message)
Scripture is clear that as followers of Jesus we are to grow and mature. We are to be like Jesus and produce fruit.
I grew up going to Sunday School singing, “Read your Bible and pray everyday and you will grow, grow, grow….” Over time I have come to realize that this is only partially true.
My favorite way to think about growth is to look at trees. We can learn a lot about how we grow by studying how a small tree matures and produces fruit.
In order for growth to take place a tree needs to be in a few primary conditions: water, sunlight, soil, and nutrients. Even with a sufficient amount of three of these, when one is missing, it dies. If we are to leave the days of infancy and adolescence behind and become who God has called us to be we need to place ourselves in a few primary conditions.
Community: The Christian life was never meant to be a ME life, but always a WE life. We need each other to grow. The fruits of the Spirit cannot be expressed in isolation and we need others for support, encouragement, and challenge.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
Spiritual practices: The list of possibilities is long and includes such things as prayer, Scripture reading, solitude, confession, and worship. We can see these as obligations and a call to try harder or we can see them as opportunities to develop habits. Habits are not disciplines to be mastered, but practices for the Spirit to inhabit. When we see it this way we read the Scripture not to win Bible trivia, but to know Jesus and enter the story of God.
“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.” I Timothy 4:7 (Message)
Time: Growth doesn’t happen overnight, just as a garden doesn’t produce fruit right away. Growth is not automatic; it is a process.
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4 (NIV)
Holy Spirit: We are to work hard to put ourselves in the place to grow, but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who grows us up. He is the one who transforms and works Christ into us.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26 (NIV)
These conditions aren’t sequential but rather simultaneous. All conditions present at the same time create the richest opportunity for maximum flourishing.
These conditions are also not isolated but integrated. Each condition playing off one another, like a dance. For example, our relationships need time to develop and will be most fruitful when we find unity in the Spirit which will be strengthened in prayer together.
Growth isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. Put yourself in the right conditions and watch God do His work.