One sure way to know if something is alive is to check whether it is growing. Things that are living grow. Hannah and Jacob are growing by leaps and bounds – they are growing mentally and emotionally. If either suddenly stopped growing, Monica and I would immediately sense something is wrong and seek medical help. Growth is an essential and natural feature of physical, biological life.
The same is true for spiritual life, but how much do we realize that? Leonard vander Zee writes in “Discipleship and Christian Formation:”
Growth is not an option but an essential and natural feature of life in Christ. The New Testament crackles with the urgency of growth (see Eph 4:13; 2Pet 3:18; Heb 6:1). Many lifelong Christians simply do not catch that urgent message. Instead there’s often a spirit of complacent self-satisfaction (‘I’m saved;’ ‘I go to church’) implying that spiritual growth takes a back seat to career advancement, family life, and even hectic leisure pursuits. Jesus’ call of discipleship and the curriculum of Christian formation create a sense of expectation of growth and maturation in God’s people.
I love the picture the psalmist gives in Psalm 1, that of a “tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (1:3). It’s doing what healthy trees do: Yielding fruit and producing leaves. It is growing. And it can do so because it is “planted by streams of water.” If we see ourselves in the tree in Psalm 1, then the water nourishing us is Jesus. He desires for us and enables us to grow.
So if we’re not growing in Christ, we have a problem whether we realize it or not.