In physical life, growth depends on nourishment, exercise, a conducive environment, and the body’s developing resistance to and overcoming diseases. The same is true in the Christian life. We need to feed on good spiritual nourishment, exercise ourselves unto godliness, cultivate an environment conducive to spiritual growth and learn strategies to overcome sin and obstacles.
A caring, loving, disciplined, and Bible-saturated home provides the most conducive environment for nurturing the spiritual growth of our children and families.
(a) The Family of Faith
The church is often referred to in the New Testament as a family. For example, Jesus referred to his disciples who did the will of God as his brother, sister, or mother (Mark 3:35). In Galatians 6:10 and Ephesians 2:19, the church is called the “household” of faith or of God. But how does the household of faith help us grow spiritually? Well, when others serve us by using their gifts of teaching, mercy, comfort, encouragement, or hospitality, we are guided and strengthened and maturing in our faith (Romans 11:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; Ephesians 4:16). We need positive Christian role models to spur us on to grow spiritually (2 Timothy 3:10-14). Paul became a model for young Timothy, who was, in turn, exhorted to be exemplary in his godliness to his church (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
(b) Means of Grace
Means of grace are God’s appointed ways of blessing His people through baptism and the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper. Baptism does not save. But it is an outward sign of the inward grace in a believer’s heart. Jesus intended baptism to be administered to every believer (Matthew 28:18-20) after the preaching of the gospel. Martin Luther used to tell himself whenever he found difficulties in his Christian life: “I am a baptised man … in Christ I have entered a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come. By God’s grace so I will live!”
The second sign is the Lord’s Supper. Broken bread and grape drink symbolise Christ’s broken body and atoning blood. Partaking in the Lord’s Supper together in church unites us all in close communion with Christ.
(c) The World Outside
Although we are not of the world, God calls us to be in the world as His salt and light witness.
(i) God tests us. Why? So that we may know the reliability of His grace in our lives. Obedience may not mean a storm-free life, but through the storms, we may experience His grace and glory and be strengthened in our faith. Testing is essential to growth.
(ii) God purifies us. Trials of faith not only strengthens us but also purifies us (1 Peter 1:5-6). As the Psalmist confesses “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. … It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. …I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:67, 71, 75). God disciplines us for our good so that we might grow in holiness (Hebrews 12:10-11).
(iii) God equips us. As we trust and obey God in our life, He equips us to serve Him through circumstances. The life of Joseph illustrates this as he said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20).
4. Overcoming Obstacles
The Christian life is spiritual warfare. We can have victory if we know our enemies and use the divine resources at our disposal. Our enemies are the world, self, and Satan.
(a) The World
This world is opposed to God (1 John 2:16). Worldly influences have the power to dim our vision of Christ and deaden our spirits. This was what happened to Demas. He was once zealous in co-labouring with Paul (Philemon v.24).
(b) Self (the flesh)
In Colossians 3:5-9, the apostle Paul acknowledges that the seeds of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying may continue to plague believers throughout their lives. But a Christian has been crucified, buried, and raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1-3). Hence, sin cannot reign over you (Romans 6:14, 18). Now, set your mind on Christ and His reign, and express your new identity in Christ by a life of holiness (Colossians 3:1-4, 9-10). Refuse sin; put it to death (Colossians 3:5). Cultivate Christ-like characteristics such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and longsuffering (Colossians 3:12), so that there will be less room for sinful ones (vv. 12-17).
The apostle Peter describes Satan as a roaring lion waiting to pounce on and destroy the faith of Christians (1 Peter 5:9). He will try to inject lies into our minds, as he did with Eve in the garden: “Yea, hath God said you cannot eat of the fruit of every tree?” The lie that Satan succeeded in planting into Eve’s mind is that God is cynical and not good by withholding something good from her. We can defeat Satan if we put on the whole armour that God has given to us (Ephesians 6:10-20). Being able to stand is an important milestone in the life of a child. Likewise, a Christian who can withstand the attacks of Satan has really grown.
Babies are cute. But if they remain as babies and do not grow physically and mentally, it is a sign of sickness. We cannot be found standing still. We must continue to grow.
Hebrews 6:1-3 – “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.”