Growth doesn’t happen automatically. Ask anyone or anything. To grow tall and strong, trees need sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients from the soil. A baby needs love, sleep, and lots and lots of milk. There are certain elements required for all organisms to grow.
It is the same when it comes to our relationship with God. Our growth in Christ-likeness doesn’t happen automatically with the passing of time. The writer of Hebrews once said to a group of Christians: “…though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” (Heb. 5:12). These Christians grew older, but they did not grow up. The truth is that spiritual growth requires a commitment to grow.
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:12-13: “12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This passage perfectly balances our process of spiritual growth, and teaches us two important truths.
Firstly, notice that Paul clearly says we “work out” our salvation, we do not “work on” it. There is nothing we can add to the finished work of Christ on our behalf. For this reason, our commitment to grow is not to earn God’s love but a response to God’s love. Secondly, both God and us are at work. God is at work, powerfully and with great pleasure (v.13). But God’s work does not negate our work (v.12). We have a role to play. We must make an intentional effort to grow.
This means, we must take hold of the resources God has given to us for growth. And the truth is, we all have the same resources available to us: the gospel of God, the Spirit of God, the word of God (the Bible), the ear of God (prayer), and the people of God (the church).
The new year offers us a wonderful opportunity to evaluate our commitment to growth, and to make changes where necessary. Let me ask you: Where have you seen God at work in your character and in your life? What can you do this year to enhance your spiritual growth? What resource have you been neglecting that you can take hold of in 2018 and beyond?
Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)
P.S. If you’re looking for some further help as to how best to use the resources God has given to us, check out the sermon series, Habits of Grace, on the church website.