In a few weeks, our son John will turn 1. The pace of his growth has been breathtaking, but especially of late. It seems like every week, he reaches a new milestone. It has been fascinating (and fun) for my wife and I to watch this remarkable growth, along with the growth of our twin daughters Anna and Elizabeth, who are fast approaching their third birthday.
More than once I have wondered; is it realistic to expect Christians to mature at the same pace as a growing child? After pondering this, my conclusion is yes. It is certainly possible, but it is not the norm. I believe it is possible for a Christian to rapidly grow in their walk with the Lord and their sanctification. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we encouraged to reach a certain level of maturity (whatever that might be) and then park yourself there until you die or until Jesus returns.
2 Peter 1:5-8 puts it this way: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are your and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What the apostle Peter is saying is that Christians should strive to grow in their walk with the Lord. If we are serious about following Christ, then our faith will result in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. This is a sanctifying work that God performs in our lives through the Holy Spirit. It is an act of grace that continually takes our faith to the next level. But we must understand that we have a role to play in all this, which is why Peter said, “make every effort to supplement your faith.”
The apostle Paul was also serious about growth and sanctification. In fact, he rebuked the Corinthians for their lack of progress in the faith. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is still jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
When we see a 6-month-old baby being nursed by his mother, we don’t think much of it. However, we would rightly be disturbed if that same baby grew into a teenager and was still on the breast. We would think to ourselves, when is that child going to grow up? Sadly, many churches are populated by adult infants. They have attended church for decades, but they never heeded the inspired words of Peter. They are still on milk when the solid food of the Word is available to nourish them.
Another lamentable reality is the fact that we often have a hard time encouraging fellow believers to pursue Christ with abandon. When we see a brother or sister in the Lord who is not growing or maturing, we have a hard time challenging them. Perhaps one reason for that is we know what the bible says about judging. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) But we need to be careful that we don’t simply use this as an excuse not to challenge one another. God gave us brothers and sisters in the Lord that we might be responsible and accountable to one another. “And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). If we truly love our Christian brothers and sisters, we are going to do everything we can to point them in the right direction. The right direction always involves moving closer to Christ and growing in maturity.
Perhaps it would be beneficial to take this time to examine your own life (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you growing closer to the Lord – every year, every month, every week, every day? If our son John stopped growing and maturing, you can bet my wife and I would be concerned. I hope and pray we will show the same concern for our own Christian maturity and sanctification.