We hear the Word of God through different means. However, what is important is how we use it ultimately. We must frequently introspect and evaluate our spiritual growth. It is vital to ponder whether time is our friend or foe. If it is our friend, we would be making use of it, growing in faith every day. If it is our foe, we would be stuck in the same place we were years ago.
And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’Matthew 18:3
God views child-likeness as a characteristic of progress. Child-likeness is inevitable in attaining eternity; it signifies purity and innocence.
Characteristics of children
- Completely dependent on parents: To what extent are we dependent on God?
- Confidence in their parents: Just like how children hold their parents’ hands and appear confident, come what may, God expects us to be confident in Him.
- Innocence: Children do not have unforgiveness, envy, or bitterness deep down in their hearts. They forgive and forget with ease. This is what God expects from us.
- Honesty: God expects us be honest and eliminate all traces of deceit from our hearts.
- Enthusiastic: God wants us to be enthusiastic and full of energy. He wants us to let go of spirits of lethargy and passiveness.
- Curiosity to learn: An open and inquisitive attitude unlocks our hearts to learn new things. God does not want us to be contented on what we have learnt; rather, He wants us to be open and curious.
- Humility: God hates pride and wants us to be humble.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.Proverbs 11:12
“Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 18:4
However, child-likeness is not childishness.
Characteristics of childishness
- Emotional fluctuation: God asks us to take after children’s heart and not their mind. God does not want us to be emotionally fluctuant; He wants us to be stable in faith.
Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.1 Corinthians 14:20
- Immaturity: We should be mature enough to cross examine if what we hear is built on the foundation of the Word.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”Ephesians 4:14-15
- Blaming others: Children have a habit of not taking accountability; they would rather shift the blame on anybody but themselves. God wants us to quit the blame game and take responsibility for our actions.
- Thoughtless and rapid reaction: We must not forget that we are supposed to be the light of the world. Hence, we should think thrice before we act.
- Stubbornness: Children are stubborn and will throw tantrums to get what they want. They would rather throw a fit for what they want than believing that their parents know their needs better. Often, we are stubborn and wouldn’t want our desires to be compromised. God wants us to leave it to Him, He understands our needs better.
- Attention-seeking: God dislikes it when we seek recognition and attention from others. If we seek anything worldly (power or praise), we are attention-seeking.
- Self-centredness: A concept of self is not taught to children, it is innately in them. Taming and caning them is intended to suppress this concept of self and teach discipline. God lets us go through problems to let go of our concepts of ‘self’ and to discipline us, so as to mould us in a way that God desires. God expects us to crucify our concepts of ‘self’ and prioritise the desires and needs of others before us.
- Lack of contentment: Contentment is key in attaining spiritual progress.
To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’Matthew 11:16-17
- Lack of discernment: We often go behind gold and glitter; things that fade away with time. We are least interested in investing things spiritually; things that are eternal and would never fade away.
What is our relationship with God?
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”Romans 8:15
What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.Galatians 4:1
“As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.”Psalms 123:2
Do we look at God’s hands or His heart? If our eyes are on his hands, we are His servants, but if we look at His heart, we are His children. Most of us would not mind fasting or praying 24*7 to attain what we want. Unfortunately, we would not do the same without wanting a reward from it.
’My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’Luke 15:31
Can we cross-examine our relationship with God? If we are counting desires that have not yet been provided, it is highly doubtful that we recognise our position (children) in God’s sight. For a servant, it is his duty to get what he has worked for. For a child, however, it is his right to inherit from his parents.
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.”1 Corinthians 3:1
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.Hebrews 5:11-13
Here, Paul is not talking about the unbelievers. He is talking about those in church who are not yet ready to take in solid food; their progress is so stationary and stagnant that they are still consuming liquid food. By the time we are supposed to be teachers, our progress is so motionless that we are still reciting the alphabets. God asks us to deny ourselves and carry the cross every day if we desire to follow Him. Repentance and introspection about our spiritual growth is inevitable in following Him.
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?1 Corinthians 3:3
We must introspect if we have spirits of jealousy and unforgiveness. If we hold grudges and are envious of achievements of those around us, God says that we are acting like mere humans. Drifting away is not something that happens suddenly out of nowhere. It is something that happens gradually. Personality regression is when you go back to an earlier stage of development. If we backslide, we experience a regression in our spiritual growth.
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.John 6:66
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.2 Peter 2:20
Elements essential for growth
- Nutrition (food): We are never busy that we forget food, but we are so busy that we forget to read the Word of God. Often, we prioritise our physical growth and not our spiritual growth.
Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the Word of God.Deuteronomy 8:3
Consuming food is not enough; the quality and nutritional enrichment matter. Consumption of junk food causes adverse effects. Hence, it is vital to consume food that nourishes you. We are exposed to several things on a daily basis; however, we must pick and choose those which enrich our spiritual growth. Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.Romans 10:17
- Breathing: Pray without ceasing. Breathing is involuntary; it signifies a persistent relationship with God. Taking a deep breath is voluntary; it signifies a conscious communication with God.
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.Ephesians 7:14
- Exercising: It is a step towards growth. We prioritise working out physically that we often forget about spiritual exercise. Applying the Word that we read on a daily basis is how we exercise spiritually. Spiritual growth in its true essence requires effort, sacrifice, and conscious living.
- Family: The church is your family. Building a fellowship is vital in spiritual growth. Without fellowship, you will stumble and lack encouragement.
- Rest: Just like how children need rest to function and grow efficiently, we must put a full stop to our constant worries and thoughts and rest in God. God calls those who do not trust in Him as those possessing an evil heart.
- Getting cleaned: Just like how children must be frequently cleaned up, we must clean up and repent every day. We must eliminate anything and everything that does not align with God’s likeness. It must be something that everyone else follows, but deny yourself. A new day is a new chance for you to repent.
- Love and affection: If children do not grow in an environment that provide love and affection, their growth will be incomplete; lack of love will not give them characteristics that stem out of love like empathy and kindness. Similarly, we must receive and pour out love, so that as brothers and sisters, we grow spiritually.
Foundations for spiritual growth
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”John 12:24-25
Just as how parents spend a fortune for their children’s education, God invests so much in moulding us. When children fail their exams, their parents will be disappointed. How much more would our Father be let down when our spiritual growth is not just stagnant, but fails? On the other hand, when children pass, they make their parents so proud. Similarly, when we progress spiritually, our Father will be delighted and proud in us.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:48