Never Stop Growing
By Alton Garrison
Maturity is a process. A typical Christian over the course
of a lifetime will experience periods of great growth and periods of what
appears to be dormancy. This cycle of Christian growth can be compared to the
cycle of physical growth. Infant growth seems to occur daily. After a week’s
absence, many parents declare that their baby has grown at least three inches!
Children go through amazing growth spurts, growing through
shoes and clothes in a matter of weeks. Such rapid growth does not continue.
During the course of childhood, there are growth spurts and growth slowdowns.
Approaching adulthood, the adolescent may do aerobics, work out or run in order
to continue growing. As adults we sometimes grow in places we would prefer not
to; only with great effort do we continue to grow where it’s recommended.
New Christians grow at an amazing rate. Why? The information
is all new; everything, from Bible stories to Sunday School lessons to prayer
seminars, is fresh and alive. Voraciously, new Christians consume as much
information and inspiration as possible, growing in Christ daily. There is
nothing more exciting than discipling new Christians and enjoying their
wonderment and excitement.
Later, the process of spiritual growth slows. Growth must
become both planned and intentional. As one matures in Christ, the areas worked
on may be smaller. The new Christian may be trying to quit drinking and
swearing, and learning how to pray and read the Bible. The mature Christian may
be learning a greater degree of tenderness, exploring God’s perspective on
pain, or fine-tuning an attitude. Regardless of the stage of spiritual
development, every believer must continue to grow!
How do you know if you are still growing? By evaluation. If
growth is to be intentional, we must assess its progress to ensure that we are
continuing to grow. The following questions will help you evaluate your
personal spiritual growth over the last year.
Is your love evident to others?
The disciples did not wear emblazoned T-shirts proclaiming
themselves as disciples. They had no advertising, no television commercials,
and no shoe contracts. In today’s society, the disciples would attempt to
renegotiate their contract to ensure a higher degree of visibility. But Jesus
did teach them a way they could be identified. In essence, Jesus told them,
“Guys, if you want people to know that you are associated with Me, show them
love and show love to each other.” The disciples may have been disappointed
that there was not a more exciting, glamorous way to be identified with Jesus.
Loving people seemed so ordinary.
Love was the mark of discipleship then, and love is the mark
of discipleship now. If you are growing, your love for others is increasing. If
your love for others is not increasing, you are probably not growing! This year
have you shown love to people that the world considers unlovable? Do others
characterize you as loving and kind? At church, on the job, and in your family,
do the people around you know that you love them? Is your love visible,
evident, demonstrated in both words and actions? If you are not sure of the
answer, ask the people around you!
Are the habits of a disciple evident in your life and
increasing in importance?
In the last year have you continued the five primary habits
of a disciple?
Do you spend time every day in the Bible? If you are in a
growth mode, God will be revealing new and exciting things to you through the
empowerment of the Holy Spirit. A mature believer eagerly anticipates time in
Do you spend time every day in prayer? Are you spending more
time than you were last year? In order for your relationship with God to
continue to progress, you must be spending daily time in fellowship with Him.
This is not an option! If you are not praying, you are not growing!
Are you tithing to your local church? Do you enjoy giving,
or has it become a chore? The growing believer is giving more and enjoying it
more than ever before.
Are you attending church regularly?
Are you witnessing to others? In the last 12 months have you
led anyone to Jesus or invited anyone to church? A growing disciple will
produce other disciples. Our excitement about Jesus should always be evident to
Are you more sensitive to God’s voice than ever before?
This question deals with your spiritual sensitivity. Growing
believers are aware that God can speak to them through His Word, through the
Holy Spirit, through others, and through impressions. Are you asking God for
and receiving His insight into situations and individuals? Your antenna should
always be up and ready to receive from Him.
Are you hungrier for God than ever before?
This question deals with desire. “As the deer pants for
water, so I long for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1, TLB). This is a wonderful word
picture of desire for God. Do you hunger for God that strongly? Paul is a great
example of someone who continued in his hunger for God. He said, “I want to
know Christ” (Philippians 3:10). This was Paul, a man who had done great things
for God. Why would he need to know Christ? Paul wanted to continue growing in
his knowledge of Jesus. Are you as excited about knowing Jesus as you’ve ever
Is the quality of forgiveness evident in your life?
Ouch! This is the question many people would prefer to skip.
Forgiveness is not natural; it is supernatural. But mature believers are
willing to forgive others in the same way Christ forgave them. John F. Kennedy
once said, “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” That is not
God’s idea of forgiveness! We must forgive completely, as we have been
forgiven. Are you harboring bitterness toward someone who has wronged you? Are
you unwilling to release a hurt that has occurred? Are there people in your
workplace, your church or your family whom you have refused to forgive?
Unforgiveness will stop your spiritual growth. It is a barrier we erect that
keeps us from a complete relationship with Christ.
Do you have a plan for growth?
You will not grow without a plan. Remember that growth is
intentional, not accidental! Each year you should chart your path for spiritual
growth in the coming year. For many people this is the primary reason they do
not grow. They have the desire to grow and the time to grow, but they neglect
to plan for growth. Consequently, upon evaluating their year, they find that
little, if any, growth has occurred. Hoping to grow spiritually without a plan
is like trying to learn a new language without a teacher.
Are you following your growth plan?
For a plan to be effective, it must be followed. This
question deals with self-discipline. Are you on track with your plan in the
areas where you felt God was challenging you to grow?
Are your spiritual authorities aware of and involved in your
Your growth will be enhanced by the involvement of your
Sunday School teacher, small group leader, pastor, and spiritual leaders.
Accountability is important to growth. Sometimes, you may see little if any
spiritual progress in yourself while others may see a great deal. At other
times, you may feel like you are right on track, without realizing you’re
ignoring a glaring area of weakness. Determine to be vulnerable with others and
allow them to assist you in your growth.
Does the Word of God govern your life habits?
This question deals with behavior. Are your actions
consistent with God’s commands? Is your flesh winning the battle for control of
your habits? If you are growing, your habits should be conforming to His Word
more and more. Will we all continue to struggle in some areas? Of course! Paul
did. He wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not
do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).
Are you becoming more Christlike in your thoughts, attitudes
Simply put, are you less like the world and more like Jesus?
Is your Christlikeness increasing? This question speaks to the primary goal of
Christianity: to be like Jesus! Each year, you should be more like Jesus than
you have ever been before.
We will never reach a place of perfect maturity until we
reach heaven. But our maturity is for a purpose. We do not grow in Christ for
growth’s sake alone. Our growth is not part of some celestial contest whereby
God proclaims a winner of the “Most Mature Award.” Instead, our growth should
propel us to the next level — ministry! The natural outgrowth of maturity
Our goal now is to be a disciple who makes disciples. That
is discipleship going full circle — a 360-degree disciple.
ALTON GARRISON is assistant general superintendent of the
Assemblies of God.
Visit discipleship.ag.org for a video podcast with
From The 360-Degree Disciple by Alton Garrison (Springfield,
Mo.: GPH, 2009). Available through Gospel Publishing House.
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