Growing in the Lord

Bible Book: 2 Peter  3 : 18
Subject: Growth, Christian; Christian Living

According to a January 31, 2003 Oxford Journal study, medical doctors in West Africa began to notice an unusually large number of cases of stunted growth in sixteen villages from the countries of Benin and Togo. A team of doctors and research scientists were brought in to evaluate and determine the causes of the dwarfness. Initially, they tried to associate the lack of growth with malnutrition because the remote areas of the countries in which they lived was poor, but the food found there was both adequate and in abundance. Scientists then began questioning the credibility of the food they ate. In those rural villages, maize and groundnuts are major dietary staples; however, it would be the storage practices of these crops that would reveal the problem. Both commodities were being stored in hot, humid conditions that promoted the growth of fungus and mold which was not visible to the human eye. Unknown to the villagers was the fact as the contaminated food was being consumed, they were literally poisoning themselves. Through a simple, routine practice the villagers were actually the cause of impairing their own ability to grow.

At a time in history when we possess unprecedented resources and have set unparalleled records, there is an absence of something that has gone almost unnoticed. Where have all the spiritual giants gone in our land? I am talking about those who stand head-and-shoulders above the crowd in respect, and those who cast long shadows of influence. While the ladders of power, position, and prestige are still being climbed, the rungs appear further apart because we have accepted midgetry as the new standard of the day. E.M. Bounds once said, "Everywhere, everything in apostolic times was on the stretch...No premium was given to dwarfs, no encouragement to an old babyhood." There is a phrase in scripture that is said of Isaac, Moses, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist, and Jesus; "And the child grew..." It is a phrase that is describing an increase of spiritual stature as much as it is their physical stature. Growth is a natural and normal process of life, but the moment we cease to grow spiritually something within that life is now in jeopardy. It was during a season of rest we are told, "And David...lay with her." It was on a night when he slept at prayer that "Peter sat down among them" and denied knowing Jesus. Withered leaves will rarely signal the arrival of forthcoming fruit. Just how do you maintain a consistent level of growth that is never satisfied with being petite?

1. Healthy growth will require a cultivation of life.

In 2 Peter 3:18, Peter writes, "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." The idea behind the word "grow" is "to perpetuate the growth." Whether it be plants, animals, or people, steady growth is dependent upon being placed in an environment which promotes growth. One of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. Experts tell us that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet be completely mature. However, if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet. A life that remains confined spiritually is destined to become stagnant and stunted. Growing faith is always an active, moving faith. Elisha had to abandon his plow if he wanted to be God’s prophet. Gideon had to leave the mediocrity of the village in order to become a mighty man of valor. Peter had to stop fishing from the ship if he wanted to be filled with the Spirit. I agree with Alan Redpath who said, "The conversion of a soul is the miracle of a moment, but the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime." The day we lose a willingness to change we forfeit those victories that develop our future potential.

2. Healthy growth will require a consistency of learning.

In Hebrews 6:1, the author writes, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection..." The idea is we are to grow beyond the elementary lessons and into the deeper teaching of Christ. The writer noted there were those who spiritually should be eating meat, but they were still drinking milk. In other words, they simply were not growing. Any good farmer knows that the success of his crops is dependent upon water and light. In similar fashion, the growth of every Christian life is dependent upon two vital elements: teachability and truth. Teachability is the manner in which men go deep, but truth is the means by which men scale unimaginable heights. Although he had already experienced God in a burning bush and through His miracles, Moses still kept pressing to see God’s glory. Although he was greatly educated, Paul kept reaching for more of the knowledge of Christ. Charles Ryrie said, "In this life we never ascend to a plateau above and beyond which there is no further ground to gain." The moment we no longer feel the need to learn from God is the moment we cease to live and merely exist.

3. Healthy growth will require a contentment of love.

In Ephesians 4:15, Paul is encouraging spiritual maturity as he hopes they "...may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." Many years ago, Japanese horticulturists learned a method which enables them to keep certain trees stunted and small. Early in the life of the tree, they tie off the tap roots through which life must flow to the farthest branch. This keeps the tree undernourished so that it never attains the growth that others of its variety reach. Jesus clearly understood such a danger to our lives as well when He noted several times in John 15, "Abide in Me..." Our attachment to Jesus is the difference between average living and abundant living. Corrie Ten Boom explained this best when she said, "Like some railway tickets in America, I am ‘Not good if detached.’" Nothing can grow without life, and apart from the touch of God, our lives are uprooted and unproductive. Uzziah felt he no longer needed God’s strength, and he died "cut off from the house of the Lord." Demas fell in love with the pleasure, provision, and possibilities of the world and he is never heard from again. When the tree of our life falls to the ground, what a testimony it is if the rings around our stump reveal we were still growing when we fell!


High in the Swiss Alps there is a wooden cross that marks the grave of an Alpine guide who perished while attempting the ascent of a peak. Inscribed on the monument are these stirring words, "He Died Climbing!" May God give us the courage to keep climbing higher in our lives. Many may start the climb, but few will continue the climb. To stop before you reach the pinnacle is just selling yourself way too short!