There are people who have grown up in the church of Christ, but who have never grown in the Christ. What I mean by that is that there Christians who have been members of the church of Christ for decades, but they have never grown spiritually. This was the case with those being addressed in Hebrews 5:11-14, they had remained babes in Christ! Most would agree that the writer of Hebrews addressed these comments to people who had been Christians for 20, or even 30 years, but who had failed “grow up” in Christ.
We must be honest that a lack of spiritual growth is detrimental to our soul. It produces mediocrity, indifference, apathy, and spiritual stagnation, none of which are pleasing to God (Heb. 10:38). When a person fails to grow spiritually, they have no way of having their spiritual “senses exercised to discern both good and evil” and therefore they are in no position to bring glory to God (Heb. 5:14; 1 Thess. 5:21-22; John 15:8). The goal of spiritual growth is to build Christ-like character. Jesus Christ said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).
There are a host of passages that put a tremendous amount of emphasis on spiritual growth. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He stressed the importance of spiritual growth by stating that those who are taught the Gospel and baptized would need further teaching (Matt. 28:18-20). After baptism, every Christian needs to add to their faith the Christian graces recorded in
2 Peter 1:5-11. In fact, the whole epistle of Second Peter emphasizes spiritual growth. Peter defines spiritual growth in chapter one, talks about the challenges to spiritual growth in chapter two, and gives incentives for spiritual growth in chapter three. Additional passages that discuss spiritual growth are: 1 Timothy 4:12-15; Ephesians 4:14-15; Philippians 1:9-10 and Colossians 1:9-10.
Spiritual growth does not happen by accident. First, there must be a sincere desire to grow. Peter wrote, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:2-3). Sometimes, Christians start off on fire for the Lord, but over time they lose that zeal and their faith becomes like smoldering coals, dwindling and on the verge of going completely out. If that describes your faith, you need to rekindle the fire that at one time burned within you. Remember, we are to be fervent in spirit as we serve the Lord (Rom. 12:11).
If we are going to grow, we must follow a process. In Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-10 we see a step-by-step process that will help us achieve growth. Paul prayed that the brethren would be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. This would be an intellectual knowledge that comes from studying God’s word. As Peter declared, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:18). God has given us His word so we can know how to live for him (2 Pet. 1:3). A knowledge of God’s will teach us the difference between what is holy and unholy, acceptable, or unacceptable. Ignorance will keep us from experiencing everything God wants us to enjoy as His children and will ultimately destroy us (Hos. 4:6).
Paul then prayed that Christians would take that intellectual knowledge and treat it with wisdom and spiritual understanding. God does not just want us to know His word, He wants us to do something with it! As Paul said,
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). As we learn God’s Word, we must make it personal. Next time you study God’s Word stop and ask yourself these two questions: “What is the writer saying?” and “How does this apply to me?” This is how we take intellectual knowledge and treat it with wisdom and spiritual understanding.
Paul also prayed that Christians would walk worthy and bear fruit. This has to do with the application of what we learn and understand to be right. It is not enough to know the Word and understand it. As James said, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas. 1:22). Application of God’s Word brings about spiritual transformation which glorifies God. Jesus said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8). Bearing fruit unto God is bringing forth the product of right and holy living which is essential if we are going to faithful children of God. This does not happen by accident. There is a Divine process that helps us achieve this which is seen in Paul’s prayer.
There is one final thing that we note in Paul’s prayer for spiritual growth, he begins with “knowledge” and then at the end he mentions “knowledge” again. The goal here is not just intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures. God wants our intellectual knowledge to create intimacy with Him. An intimate knowledge of the Scriptures, pair with life application, brings us into a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father. Spiritual growth is the process of a Christian drawing near to God (Jas. 4:7-8).
Every Christian needs to be growing. Every Christian can be growing if they will cultivate in their heart a sincere desire to grow, determine to take proper nourishment from the Scriptures, and set their minds to make application of God’s Word. Remember, spiritual growth does not happen overnight. It takes time, patience and effort on our part. If we will do our part, God will work with us and polish us into the shiny diamond that is of great worth in the sight of God.