Paul rejoiced that the Christians in Thessalonica were growing in faith: "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing" (2 Thessalonians 1:3). What does it mean to grow in faith?
What is growing in faith? How can a Christian grow in faith?
Simply put, to grow in faith means to grow spiritually. It is to mature in both knowledge of God and in godly living; ultimately, it is to become more like Christ. Just as a person grows physically from infant to mature adult, a Christian's life is designed to grow spiritually from baby to mature Christian. In 1 Peter 2:2-3 we read, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."
Hebrews 5:12-13 speaks against believers who had failed to grow in faith: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child." To grow in faith involves growing in God's Word and its application.
Paul also used similar words to condemn some of the practices of Christians in Corinth: "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Paul notes that he began with feeding them "milk" or with spiritual basics. Yet they were still not ready for solid food, as their maturity was lacking.
This lack of spiritual maturity was displayed in jealousy and internal conflicts. We can see, then, that growth in faith manifests not only in our relationship with God, but also in our relationships with others. As we seek to grow in faith, rather than be jealous of one another or attempt to set ourselves apart as better than others, as was happening in the Corinthian church, we should have the attitude mentioned by Paul, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:7). When our life is consumed with living for God and His glory, we are well on the path to growing in faith and being spiritually mature.
It is also interesting that Scripture highlights a certain amount of time is involved to become spiritually mature. The apostles were with Jesus for over three years before they began to minister to others with the appropriate maturity. Paul also commanded that church leaders were not to be new converts, because "he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6).
Growing in faith requires both time and effort. God ultimately causes the growth, yet He expects us to follow His ways and seek to grow, becoming mature followers of Jesus who can help make disciples of others (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2).
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