How Not to Grow: Pitfalls to avoid in the Process of Spiritual Growth

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

In the previous meditations on the subject of growth, it had been established that every child grows and so we too, as God’s children, must grow. It was also made clear that the growth of a child of God must be a growth into Christ, in all things.
Good as growth is, it comes with its challenges. For some the increased responsibilities and challenges that accompany growth are overwhelming. Growth becomes their undoing. Scripture is littered with sad testimonies of several people whose growth turned out to be the cause of their downfall. Such accounts have been recorded for our learning. We trust that God would use some such examples to instruct us on how not to grow.

JESHURUN


Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Saviour.” – Deut. 32:15


Jeshurun is a poetical name for the people of Israel, used in token of affection, meaning, “the dear upright people.” We are familiar with the story of how God chose Israel as his people. Ezekiel 16:4-7, 15 is an allegorical account of how Israel was chosen from nothing: “On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood… I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed… But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute.”
God helped Israel to grow but when she grew up, she became a prostitute, running after other gods. Israel’s growth, strength and beauty became her undoing.

That is not how to grow. Growing up and becoming strong should not lead to abandoning the God who saved you and made you grow. But that is a common human weakness. No sooner does a person grow that they begin to think they got there by their own strength. They forget that there is nothing we have or are, that we have not been given. As you grow, never forget the Lord who made you grow. Never leave Him to run after other gods.

SOLOMON AND ABIJAH


“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” – 1 Ki. 11:4
“But Abijah grew in strength. He married fourteen wives…” – 2 Chron. 13:21
Both kings feared God in their early days but as they grew, their omissions caught up with them. The love of women became their undoing. Are you a brother, a pastor, a leader in a student fellowship, and God is helping you to grow? Is this growth drawing sisters to you? As Samson grew in strength, he became attracted to women and them to him. Be careful that the women who are attracted to your growth do not entice your heart. Watch out against those lonely counselling and prayer sessions, your enemy loves to partake in them. Do not become “the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires” (2 Tim. 3:6).

The result of such carelessness is that your heart fails to be fully devoted to the Lord you God. That shouldn’t be the account of your growth. Rather, “treat… older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Tim. 5:2).


DOEG


Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!” – Ps. 52:7


Doeg was the Edomite who had gone to Saul and told him “David has gone to the house of Abimelech.” “He trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!” He didn’t grow properly. God was going to bring him “down to everlasting ruin.” Is God beginning to grow your influence and connect you to high places? Do you have the ear of some powerful persons? Let your growth be like those of Joseph and Daniel, who used their positions to uplift others. Do not be like Doeg who grew strong by destroying others. That isn’t how you should grow. Grow up into Christ.


THE SEED AND THE THORNS


“’Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” – Mt. 13:7
“‘Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” – Mt. 13:30


As you grow in your walk with Christ, you must be careful because there may be thorns that may be growing alongside. Watch out for “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” that can choke your life, making you unfruitful. Note that Jesus said the thorns also grow. While you are growing, the thorns are also growing if they are not uprooted. Don’t be presumptuous and say the thorns are not there. This life has many cares and deceits. You must cry to God to help you uproot them so you can grow up into Christ without being choked and rendered unfruitful.


The story of the weeds is a scary one. Are you genuinely a child of God who is growing in all things into Christ or are you part of the company of believers, but a weed? God is a careful farmer. If He uproots you now, some wheat, some true children of His may also be affected. He doesn’t want collateral damage. “Let them both grow together” is the instruction. This growth is to be allowed “until the harvest.” This is a serious point to pause and reflect on your life. Are you growing in the church, being handed increasing responsibilities? Is your reputation among the company of believers growing? Do you have a lofty reputation but are growing wrongly? Does that reputation shame you into refusing to acknowledge that you need help? Please check: are you a growing weed or a growing wheat? The Master says to allow both grow together. That you are growing does not necessarily mean you are a correct seed. Weeds too are allowed to grow. The danger is that at the time set by the Master for separating the weed from the wheat it will be too late to make amends. Become wheat. Grow into Christ in all things, for that is how to grow.

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