Being a child is an exciting, terrifying time. Growth can occur at extreme rates. Every activity is new, or otherwise offers some new experience. But with all this growth, there are inevitable growing pains. Children who are learning to walk often fall. Children who are learning to climb often fall from less than comfortable heights. Bumps and bruises often accompany growth. Yet growth must be pursued, with vim and vigor. To children, stubbed toes and a bloody nose are small prices to pay for the reward of increased speed and dexterity.
Just as physical, emotional, and intellectual growth can be painful for children, spiritual growth can be painful for adults. But unlike most children, whose desire for growth is insatiable, adults are often content to wane rather than wax. Learning new things can be awkward, and we are often very uncomfortable in our awkwardness. So, instead of developing, we accept dying.
But spiritual apathy is not an acceptable choice for Christians. The last written statement of the apostle Peter is the command to grow, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18a ESV). Growth helps to prevent being “carried away with the error of lawless people” so that we “lose [our] own stability” (2 Peter 3:17). Growth is the antidote to being children who are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Just as we expect our healthy children to grow and mature, so God expects that from us (see Hebrews 5:11-14).
Growth is not the ultimate objective. It is the means to our end. To Timothy, Paul instructed him to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). Like great athletes constantly exert themselves in the pursuit of championships, Christians train for godliness. The Hebrews were commanded to strive for (or pursue) holiness “without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
The pursuit of godliness and holiness must not be out of a desire for praise. All our service should glorify God (1 Peter 4:11). All our good works should point heavenward (Matthew 5:16). In fact, everything we do should be for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). So, the catalyst for our growth should be the glorification of our great God. When the going gets tough, when growth becomes hard, just remember the one whom you serve.
Isn’t God’s glory worth a little effort? Isn’t God’s glory worth a little embarrassment? Isn’t God’s glory worth a few stubbed toes and a bloody nose?