Spiritual Growth.

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
NOTHING tries the heart of a true servant of Christ more than to see young saints making no spiritual progress. It is delightful to find them getting a good start, and not less so to behold them growing and becoming strong men in Christ. To see them stunted and dwarfed is a vexation too deep for words. The true evangelist loves to hear of his converts flourishing. He must feel it deeply when it is not the case.
If there is no growth, take care that there be not decline. Sometimes declension sets in before we are aware of it. Of Ephraim of old it was said, "Gray hairs are here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not.”
To be declining without being conscious of it is the worst state of all. It is like a man in business who is nearing a state of bankruptcy and yet knows not how he stands. He is afraid to take stock or look into his books. Who would not cry out against such a foolish course?
There are three things necessary to spiritual growth. First, proper nourishment. Second, healthy exercise. Third, a pure atmosphere.
Now we all know that what would nourish and sustain a man would in all probability ruin a babe. On the other hand, what would strengthen and help the growth of a babe would not enable a man to do a hard day's work.
Babes in Christ must have the milk of the gospel and be well established before they are prepared to enter into the deep things of God. From our own personal knowledge many are far from being established in the simple truth of what it is to be "in Christ," where there is no condemnation. Their joy greatly fluctuates, and as for settled peace and solid rest of heart in God's presence, they are for the most part strangers to it.
Those who love and care for souls should, in our judgment, pay heed to the sort of food they place before others. Meat in due season is the thing. Paul said to the Corinthians, who were but babes having need of milk, "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them which are perfect," which means full-grown in contrast to babes. The same thing is seen in the blessed Lord, when He said to His disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear then' now." Divine wisdom is most considerate, and is shown by meeting souls where they are. The Lord Himself, and Paul, who was filled with his Master's spirit, are examples of it.
Even the same sort of food does not always suit those who might not be exactly termed babes. We sat at the table of a friend who was ordered to live principally on unleavened bread, while he himself had to dish out to others what was much more palatable. In this way he was kept in good health.
Likewise, if we are to be maintained in the enjoyment of spiritual health, we must often refrain from what might be most tempting. Books, for instance, of a kind in which there might not be much harm. Great care and wise discrimination are needed here. Many a young saint has been ensnared in this direction. His soul in consequence has been starved. As the result he has become "as weak as other men" and been led into grave peril.
So we earnestly say, Beware!
An unexercised saint is one 'who has gone to sleep. Sleep is not death, but it denotes spiritual stupor. Such was the state of Peter before he denied his Lord and Master. He had been fast asleep when his Master was in an agony. This did not show that he did not love his Master, but that his love was not active. "Simon, Couldst not thou watch with Me one hour?" How deeply touching this appeal! Had Peter been divinely exercised, it must have pierced his soul like a sword.
Watching is the very reverse. The watcher is wide awake. All his spiritual faculties are in exercise. This is most needful, because the enemy of our souls is always on the alert to entrap us in a snare of some kind. Often we are taken unawares because we are not watching unto prayer.
We lose much that we may never regain by not being exercised and ready to respond to the Lord when He speaks to us. Like the bride in Sol. 5 "I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?" What indifference this denotes! He had knocked, saying, "Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled; for My head is filled with dew, and My locks with the drops of the night.”
She was the loser. To her cost she found that His love was so jealous as not to brook indifference. She was made to feel her apathy. He does not like His love slighted. It is not that the Lord's love ever changes toward His own, but He may see fit to change His manner so as to produce exercise of heart and lead them to judge all that would hinder His being everything to them.
Sometimes He has to allow us to pass through affliction and deep sorrow of some kind when He sees that nothing else will do. Afflicted saints are generally the brightest. We shall never know how much we have been helped in our Christian course by things that naturally we dislike until we retrace our several histories in the light of His blessed presence in glory.
The Lord save us from being unexercised, and from soul-declension above all things!
If we seek to live habitually in the pure atmosphere of God's love, it will have a most healthful and bracing effect upon our souls. Everything about it is invigorating. The enjoyment of God's presence lifts our souls above all that is in the world. "Thy favor is better than life." That is, the enjoyment of God's love is better than the greatest earthly blessing. "Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee." And no wonder, for he finds all his resource in God and is strengthened and made happy. "In Thy presence is fullness of joy." Fullness of joy is perfect satisfaction, and so we are saved from desiring what is unsatisfying. "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple." He delights to make Himself known to the seeking soul. He never disappoints any whose desire is real. "He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with good things.”
The atmosphere of love is found in the company of the saints. If we love God and delight in His presence we shall love those who are born of Him. If we love them we shall choose their companionship in preference to the most agreeable worldly society. All this gives us strength and promotes growth according to God.
If we found saints who had not much desire for the company and fellowship of God's people, we should certainly say it was a bad sign. If they preferred the society of those who, however pleasant and refined, were of the world, we should have no hesitation in saying that there must be inward declension.
It is often said that people are known by the company they keep. There is much truth in it. The truly earnest, godly soul will always cultivate the acquaintance of those more spiritual than himself. Let us, then, seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.
P. W.