Courage to Grow

God can give it, but we have to want it.

The Courageous Christian (2)

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 1 Peter 2.1-3

but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3.18

Peter Pan syndrome?
Apparently, many believers to whom the apostles wrote were reluctant to take up the challenge of growing in the Lord. Like some spiritual Peter Pan, they decided that growing up was for fogies and spoilsports. Growing up was hard work. They considered themselves saved and forgiven, and that was all they felt like they needed. They were comfortable remaining babes in Christ. Sure, there was still a good bit of the old self attached to their lives, but they figured Jesus would receive them into glory just as they were and make the necessary adjustments there.

Paul, Peter, John, James, and the writer of Hebrews cry out with one unified voice: “Believer, grow up!”

The apostles were unstinting in their criticism of those who did not embrace the challenge of growing in the Lord. Paul said they were “carnal” and “babes.” He questioned the sincerity of their faith (1 Cor. 3.1; 2 Cor. 13.5). The writer of Hebrews said they were “unskilled in the word of righteousness” and “babes” (Heb. 5.13). James doubted that they had any true Christian life in them at all (Jms 2.14-26), and John seconded that view (1 Jn. 2.18-21). All the apostles urged the believers to whom they wrote to get on the growth path with the Lord and put their “Peter Pan” fantasies of eternal spiritual childhood away, once and for all.

Growing up can be scary. It takes courage to grow. And this is why Jesus sent the Encourager to take up residence in the soul of everyone who believes. Only with His encouragement will we leave our comfortable stage of life behind, and venture out onto the waves of uncertainty, of what may lie ahead for us as we get serious about growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But growth in the Lord is God’s expectation for every believer. And not just at the beginning of your walk with the Lord. To the very end of our days, as J. I. Packer argued in Finishing Our Course with Joy, we can always learn new things, lead others to a deeper walk with the Lord, and grow in our knowledge of and love for Jesus.

Decide you’re never going to not grow up in Jesus. Then begin looking to Him for the courage you’ll need to grow in Him.

What’s so scary about growing in the Lord?
There are a number of reasons why people don’t grow in the Lord. First, they don’t understand that growth is the normal expectation for all believers. Jesus said His disciples would bear fruit, and that others would know that we are His followers by the fruit that comes out in our lives (Jn. 15.1-4; Matt. 7.17-20). All believers are expected to grow. And since that’s what God expects of us, we have no reason to fear that it’s the right path for us to walk.

But that means making room in our lives for attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that are not now present. And how can we be sure those things the Spirit wants to bring forth in us – fruit, gifts, power for witness, holiness, and so forth – won’t bring us more discomfort than peace? Growing in the Lord entails certain fearful unknowns. Some people fear that becoming more Christlike will mean having fewer friends, less fun, and more work.

And then there’s the time factor. It takes time to grow – to invest in learning the Scriptures, in prayer, study, meditation, obeying the Lord, developing spiritual gifts, learning to witness, discipling others. Some people fear that they’ll lose all their “free” time if they get serious about growing. But all our time is “free” time, in that it comes to us freely from the Lord, each moment and every day. And He has expectations for how we will use that time (Eph. 5.15-17), as the parable of the talents makes clear (Matt. 25.14-30).

Others fear that if they make growing in the Lord a priority, they might miss out on something they’d really like to do. As if anything we might choose to do could be more rewarding than increasing in Jesus Christ. God promises if we delight in Him, He’ll give us the desires of our heart – which will be more of Him (Ps. 37.4).

Finally, some people are afraid to grow because they fear God will call them to do something they don’t really want to do. But if God calls you to something – and He has called all believers to His Kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2.12) – He’ll not only enable you to do it, but He’ll give you great joy in doing it, because you will know His Presence and pleasure in carrying out His will.

We don’t need to be afraid to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. But if we are, for whatever reason, we need to call on the Lord to give us the courage needed to get on the growth curve now and for the rest of our mortal lives.

Begin here
Every believer must take up the challenge of growing in the Lord every day. Peter’s command to grow in Jesus comes to every one of us, the oldest and most faithful believers as well as reluctant and fearful babes in Christ. We can all grow, and we should all expect to grow as we faithfully give ourselves to the means of growth day by day.

Seek courage from the Lord to read, meditate on, and study His Word every day. Call on Him for the courage to pray throughout the day, talk with others about Jesus, set aside your old person and put on the Lord Jesus Christ in all you do. Commit all your time and every activity of your day to the Lord. Look for people who will encourage you in your growth by praying with you, helping you work through temptations and besetting sins, studying with you, and sharing their lives and ministries with you. Be an encourager to them as they encourage you.

Growing in the Lord is not a matter of personal preference. It’s a matter of obedience or disobedience. We are commanded to grow. God has given us the resources we need to grow. He has marked out the path of growth, so we know what to expect. Being afraid to grow is a matter of unbelief leading to disobedience. God can give you the courage to grow. If you lack it, for any reason whatsoever, call on Him. His Encourager will give you the courage you need.

For reflection
1. How would you counsel a new believer to begin growing in the Lord?

2. Why does the Lord expect us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus?

3. Is there any remaining fear of growing in the Lord in you? How should you deal with it? How can you encourage someone who does fear growing in the Lord?

Next Step – Transformation: Try to identify a few areas of your walk with and work for the Lord where you know you need to grow. Begin praying and working for progress in these areas today.

T. M. Moore

Small Stuff
We can encourage people in even small and seemingly insignificant ways. Our book Small Stuff helps you be more aware of the opportunities for encouraging others that God brings to you each day. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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