During my mission travels, I am often asked about how people can grow in their faith – especially in Africa, where Christianity is noted as being “a mile wide and an inch thick.” We are called to ‘grow roots’ like a healthy tree by a stream so we prosper (Psalm 1:3). This means we are called to go deep so that we cannot be uprooted easily. I will be exploring many different ways to grow during upcoming posts.
One thing that I found is that it takes TIME to grow in faith. When I first became a Christian, I was almost TOO excited – that is in the eyes of the church people around me. Often I was advised by wise church leaders to “be still, and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10). This is good advice because it taught me to wait on Him when my natural desire is to ‘jump in with both feet.’ Even in Kenya, there is an expression called ‘pole, pole’, which means slowly, slowly – and in our fast paced society around us it can be hard to slow down to hear God’s still small voice speaking to you in your heart. My Tyndale Seminary professor David Sherbino used to remind me that it’s hard “to hear God in an adrenaline rush.”
Why does it take time to grow in God? Well, think of it this way – in my church I am a server- crucifer. I bear the processional cross at the beginning and end of the service. When I do that, I am acting as an image-bearer. That image represents Jesus. That image is also inside of you – you’ve been marked as Christ’s own, with the sign of the cross, and in time He conforms you to be more and more like Him (2 Cor. 3:18). We are a part of God’s family and as we all grow in faith, often we see glimpses of Jesus’ love and character in others. It’s not just that people are nice, it’s that they remind you of Jesus.
Spiritual growth is like growing fruit. Nicky Gumbel tells many stories in the Alpha Course. One story involves Nicky’s impatience about pears growing on a newly planted tree. Nicky would check the tree’s growth so often that his friends teased him. Finally a friend taped a granny smith apple to the pear tree. Nicky responded to this joke by saying, “I may stupid, but even I know that granny smith apples do not grow on pear trees.” Nicky emphasized that it takes time to grow fruit, and it also takes time to grow in faith. So I encourage you with Church Father John Chrysostom’s proverb about patience. He says that to be patient, is to ‘have a wide and big soul!’
Why do we need to grow in God? We need to grow to become familiar with, and grounded in truth. That way we won’t be deceived by lies. When we become mature, also we get more discerning, loving and willing to bless each other in ministry (Eph. 4:13-16).
Now finally to one of the ways to grow in God: We grow through God’s LOVE. Earlier I mentioned about being like a deep-rooted tree by a stream. Now you can imagine yourself like a plant. Any plant needs good nourishing soil. A heart full of forgiveness is like good faith-soil inside you. When we are rooted in God’s love, we grow deeper into God (like tree roots) and also wider in our reach towards others (like the plant growing up towards the sun). God’s love is like the sunshine we need to grow even in hard times. I pray that as you read this article, you may experience the love of God in your heart. It’s like water to the soul and sunshine to the heart.
St. Paul gives us a special prayer in Ephesians 3: 16 – 19 for us to meditate on: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp who wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.”
This article was published in Anglicans for Renewal in Fall 2011