Category Archives: RGG Fall 2021

Grow • Devotion #6: Growing Together

The Bible is full of metaphors concerning the concept of growth. Trees, seeds, and children are all mentioned to describe growth. In many of these metaphors, it can be easy to think of growth as a personal goal or achievement. However, it must be noted that although personal growth is important, said growth has a purpose beyond ourselves. That is, we are personally growing in order to aid the entire Body of Christ.

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul expresses that Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers in order to build up the body towards the unity of faith. This unity is then described as the catalyst for the maturity of the body. Paul explains this maturity is needed in order to withstand human cunning and craftiness that may sway us from the truth. Paul then drives the practicality of the point home in Ephesians 4:15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

This passage paints a specific picture concerning the way in which the Church may grow into its purpose. Paul says we must speak the truth in love, and in order to do this, there must be a community. As the Church engages in a true community that creates a margin for the truth to be spoken freely, it provides growth into Jesus and away from self. Likewise, as the Church grows into Jesus, the parts of the body gain clarity on their roles and purposes, allowing the body to function properly in love.

It is of great importance to grow personally; however, it cannot be understated that in order for the Church to mature, there must be a growth of the community. As individuals get stronger in their personal faith, it must be passed and translated to others through the community for the express purpose of being a stronger, more mature body. In doing so, the Church will be able to fulfill Jesus’ purpose of spreading the Gospel to all nations.

Grow • Devotion #5: Growth Rings

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 

There are times when our Christian growth appears stagnate, much like when our goals in life plateau. If we fight through the will to quit, we find ourselves stronger and leaner on the other side. Pushing through obstacles that could be a detriment, we embrace the courage that is required to persevere. Our upbringing, economic background, physical, or emotional status can often be enough to deter us from reaching the finish line. I liken it to the growth of a tree, from germination to maturation, the strength of the tree is determined by the scars of its past. Where accidents, disease, and drought take a toll, you will find an inner strength to the tree that has faced adversity and survived. Luthiers, woodturners and carpenters, all prize old-growth trees for these reasons. Character (tone), strength, and beauty are to name a few.

Taken from the website, we find a description of what a cross-section of a tree might look like. With each ring representing another year of growth, we quickly see the totality of life on this particular tree. As with us, the spring of life typically brings fast growth. Plenty of rain and sunshine, the tree finds little resistance to impede its burgeoning growth. Equally, the tree progresses rather quickly during its early years, as do we. However, it is not long before we see the scars of an indeterminate force, much like the world around us; it has left an impression on the trunk of the tree. In response, the tree has girded up the side bearing the most pressure, creating in it an indelible mark. Suddenly a new pressure has arrived; competition from its neighbors has reduced the nutrients that are required for rapid growth. Just like us as we leave home and begin to build our lives, outside influences have begun to take their toll. Entering mid-life, we once again see a rapid and sustained transformation. Hopefully, for the tree, it will mean thicker growth rings, and for us, a more stable and sustainable lifestyle. Yet, no life is exempt from the disasters that life brings. In this example, it is a fire that has done the deed to the tree, and for us, it may be the death of someone we love. It could possibly be divorce, the loss of a job, or some other situation out of our control. 

One of the most sought after pieces or “blanks” of wood are burls. Burls are pieces of wood that, through the process of stress, have deformed the tree in such a manner as to make bulbous outgrowths on the trunk of the tree. Prized for their colors and unique grain, they are sought after by bowl turners worldwide. Beautiful and individual, I cannot help comparing them to those who have lived a life of such stress, yet persevered. Their beauty appears from the inside and affects their outward beauty, too. They illuminate a room with their presence. Through personal trials, they have held on to their love of the Word and have been obedient to the Lord. Knowing their trials bring forth perseverance and steadfast love, their growth is quite evident.

James 1:2-4 says, “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.”
In the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:18-23), we find seeds that are sown on different mediums along the path. When sown to good soil, the seed begins to flourish and grow despite adversity. Think of ourselves as that seed, when the evil one comes, that you too will be able to withstand wiles of the devil and his minions because you have gladly received God’s Word. By receiving the Word and the growth that comes with it, your weakness will be made strong. Desire the growth that trials bring. Let the scars that life brought not deter you, but strengthen you in your faith. God intended them and your unique differences to be used for His glory, and through a desire to grow, you too will hear “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Grow • Devotion #4: Grow in the Word

I am an ex-catholic. It sounds funny to say. We were taught to believe in God, the cross, death, and resurrection. I was never taught about salvation or a personal relationship with Jesus. As a born-again Christian, I learned the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but the way it was driven home was through studying the Word.  

We grow in the Word in many ways: attending gatherings, becoming involved in Growth Communities, and spending quiet time with Jesus. 

Once we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes into us. We must open our hearts and minds, but to truly grow in the Lord, we need to study and learn continually. 

Peter challenges us, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). 

