By Kenneth E. Hagin
Growing up is a process. No one is born fully grown. Everyone comes into the world as an infant and progresses through different developmental stages until he reaches adulthood. The same is true when you become born again. It doesn’t matter how old you are physically. When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are a spiritual babe in Christ, and you must learn to grow in the things of God.
In the Book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul talks about the spiritual growth of Christians.
11 And he [Jesus] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.
Did you notice in verse 15, Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to “. . . grow up into him in all things . . .”? Evidently, Paul didn’t think that the Church at Ephesus had grown up yet. He also said in verse 13, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, UNTO A PERFECT MAN . . . .”
In The Amplified Bible, this phrase is translated, “that we might arrive at really mature manhood.” In these verses, Paul is encouraging us to reach spiritual maturity. He is encouraging us to grow up spiritually.
Throughout the New Testament, we see a striking similarity between spiritual and physical development. In fact, there are three stages of spiritual development that correspond to physical development. They are: babyhood, childhood, and manhood.
Even though a person can be a born-again Christian for many years, he can still be in either the babyhood or childhood stage of development in certain areas of his life. As we take a look at each stage of spiritual development, you may see where you need to grow in certain areas.
1 PETER 2:2
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.
Newborn babies require a lot of work. They don’t do much except eat and sleep. You have to do everything for them; you have to dress them, feed them, change their diapers, and so forth. And they can’t eat solid food. They can only digest their mother’s milk or baby formula.
In the same way, you can’t expect young Christians to do for themselves. You need to follow up with them after they first come to your church and encourage them to return, or at least to get involved in another good church. They don’t understand much about the things of God, so you have to spend a lot of time teaching and counseling them.
They’ll come crying on your shoulder about this, that, or the other thing. They don’t have a lot of confidence in their own prayers, so they’ll ask everyone they see to pray about the same thing over and over again. You have to carry them, so to speak, because they don’t know how to walk in the ways of God for themselves.
Now there comes a day in all babies’ lives when they have to be weaned from their mother’s milk. On the day that Isaac was weaned, the Bible says that Abraham made a great feast (see Gen. 21:8). Similarly, there comes a time in every Christian’s life when he has to learn to do things for himself. David said, “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child” (Ps. 131:2).
But how many of you know that the day a child is weaned from his bottle is not always a happy occasion. I have heard many children scream as though they were dying, just to get their bottle! Unfortunately, this same thing can happen with Christians. There are plenty of babies in the Church who need to be weaned but are screaming to “high heavens” to keep their bottles, so to speak.
In the last church I pastored, there were two older ladies who were spiritual babies. Even though they had been saved for a long time and were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, they were the biggest babies in our church. They needed a lot of attention and would miss church on Sunday just so I would visit them on Monday!
Christians ought to grow up enough so that they don’t always need someone to visit them, pump them up, pray for them, and feed them. They ought to grow up so they can help somebody else.
14 That we henceforth be no more children . . . .
Children can be a handful! They are often curious and like to get into things. One time I came in with a sack and put it on the kitchen table. In no time at all, one of my young granddaughters was in the sack, wanting to know what was in it. Spiritually immature children get into things too. They poke their noses in places where they shouldn’t. They are always in other people’s business.
Another thing about children is that they have never learned the value of silence. They talk too much! And it’s the same way in the childhood stage of spiritual growth. The Word of God has a lot to say about talking too much.
19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin . . . .
3 . . . a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
People who talk all the time are usually guilty of at least three sins: Evil speaking, vain speaking, and foolish speaking. Evil speaking is talking about and discussing the faults of people who are not present. In my 12 years of pastoring, my children thought that all the members of my congregations were perfect. Never once did they hear Oretha or me ever say anything negative about any member.
Vain speaking is talking about oneself all the time—what he has done, where he has been, and what he is about to do. By hearing him talk, you would think that no one else existed except him and his family! We need not be self–centered but be concerned about the needs of others.
Foolish speaking is constantly jesting and joking about things that are unprofitable. The Bible says that jesting and joking are “not convenient.”
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
The Amplified Bible translates “not convenient” as not fitting or becoming, and the New International Version translates the phrase “. . . which are not convenient . . .” as, “. . . which are out of place . . . .”
Sometimes people say something hurtful and afterward say, “Oh, I was only joking.” No, they weren’t! They were being mean and hurtful with their words and then were trying to cover it up by saying it was a joke. Proverbs 12:18 (NIV) says, “Reckless words pierce like the sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” We need to watch what comes out of our mouth. Our words should lift others up, not tear them down (Eph. 4:29).
One characteristic of spiritual maturity, or manhood, is esteeming earthly things lightly—in other words, putting God first in every area of your life.
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Moses is an example of someone who esteemed earthly things lightly. Moses could have had all the riches of Egypt. Instead, he chose to “. . . suffer affliction with the people of God . . . .”
Another characteristic of the mature believer is that he is God-conscious and seeks after the Kingdom of God. Baby Christians, on the other hand, are self-conscious and materialistic-minded.
I’ve only touched on a few areas of growth in each of the developmental stages. Keep in mind that you can be mature in one area but a baby in another area. No one has “arrived.” There is always room for spiritual growth.
How do you grow spiritually? The answer lies in your diet. Just as a child grows by what he eats, you grow spiritually by what you eat spiritually. Since you are a part of the New Testament Church, your diet should be mainly made up of the Epistles, which were written specifically to the Church. I also recommend spending a lot of time in First Corinthians 13 (the “love chapter”) and the First Epistle of John.
God’s nature is love, and His nature abides in you. But you must feed on love for it to grow. I am thoroughly convinced that feeding on love can make a huge impact in your life. Many problems can be avoided simply by walking in love.
Every believer has received the same New Birth, the same measure of faith (Rom. 12:3), the same measure of grace (Eph. 4:7), and the same love of God (Rom. 5:5). It’s up to each of us to develop what we have been given. You won’t mature overnight. But as you meditate on the Word of God, especially the Word concerning love, you will leave the baby and childhood stages behind you and move into maturity so that you can be a blessing to the Body of Christ and the world.