See 2 Pet 3:18
‘The saints are not only compared to stars for their light, but to trees for their growth’ (Watson), Isa 61:3, ‘They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.’ Hos 14:5f. ‘Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.’
Christian growth is organic, and needs therefore to be both nourished and exercised.
Growth involves growing less in our own eyes, Ps 22:6 Job 42:5f “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Growth should be proportionate, growth in one grace as well as another, 2 Pet 1:5. ‘Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.’ ‘As the beauty of the body consists in a symmetry of parts, in which not only the head grows, but the arms and breast; so spiritual growth is most beautiful, when there is symmetry and proportion, and every grace thrives.’ (Watson)
We should grow in all graces, such as: (a) faith – believing God’s promises more firmly and more constantly; (b) love – a concern more intense, more extended, more practical, influencing every thought, word and deed; (c) humility – growing less in our own eyes that Jesus may be magnified.
The growth of grace is like the polishing of metals. There is first an opaque surface; by and by you see a spark darting out, then a strong light; till at length it sends back a perfect image of the sun that shines upon it. Edward Payson (1783-1827)
Marks of growing in grace
In his celebrated book Holiness, J. C. Ryle says that growing in grace will be marked by:-
Increased humility. The man whose soul is growing feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness more every year. He is ready to say, with Job, “I am vile,” with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes,” with Jacob, “I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies,” with David, “I am a worm,” with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips,” and, with Peter, “I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Increased faith and love towards our Lord, Jesus Christ. He sees a thousand things in Christ of which, at first, he never dreamed. His love and power, His heart and intentions, His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, and Friend unfold themselves unspeakably.
Increased holiness of life and walk. The man who is growing yearly gets more dominion over sin, the world, and the devil. He becomes more careful about his temper, words, and actions, and is more watchful over his conduct in every relationship.
Increased spirituality of taste and mind. The man whose soul is growing takes more interest in spiritual things every year. He does not neglect his duty in the world. He discharges faithfully, diligently, and conscientiously every relation of life, whether at home or abroad. But the things he loves best are spiritual things. Spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, spiritual conversation and behavior appear of ever-increasing value to him.
Increase of charity. His love will show itself actively in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to all, to be generous, sympathizing, thoughtful, tender-hearted, and considerate. It will show itself passively in a growing disposition to be meek and patient towards all men, to put up with provocation and not stand upon rights, to bear and forbear much rather than quarrel.
Increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls. Missions at home and abroad, efforts of every kind to spread the gospel, attempts of any sort to increase religious light and diminish religious darkness – all these things will, every year, have a greater place in his attention. He will not become “weary in well-doing” because he does not see every effort succeed. He will just work on, whatever the result may be – giving, praying, preaching, speaking, visiting, according to his position – and count his work its own reward.