Serving is another way that we grow. Being involved in the foodservice part of our Recovery Ministry, I have seen growth within myself and in our volunteers. I have built relationships with the volunteers, and seeing them work together to serve all those who come for dinner each week is such a blessing to so many. It is incredible how we all have grown. I read a quote by Mark Opperman, “Every person who receives Jesus as their forgiver and leader needs to keep growing in their faith.”

In Acts chapter 9, we read about the conversion of Saul. God blinds him on the road to Damascus, and he repents of his evil ways. After three days, he is able to see again, and his life is forever changed as he begins to grow to trust Jesus as his Savior. Paul’s early life after his conversion shows us how he grew in his faith. 

The Bible points out the dramatic conversion of Saul to Paul. Saul’s conversion is one that shows that we all can grow in the Lord. Paul says that he was the chief of sinners. He persecuted, imprisoned and, even agreed to the killing of followers of Christ. Acts 8:3 records, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” 

Things changed for Paul after he was a believer. Acts 9:23 says, “When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him.” Soon the Jews were plotting to kill him for following Jesus. Bible scholars believe the phrase “many days” means a span of about three years. During those years, Paul grew in his faith and became what God wanted him to be.  

Are we growing? Are we cooperating with what we feel is God’s will in our life? If we want to continue to grow, we need to keep seeking to know Jesus and follow Him in all our ways.

Grow • Devotion #3: Desire to Grow

I remember being a kid and wanting to grow up. I was never satisfied being the age I was. When I was four, my best friend at church was starting kindergarten, but I was not old enough. I wanted to go to school just like he did. When I was in elementary school, I could not wait to be in junior high. My school played a nasty trick on me; they decided when I was in sixth grade to change the grade structure of the school from K-6 to K-8. I was so bummed. Then when I was in eighth grade, they added ninth grade. It felt like a conspiracy. Finally, I got to high school and could not wait until I turned sixteen so I could drive. I never seemed to be satisfied with the age I was. I always wanted to grow and be more mature. I wanted to be like my father, uncles, and grandfather. 

Every Christian should have a desire to grow and be more mature in the Lord. The Christian who is growing in the Lord will become more and more like Jesus Christ. Just as physical growth begins at birth and is expected by our parents, so spiritual growth begins when we are born again in Jesus and is expected by God.

As we grow physically, we realize there are privileges and responsibilities that come with maturing. We get to drive, vote, go to college or trade school, work, and earn money. We also have to pay for housing, food, transportation (cars cost money), and things that are important to us. Physical growth requires exercise and practice, no matter what our interests (sports, music, and work skills).

In the same way, spiritual growth gives us privileges and responsibilities in the Lord. Hebrews 5:11-14 makes the analogy of spiritual growth to physical growth, saying we should not remain as a babe in Christ feeding on milk, which are the elementary doctrines of the faith, but growing in Christ and feeding on the solid food doctrines of the faith.

As we mature in Christ, we are given privileges and skills by God’s Spirit. We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). We are able to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). Yet, we must also desire to grow in Christ. We are told to add virtue to our faith, and knowledge to our virtue, and self-control to our knowledge, and steadfastness to our self-control, and godliness to our steadfastness, and brotherly affection to our godliness, and love to our brotherly affection. If these qualities are seen in our lives, then we are growing in the Lord, and God can use us to do His work (2 Peter 1:5-8).

One way we can measure our spiritual growth is to check and see if our lives show an increase in the fruit of the Spirit. We should be known for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

As we grow physically, we become stronger through exertion and resistance exercises. Likewise, spiritual growth is developed through hard times and life’s trials. James 1:2-4 tells us we should, “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.” 
Do not just attend a gathering once a week. Join a Growth Community and study God’s Word with fellow believers. There we can help and encourage one another in spiritual growth. Jesus knows our hearts, and He has promised to oversee our spiritual growth when we desire to become more like Him. Philippians 1:6 declares, And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Grow • Devotion #2: Firm Foundation

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, it as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:14-15 (NIV)

A seed needs good soil to grow properly. Sometimes, things happen that hinder a seed from growing up to achieve all that it could, because not everything can be controlled (for example the weather). Persevering through the storms and droughts is a factor of growth.

Like a seed, we too need good soil. Our soil is our foundation in Christ. We need to be actively fed from His Word, and keep Him as our foundation. Like the weather, there are many aspects of our lives that we cannot control. Unforeseen things such as getting sick, being let go from a job, or someone we are close to leaving us, could all have the opportunity to hinder our growth. That is if we allow it to. There are things that happen in this life that help shape us into who God has called us to be. When something occurs that catches us off guard; our foundation is so important. We need to focus on Christ so that we are not tossed to and fro by the waves of this life.

In Ephesians 4:14-15, Paul discusses the importance of growing in Christ, to avoid being overcome by the waves, or led astray. He says, “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

Growing in His Word and becoming more Christ-like should be our goal daily. When we are rooted in Christ, we become strong by His strength, to persevere through what is out of our control.

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