The Christian life is often described as a ‘walk’ or a ‘race’; these are words that imply moving forwards. When we are new Christians we move forwards in our understanding and our character very quickly; but after we have been Christians for a while we often do not see the same growth. We thought about this topic in Bible Cafe last week, and it challenged many of us so the blog seemed the best place to distribute these ideas further.

Matthew 13 contains the famous parable of the sower. Jesus speaks of the word of God as seed that falls on a variety of soils, or a variety of hearts. Some people outright reject the seed, as if it fell on a path. Some struggle when things get tough, like seed that falls on shallow, rocky soil. Some starts off wonderfully but gets strangled by the “cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches”. And some falls on good soil and produces a crop, 30, 60 or 100 times what was sown.

There is so much for us in this parable. We see that the response is not due to any problem with the seed – it is the same each time. The difference is the heart. In our modern world we particularly are challenged by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. We get distracted from the most important task of growing and get strangled by less important things. And when the seed falls on good soil, it produces a great crop, but a different crop per person.

We can break growth down into knowledge, character and skills. Growing in knowledge is the easiest one to measure; it means increasing in our knowledge of God and his work and love. This involved increasing our Bible knowledge by personal reading, listening to sermons, participating in Bible studies, reading good Christian books. Growing in character takes more time; it is when what we know in our heads moves to our hearts over time. It means practice, repeated good decisions and godliness, that change who we are to be more like Jesus. And then there is growth in skills, like Bible reading, prayer, evangelism, service of all types.

Have you grown as a Christian in the past 12 months? Do you know more about God now? Do you serve more and better? Do your decisions consciously have Jesus in them? If not, take the effort to do the simple things again. Personal Bible reading is the foundation for this growth; it is not an optional extra. Prayer is essential, for growth is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. And being part of the church, an active part, is of great benefit to you and to others.

Do not be satisfied with what you are and know now. Strive ahead, run the race, concentrate on growth.