I grew up on a small farm in central Indiana just West of Indianapolis. In addition to a few cows and pigs and some field corn for the animals, we always had a garden. A large garden. At least an acre.
We grew green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, peas, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, squash, radishes, turnips, beets, onions,
eggplant, watermelons, cantaloupes, and strawberries.
Can you guess why we planted such a big garden every year?
The simple is answer. My Dad chose to plant a garden. And he chose what he would plant.
Now in the area of gardening that seems pretty obvious. You decide to have a garden. Purchase the seeds. Then plant them.
However, in the area of spiritual growth this concept seems to have eluded some folks. As we unfold our 2023 theme, “Sowing Seeds for Spiritual Growth,” it’s important to understand that the most basic principle of growth begins with choice. Leadership guru, John Maxwell, calls this “the law of intentionality.” Growth doesn’t just happen.
In his classic book, “As a Man Thinketh, James A. Allen observed, “People are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.”
While God wants us to grow spiritually, he doesn’t force us. It’s our choice. Every goal, dream, or ambition we achieve begins with a choice.
Regarding the law of intentionally, Maxwell says the reason we don’t grow is what he called a “growth gap”between our beliefs and our potential. In “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth,” he suggests 8 gaps. The following 3 laws are particularly applicable in the realm of spiritual growth.
#1 The Assumption Gap.
Spiritual growth does not occur automatically by just being baptized into Christ.
Just like faith, repentance and baptism is a choice, so is our spiritual growth and development.
In the area of physical growth, it seems that children just automatically grow physically year by year in height, weight, strength and physical dexterity. Spiritual growth, however, doesn’t just happen by living year by year. It’s neither accidental and/or automatic.
God commands us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). This implies a concrete, conscious decision.
#2 The Knowledge Gap.
There are a lot of Christians who are unsure of the process and have no plan for growth. “I don’t know where to start,” some say.
In the business world there are success seminars, books and recordings to teach you the principles for improvement financially and professionally. When our son, Kenny, was a teenager we sent him to basketball camps to learn skills, techniques, and drills to improve his game. In every area of life there are resources available to give us the knowledge for growth and improvement.
Spiritually, the Bible says that we have been “given all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3-4). God’s Word promises to bridge the knowledge gap.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
The Bible is basic to your spiritual growth. It will show you what is right. What is wrong. How to get right. Stay right. And it will equip you for every righteous work.
#3 The Timing Gap
“It’s not the right time to begin,” we too often rationalize. We want to grow spiritually. Get stronger. Be better. Do more. And we will, we think. But the time isn’t right.
There’s an old riddle that has been widely used that poses this simple question. “Five frogs were sitting on a log. Four decided to jump. How many were left?
Most people would answer “one.” If you did, that’s wrong. The answer is five. You see, the four only decided to jump, but didn’t do it.
The word of the Bible is “today.” Three times in Hebrews chapter 3 the writer calls upon his readers to take action “today” (Heb. 3: 7, 13,15).
Intentional growth begins now. Today. In the present time.
The 19th century novelist and poet, Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name, George Eliot was right when she wrote, “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman