Growth is an expectation of the Christian life. It is the drive to be more like Jesus today than the day before. At times this is a fun experience. Some lessons we would rather not repeat. Each step of the way we see the truth of who we are, who God is, and the amazing empowerment we get from the Gospel. In our time together, we will look at what it takes to grow.
1. Describe a time when you did something wrong, knew better, but forgot.
Growth takes purpose.
Effective growth takes both reminding ourselves of what we already know and learning new things. The things we know can become boring. We often do not want new information, getting us stuck with the past. The difference-maker is a purpose. Defining our purpose or answering the “why?” propels growth. When people take on a physical challenge, there is often a “why” behind it. The same holds true spiritually as well. In such challenges, we relearn the fundamentals as well as learn new skills to help achieve our goal.
Read: Philippians 3:12-16, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
2. What drove Paul to pursue growth?
Growth takes cheerleaders.
People have enough critics, but seldom enough cheerleaders. The difference is choice. Cheerleaders choose to help their team succeed. We need people who will encourage and even push us to grow. It is rare for a person to grow on their own. The Christian life was not intended to be a solo adventure. One of the strengths of a Growth Community is being each other’s cheerleaders. That is a choice each of us in our Growth Community needs to make. One of the strengths of the Apostle Paul was his cheerleading other Christians to grow.
Read Philippians 2:19-24, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.”
Now read 1 Thessalonians 4:1, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.”
3. How was Paul a cheerleader?
Growth takes testing.
We have a choice to actively grow or not. Either way, God will test us. In Judges, God left nations to test Israel to see if they would follow His ways. In Job, God allows Satan to test Job to show that Job would stick with God. God’s testing allows us to see how far we need to go, like in Judges (That did not go so well for Israel). God’s testing also allows us to see how far we have come, like Job (Satan was proved wrong, and in all those trials, Job never sinned with his lips!). In all testing, God’s aim is to make us like Jesus. While not enjoyable, we grow from it. Thankfully, the Bible gives a healthy mindset for testing (One more thing, Israel did not pursue growth. Job did.).
Read James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Read 1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
4. What is the value and the result of growing through trials?
Growth takes life.
Read Ephesians 2:1-10, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Read John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
We need the Gospel to grow. Prior to being in Christ, the Bible describes us as dead. Being in Christ, the Bible describes us as being alive! Instead of our sin being the defining aspect of our life, it is God’s work in our lives. The power of the Gospel enables us to live, not just avoid Hell and the consequences of our sin. In the movie, “The Rookie,” the main character has a turn around where baseball is no longer a job, but a privilege to play. Near the end of the movie he says, “You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball!” We get to grow and be like Jesus. We get to be a blessing to others. Growing in Christ is not a burden.
5. How does the Gospel impact our growing in Christ?
Growth takes rest.
Too much rest and a person is lazy. Too much work and a person burns out. While doing God’s will shows the love of Jesus, so does stopping and just spending time with Him. A trainer once told me the biggest mistake people make in physical training is working too much, and not getting enough rest. By working less, they would get stronger, he said. Growing in Christ is similar. To grow, you must have time with Jesus. Some call this a Sabbath principle, solitude, or resting in Jesus. Regardless of what you call it, you need planned times where it is just Jesus. It is not a time for another Bible lesson, sermon, podcast, song, or ministry assignment. It is just Jesus. Throughout the year, set aside time where it is just you and Jesus. This is hard to do. We love to be busy and fear quietness. Too often, we miss what Jesus is trying to tell us because we are too busy to hear it.
Read: Psalm 46
“To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah”
6. Why is it important that we “cease striving?”
Define your growth plan.
Growth takes purpose, cheerleaders, testing, life, and rest. An effective growth plan empowers you to handle life’s challenges by leveraging these things. Planning to grow spiritually does not require a ton of planning. If you can not write your spiritual growth plan on a plain sticky note, it is too complicated. You will not do it. Get a sticky note or a small index card to write out your growth plan. Once you achieved your plan, grab another sticky note and write a new one. Here are some questions to think through:
7. Why do I want to be more like Jesus this year? This answers why you want to grow.
8. Who are my cheerleaders to be more like Jesus? Who am I cheerleading? This answers who will help you to grow.
9. What test am I not doing so well in that I want to pass? This answers what area on which God may want you to work.
10. What resources do I need to “pass the test?” This answers how you are going to grow.
11. How will I spend time with Jesus? This answers how you will gain the spiritual rest you need to grow.
Suggestion for Growth Community Leaders:
Once in a while, ask or have a time of sharing how things are going with their growth plan, or even a new one. This is a way to be a great cheerleader for each other.