We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.2 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV
What does growing up in our faith mean?
Peter writes in his letter that we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our God, and in doing so, our faith will grow. But what does that mean?
Paul uses the analogy of human growth when describing growing in the faith. When we first accept Christ as our Savior, we are essentially babies in the faith. We need the tender nurturing that a baby needs, especially milk. Milk represents the basics of the Christian faith. Attending church, participating in a community group, and even one-on-one discipline is significant.
Then as we grow in our faith, we need to feast on the deeper truths in scripture. We must develop devotional habits, Bible study skills and even begin discipling others ourselves.
When it counts, I want to be found belonging to Him, not clinging to my own righteousness based on law, but actively relying on the faithfulness of the Anointed One. This is true righteousness, supplied by God, acquired by faith.Philippians 3:9 VOICE
Human growth has a certain trajectory. A baby is only nurtured as a baby for a period of time. Children grow up, eat solid food, learn self-care, and more.
But the analogy in the lives of Christians breaks down. The scripture teaches us to work out our own salvation, meaning that we are responsible for our spiritual growth. We must pursue obedience and press onward and upward in our relationship with God. Unfortunately, some folks remain as baby Christians for far too long. Growing up can be hard to do!
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV
What are the characteristics of personal spiritual growth?
The obvious characteristics of spiritual growth are the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As we learn to live in the presence and the power of the Spirit of God, God will produce this fruit in us.
Another way to characterize spiritual growth is by developing these five patterns of life that build on one another, a progression, growing up in our faith …
- Denying ourselves, learning to die to self daily
- Following Jesus and His teachings, practicing daily obedience to the Word of God
- Bearing fruit, allowing the Spirit of God full reign in our lives to produce Godly fruit
- Loving others, even our enemies, seeing everyone in our lives as God sees them, humbling ourselves, looking to the interests of others more than our own interests
- Discipling others, sharing our faith, training others, teaching others what God is teaching you
How can we grow in our faith?
Strong faith doesn’t just happen. My husband often shares that there were times when he wished God would zap him into holiness. Our spiritual growth doesn’t work like that. Sanctification is a process, progress over time. For me, it has been something like three steps forward, two steps backward … or maybe that is only two steps forward and three steps backward. I’ve also referred to my growth as a roller coaster ride. I’ve experienced mountain-top highs and spent plenty of time in valleys, the wilderness, and even the dry desert.
So what do you do to grow your faith? Here are a few things I have found helpful:
- Find a local church body whose pastor faithfully teaches the Word of God every week. For several years, my husband was my pastor, which was enriching. But when he no longer was pastoring, we had to find a church so that we would be under the regular teaching of the Word. We believe God has a particular local church where He wants to plant each of us because God designed the church to represent a body. A body needs all of its parts! If you aren’t in a local church body, a church body is missing a body part, which hinders its growth!
- Participate in a community of faith, a smaller group usually than a church, small enough to be known well. The purpose of a community group is to do life together, to hold one another accountable, and to grow up in Christ together.
- Read scripture. Ideally, we need to read the Scripture, pray, and worship God individually daily. I like reading big chunks of scripture, reading the Bible completely every three months or so. But at the same time, I like to do a slower, deeper dive into a specific book. Most recently, I’ve read most of the Bible since late November and worked on a personal study of James. (I’ll return to James after the season of Lent).
- Develop a rhythm of prayer. I’ve written about praying. I am drawn to books of written prayers – they feed my soul and provide language for my prayers. I find writing out prayers to be particularly helpful.
- Give generously of your time, talents, and finances to help others. Invest in the lives of others. That might look different for each person reading this sentence. For me, it’s often connecting online, praying for others, and sharing written prayers, but it’s also supporting the personal needs of others as I become aware of them.
No doubt there are more ideas about how to grow your faith. Growing our faith is not a 3-step, 5-step, 12-step model. It’s not a list of “to-do’s.” Growing our faith is about developing our relationship with the living Creator, the majestic King, the gentle Savior. What are you doing this season to connect … or re-connect with God?
Father, you who equips us with the desire to believe
And offers us the gift of faith itself,
Grow our faith!
Like the father who prayed,
I do believe! Help me to overcome my unbelief!
Teach us more and more, Lord
Dying to self is so unnatural, and yet,
Exactly as we were originally designed–
Grow our obedience even when we run from
From the discipline we need–
Produce the good fruit of the Spirit in us,
An abundance of love,
Steadfast, serene, sacrificial —
Love that resonates from our relationship
With You! Grow us up, Father, so that
We will be mature in Christ — This
Is our prayer – Amen.