It’s still technically Winter, but the weather is warming up, it’s sunny outside, and it feels like Spring. With Spring comes the onslaught of new life, of birth, of growth. Our rose bushes, apple trees and peach trees are all starting to bud, and it’s that time when I start to do some pruning to encourage the trees and plants to grow: healthier, more robust, in the shape and size that I want them to.
Growth is an essential part of life. It seems obvious. Plants grow. People grow: Grow old, grow up, grow more mature, etc… Cities grow. Businesses grow. Ministries grow. In fact, everything grows. If something isn’t growing it is either dying, dead, or stagnant, and really, stagnant is just the first stage of dying. If something is healthy and alive it is growing.
Unfortunately, I think that too often, as Christians, we forget that growth is essential to healthy life, and we become content with being stagnant. However, just like in any other area of life, as Christians, we need to grow.
So what is growth, and how do we get there? Essentially growth is positive progression. It requires progression, first and foremost, you cannot grow without moving and changing. Secondly, that progression needs to be positive, an increase in size, power, influence, etc… The other thing about growth, at least healthy growth, is that it requires some form of intentionality. Just left to themselves, the trees and plants in my backyard will grow, but they will become wild, and unhealthy, not producing quality fruit/flowers, and they will start to have a lot of death and decay within them as well. Left to themselves, my children will grow older, but will have a very difficult time in life, and will not become healthy individuals. There needs to be intentional action taken to facilitate healthy productive growth. This is often difficult and takes work, which is why it is easy to forget about it and become complacent and ok with stagnation, whether that be in our own lives, our careers, our families, our yards, or our Christian life.
So how do we grow, as Christians? Like anything else, there are some actions that we can take. Learning, Communication, Accountability, Practice. To grow we need to learn what it is we are supposed to become. We do this through Bible Study, by diving into God’s Word and learning who He is, who we are and how those two things relate. Communication, prayer, should be self-explanatory, but we often get prayer confused as “talking to God” when it is really “talking with God.” That’s a super important distinction. We need to talk WITH God, communicating WITH Him, which means talking, and also listening. He is our guide, our leader, our example, and we can’t learn and grow if all we ever do is talk and never take the time to listen. Accountability: We aren’t meant to do life alone, and we need other people to help ensure that we are growing in the right way. We need people to cheer us along they see us improve and to correct us when they see us using the wrong form in life. We need to be held accountable and we need to hold others accountable. We need to invest in each other. Finally, practice. No one ever gets any better at anything, shows growth and improvement, simply by osmosis, by observation/desire/or simply being around someone who’s really good. You may learn in that way, but to really grow you need to put into practice what you learn, and do it regularly. Practice will get you to try things you aren’t comfortable with and improve in those areas, but practice is also the simple act of doing and staying in shape. We practice our Christian life every time we step out in faith, every time we share our love for God with someone, every time we take the lessons we learn from the Bible and through prayer and actually use them in our life.
One final note on growth. Growth is beautiful. Go online and find a time-lapse video of an acorn growing into an oak tree, a sunflower seed growing into a sunflower, a bean growing into a plant, whatever it may be, and you will see something small, somewhat ugly/boring transforming into something majestic and beautiful. In the same way, we should grow as Christians, not just because it is what we are supposed to do, but because God has something huge and wonderful in place for us. He wants us to be transformed more into His image, into something beautiful, not stay a stagnant seed.
So grow. Put in the effort. Feed. Water. Prune. Do what is necessary and watch as God brings about something amazing in and around you.