Hi everyone. I’m Jake and I’m a 20-year-old ‘Jesus freak’ that likes an eclectic mix of music and any sports that involve a ball (except cricket…someone explain it to me?). I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to this stream of blog posts which from what I have read so far have been pretty good and very encouraging.
So where am I from? Well I was born just north of Birmingham, England but have lived in Scotland for the past 8 and a bit years. I’m currently working as a church development worker for Thurso and North Coast Free Church in the Highlands of Scotland and on the side I am employed at Tesco…two jobs where I get paid to speak to people so I love it.
Amongst the other jobs I have worked in the past I have been a member of the Golden Arches Restaurant (McDonald’s) crew for a wee while and I try to keep fit and work my muscles and I don’t like Mathematics very much. A little random but it’s these three things I want to use as a springboard for my topic today; McDonald’s, Muscles and Math Geeks.
So what do McDonald’s, muscles and a math geek have in common?
Sounds a wee bit like the start of a joke but this question, or rather the answer to this question, poses an interesting topic for people. Growing is an important part of life and takes place all around us, inside us and is constantly happening. It’s taught in every classroom round the world to children of all ages.
Businesses like McDonald’s view growth as very important in order to make decent profits. Muscles need to be trained and to grow so that they don’t waste away and become gelatinous masses. Math geeks require a lot of studying crazy mathematical formulae and other numerical nonsenses so that they can grow in their knowledge. It doesn’t matter who you are, growth is important; right down from a baby taking their first steps or getting first teeth right up to the athlete training for a marathon or a student studying for a biology test.
Christians, you know, the crazy people that go to church and pray and stuff, well they, just like every other human being, grow. For Christians the aspect of spiritual growth is as equally important as any other type of growth. In the Bible, and particularly in Paul’s letters, growth takes the driving seat as being one of the most important factors within Christian life; in short, we, as Christians, MUST grow.
Here are a few verses from the Bible that show us that we need to grow as Christians just in case you don’t believe me:
“Like new-born babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…” 1 Peter 2:2
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
So to grow as a Christian is kind of a big deal then, huh? Well the Apostle Paul seems to think so and I’d bet my bottom dollar that taking what he has to say is true is a good idea. That challenge to grow can seem pretty weighty but I think we need to understand what is required of us. It’s not good to beat ourselves up when we don’t feel like we’re growing as fast as we should be, first off. When a baby takes their first steps and they fall over the parents don’t start yelling and telling the baby off for being so stupid in falling over. Rather, the parents and any onlookers applaud and smile hysterically at this baby’s few steps. Growth looks different for everyone and people will grow at different rates; we’ve just got to make sure it’s happening.
If we are to be growing, we need to ask ourselves a few questions in order to get an idea of where we’re at and where we need to be. Here is a wee evaluation that I find helpful to see if we are growing spiritually:
- 1) Complacency – Are we content to stay as we are?
- 2) Comfort – Are we more concerned with our Christian habits rather than moving into a place that is uncomfortable in order to grow?
- 3) Christ – Do we desire more of Jesus?
It’s helpful for us to ask ourselves these questions. Again, if you’re answers to these questions are along the lines of 1) yeah I’m pretty content to stay where I am, 2) I quite like being comfortable in my spirituality and 3) Jesus is just okay, then you definitely need to grow. You could be on the flip side though and be like 1) I’m so restless with myself and I just want to grow more 2) I’m happy to be moved outside my comfort zone and I make it a priority to undertake things which challenge me and 3) I desire more of Christ every day; good, but you have still got to work at it.
So how do we go after spiritual growth? Like where does the rubber hit the road and really start moving somewhere? How do we practically, realistically and spiritually grow?
I want to show you what I believe the Bible says in regards to how we can grow spiritually.
I like numbers so here is a breakdown of 5 points that we can use to grow:
1) It’s not going to happen overnight.
If we get discouraged from not growing as fast as we want to or we feel like we’re not growing at all, we need to look back to our source; God is the one who helps us grow. Spiritual growth is a long, drawn out process that lasts a life time. Christians are Christians for their whole lives and they grow over their whole life. Here is a quote by one of my favourite devotional writers, J C Ryle:
“Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness – all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God’s saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible.” – J C Ryle
In short, our starting point is God and he uses our lives to grow us.
2) We need to be open about our state spiritually.
Farmers don’t pretend that everything is going great if it’s not. Farmers are usually the first people to say if a season of weather has been bad or if the crops haven’t done well. We need to be honest about the seasons of life that we’re going through too.
Share with a Christian brother or sister about your struggles; we haven’t been saved to be isolated, God saves us into a family. We also need to expect to have times when we feel flat. We’re not always going to be happy clappy everything is dandy.
True Christian joy is knowing that Jesus is there with you through it all.
3) We need to prioritise.
Spiritual growth is important and I think we’ve settled on that.
As it says in 1 Peter 2:2 “Grow up in your salvation” we need to be growing up, we need to make growing as a Christian a priority. We need to make growing up important and the means by which we do that need to take fundamental positions in our lives. So whether that’s meeting for prayer with Christians friends, going to church, reading the Bible, listening to sermons online, whatever it is, prioritise it!
4) We need to lower our own importance.
“The right manner of growth is to grow less in one’s own eyes.” Thomas Watson
Thomas Watson is one of my favourite writers from the Puritan era. What he is saying here is that in order for us to grow spiritually we need to grow less in our own importance.
As Christians that are wanting to grow we need to look at ourselves in the right way. It’s not about devaluing ourselves or slating ourselves or thinking of ourselves as muck but rather it’s looking at ourselves in the way God sees us. That, yes we are horrid and dirty and we make mistakes BUT with Jesus, God sees perfection.
The right way to see ourselves is to view ourselves as second.
In every situation, I am second. Whatever comes our way, whether it be a sibling wanting the choice on the TV or music in the car, whether it’s helping parents with shopping or laundry, whether it’s letting someone else have the last cake or choosing to forgive someone even if they didn’t say sorry, think ‘I am second’.
Only when we put Christ first and what He has shown us to do, can we grow spiritually.
5) We need JESUS.
Needless to say this is the most important part. Without Jesus we don’t grow, without Him we have no reason to grow. Here is a quote from a great theologian, Mr Tozer:
“The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly enemy of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.” A W Tozer
We need to desire Jesus. If we are going to grow we have to be seeking after Jesus with everything we’ve got. Just like a homing missile is attracted towards a metal aircraft, we need to be ardently, zealously pursuing Christ. We need Him to take away our complacency, our stiffness, our lack of growth.
With Jesus we will go through difficult times. The gospel isn’t a “get out of jail free card”. The good news of Jesus is knowing that He paid it all, that we owe it all to Him. If we pursue growth, if we fight every day for that deeper relationship, one day we will be with God. Let’s be more like McDonald’s, Muscles and Math Geeks and grow. I want to leave you with this verse that I find a real inspiration:
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:21