Spiritual Growth

I Thess. 4:1: “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how you ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”

Young people are very conscious of the fact that they are growing up. One cannot help but notice clothing which becomes too small. One cannot fail to notice the development of mind and talents. Obviously, if this growth were absent, something would be very wrong.

But: what of your spiritual life? Is there growth and development there?

The apostle points out that there must be a proper walk which is pleasing to God. A “walk” suggests first a pathway. It is the road along which one travels. But also this “walk” has a goal. There is an end or destination before one. This “walk” is one which is pleasing to God. It represents that walk of the regenerated child of God along which he travels in this sinful world to eternal glory. That walk is one which is in harmony with the law of God: it is that walk which is the fruit of Christ’s work within the children of God. In this walk, one loves God above all with his whole being. And for God’s sake, he loves his neighbor. The details concerning this godly walk are presented to us in the infallible Word of God.

This godly walk is not an optional matter. Some, and young people too, almost seem to consider it so. Scripture is ignored. The walk of those who call themselves children of God differs hardly at all from the walk of the citizens of this world. One insists in doing as he wishes – claiming that his conscience is his guide. This evil philosophy is one which you, covenant youth, particularly face.

But this Word of God is very emphatic: there is the “ought”-suggesting a necessity. One who claims to be a child of God must walk as God’s Word directs. It is not my opinion, nor even Paul’s opinion, that matters. This exhortation comes in the name of the Lord Jesus. He insists upon this Christian walk. We, then, as members of the body of Christ are those who desire to walk as children of light in this world of darkness.

What we ought particularly to notice here is that in such a walk one must abound more and more. There is the tendency always to be satisfied with the status quo. One can look back on past accomplishments and believe that he has attained. He has, perhaps, attended catechism classes; he has attended church regularly; he has attended society. And one can then “pat himself on the back” because of all these accomplishments. He is a rather good fellow. He seems more pious than most. But in examining himself, there is evident no development; no growth. He appears basically no different than he was five years ago. Nor does he desire to change. He is self-satisfied and complacent. There is no longing to progress.

Are you such a person? One must confront the question whether a status quo is possible at all. This Word of God suggests that change must occur. One cannot remain the same. That is true, first, because we are creatures of change. We never remain the same – much as we would like to at times. Today we are different than we were yesterday. And tomorrow will bring further change. The fact of continual change is also evident in our spiritual lives. None can remain spiritually stagnant. We are all sinners by nature. We face temptations daily. Some have their pet sins. All these affect a person as he walks through this earth.

Because the above is true, therefore one who insists on maintaining the status quo, in reality will go backward. One cannot stand still. Just as a boat headed upstream will either go forward or backward, so we live spiritually too. Either there is advance – or there is inevitable decline.

Are you growing? Or do you see yourself becoming more lax and careless in this terribly wicked world?

Abounding or growing involves first a proper knowledge of God’s Word through careful study – and prayerful study. One who does neglect that Word is going to decline spiritually. One who does not know that Word thoroughly, is the one who will readily find every excuse for his sin. Therefore, one must know that Word.

Proper knowledge of the Word which is applied to the heart by the Spirit, comes first through the preaching of that Word. Under the preaching, one must grow and develop in the knowledge and spiritual understanding of what God says to His people. This, in turn, leads to increased interest in and study of the Word in other areas. One must increasingly study the Word faithfully within the home. He ought to have regular times for his private devotions daily. One applies himself to the study of the Word in preparation for society. He seeks to discuss that Word as that which lives within him.

This Word, which God applies to our hearts by His Spirit, directs us in a walk which is pleasing to God. Thus God teaches us the way in which we must go. The greater our spiritual knowledge of God’s Word, the more one seeks to walk according to the law of the Lord.

This Word of God “beseeches” you to so abound. This does not necessarily imply that there has been no spiritual growth to the present date. The Word does not minimize that which has already taken place within the church. Nor does God simply beg us to do as He desires. God does not beg.

Rather, we have in this text a strong encouragement to walk in a manner pleasing to God – and to develop in that walk. This is a plea to the saints who need constant encouragement and direction in this godly walk. Paul the apostle comes and admonishes the church as a brother. He prods them on, as it were, so that they will do that which is expected of the living saints. At the same time, Paul reminds the church that he does this in the name of Christ.

Young people, many of you have publically confessed your faith before God and His church: others of you, born in the sphere of the covenant, also believe (if you give it thought) that you are children of God. Now, living children of God do grow in grace and truth. How are you abounding? Do you feel less inclined to seek the entertainment of this world offered in movie and television and other sources, than you were earlier? Do you know more and more the need of prayer? Do you believe it to be urgent that you study and know the Word? Are you understanding more and more the doctrines of the Church of Christ? Do you believe that, by grace, you will hold fast to the Word of God – no matter what the consequences? Do you seek more and more that which is heavenly; and do you pray earnestly and sincerely for Christ’s return?

Or don’t you give as care?

In the former case there is proper “abounding” in the walk which is pleasing to God. That is the fruit of the Spirit within you. Then: abound more and more in this.


Originally Published in:

Vol. 31 No. 8 December 1971