We are all aware that women with keen "mother-instinct" enjoy observing the growth of young children. The farmer with an almost "sixth sense" can see his crops grow. The diligent business man, as well, constantly looks for growth in his company. In t e same way, the God of creation an redemption is most interested in both physical & spiritual growth.
As to Creation
God designed nature not to remain static, but to progress and develop. Genesis 2:9 tells us "And out of the ground made the Lord God to GROW every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." During the Millennium, "there shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains ... the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon" (Psa 72:16). The reign of Christ will touch every sphere when righteousness prevails. He will receive great delight in seeing his creation flourish and develop just as He intended. The Scriptures use natural growth in plants and trees as a pattern for spiritual growth. Psa 92:12 uses natural growth a; the pattern for moral development, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall GROW like a cedar in Lebanon."
The Lord Jesus used the analogy of wheat to teach that self-sacrifice is the pathway to spiritual usefulness. He said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). Paul also used the natural growth of plants to illustrate the forming of an assembly (I Cor 3:38) and to teach principles of financial stewardship (2 Cor 9:10-11).
Peter used the growth of a baby as a metaphor to teach that believers can and should develop spiritually by "feeding on the Word". He said, "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may GROW thereby" (1 Pet 2:2).
Notice also that God is interested in the development of a child before he is born. Psalm 139 speaks of the time prior to birth, "My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest part of the earth In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Psa 139:15-16). God places value upon the sacred life of unborn children. So should we! He is interested in the development of children even when they are unseen in the womb. These are not all the uses of natural growth in Scripture. However, it should suffice to show that God values natural growth and that it is used in the Bible to illustrate spiritual truth.
As to The Christ
Isaiah 53:2 indicates God's confidence and delightful anticipation in the development of His Son, "He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant (suckling)." In the midst of decay and barrenness, Christ, the tender plant, would grow up in all His beauty. The nation would see no beauty in Him. Only the eye of the Father would appreciate His beauty as He would grow and develop.
Luke confirms this mystery that the eternal Son of God did submit and grow under the eye of His Father. When they returned to Nazareth it says, "And the child GREW, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him" (Luke 2:40). Luke adds in verse 52, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." He developed "growth qualities" to perfection. His development was balanced and well-rounded physically, mentally and emotionally, spiritually and socially. How amazing that He developed both naturally and spiritually! Experimentally He "learned obedience by the things that He suffered" (Heb 5:8-9). This bows our hearts in wonder and worship. It is with deep reverence we touch on His lovely Person and, Mary-like, ponder these things in our hearts.
As to the Forerunner of Christ
Luke 1:80 says of John the Baptist, "And the child GREW, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his shewing unto Israel". It is obvious that the one chosen to introduce "the Christ" would likewise grow both naturally and spiritually. John the Baptist was a great man, a holy man, a separated man, a humble man and a true man. He was a spiritual giant, but evaluated himself just as "a voice". Christ evaluated him and said that there was no one born of a woman who was greater. John was not carried away with pride, popularity, prestige or position. He acknowledged when he saw the Christ, "He MUST increase, I (must) decrease." This was probably the greatest statement he ever said apart from John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." John the Baptist demonstrated a great principle of development: humility of heart is good soil for the growth of faith.
As to Believers
In the Parable of the Sower there were four "grounds". Only one grew consistently, naturally and productively The other three had great impediments. Development in the "good ground hearer" advanced from thirty to sixty to one hundred fold. The Lord Jesus clearly taught the divine expectation for the steady growth of believers.
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:18). At first, a baby is dependent on others for basic food. Eventually, as the child grows, he is weaned and learns to feed himself. How true this is spiritually! A "new born" believer in God's family eagerly waits for spiritual food from spiritual teachers. This leads to development in spiritual matters resulting in "self-feeding.
As spiritual senses develop, there is an increased desire for the true Manna, Christ, and the Word of God. A believer who gleans and gathers for himself will form character and convictions. Eventually, he will reach maturity and have wisdom in handling Divine truth. He will have discernment to rightly divide the Word of God.
Proper spiritual food is essential for growth. The writer to the Hebrews uses "milk" as a metaphor. Milk is the basic, first food for babies. He uses milk as a parallel to the simple truths of Scripture that a young Christian can enjoy Peter uses milk to illustrate something different. He refers to the Scripture as milk in contrast to other unhealthy sources of nourishment. He is teaching that believers must have an appetite to read and enjoy the word of God each day.
Also, it is important to note that Grace is a major ingredient in growth. Grace tempers the truth whether in practice or preaching. It adds weight and power to our testimony. The early chapters of 1 Samuel illustrate these principles of development in Samuel. The word "grew" is used repetitively, and would be an interesting study.
Hindrances to Growth
The Bible describes different kinds of growth such as abnormal, slow, quick, unnatural, stunted, etc. It is tragic when "growth" is hindered. In 1 Peter 2:1:1, we have five evils that inhibit growth. "All malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, such should be put away"
The tense suggests, "having put away." It is to be a precursor to desiring the sincere milk of the Word. These "weeds" we have to contend with in Christian experience ought to be buried immediately when they spring up. Swift, decisive action against evil is illustrated in Joshua 10. The people were to bring the five kings from the cave. Joshua told the people to 11 come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings." As they had been commanded, they slew them and hanged them on five trees. We need to relearn this lesson as we consider these evils that often beset the Lord's beloved people.
There are other deficiencies that hinder the growth of the believer.
The following are suggestions that inhibit growth in our lives:
- Failure to have consistent reading of the Word of God.
- Failure to have communion with God in prayer.
- Failure to give priority to assembly meetings.
- Failure to get involved in spiritual witness.
- Failure to consistently yield to the claims of Christ.
- Failure to daily evaluate my spiritual condition.
- Failure to live consistently as a Christian at home, at work and in the world.
- Failure to refrain from needless gossip that only causes bitterness of spirit.
We leave the above suggestions for you to consider and develop. May the Lord grant us the spirit of grace and humility that we may "grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ"! In this dark age of increased selfish and fleshly activity, may we live before God to the praise and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ!