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A Blooming Trellis

II Peter 3:18a “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”


Colossians 2: 6-7 “And   now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”


A trellis has always intrigued me, with its design just waiting for a beautiful, flowering vine to climb upon it. I have a few in my garden and get excited whenever I see the rose bushes starting to wind their way upward, finding their way into creating beauty around a fixed wrought iron maze, intended to host flourishing and vibrance. As Christians, we have the opportunity to offer our lives as a trellis for spiritual growth to occur.

 

But does God require that we grow in our spiritual lives or is He satisfied for us to simply enter into His family as His child, never maturing into something more? Looking at scripture, I would say the answer is “NO!” He clearly desires for us to seek continual growth in our relationship with Him.


I asked my husband and 3 friends what their definition of Spiritual Growth was and received 4 different answers, in addition to my own. Each definition brought out a different aspect of spiritual growth…moving deeper in relationship with God, seeing God’s glory and being transformed/changed, God’s movement in our lives, a life-long process of study in the Word of God along with application, and contrasting our sinfulness with God’s holiness along with His extended grace, resulting in spiritual growth that produces fruits of the spirit.


You may have your own definition of spiritual growth, but whatever it is, I would bet you have to pursue it. Seeds get planted in our hearts, but it’s up to us to make ourselves good soil, receiving what is given and tending to it with steadfastness, just like a crop tended by a farmer or a garden tended to by a gardener. Anyone who plants and then walks away expecting beauty and bounty to magically appear will usually be unproductive and have little or nothing to show for their efforts.

 

Last month my friends and I planned a women’s event at church, and our theme was spiritual growth. As we discussed our own paths, identifying the specific ways God is using to grow each of us individually, we realized spiritual maturity is not a cookie-cutter approach. Our growth plan, like an ILP (Individual Learning Plan) for students, is created to fit our learning style and needs. God knows even better than we do what we need in order to move deeper into relationship with Him and how to develop godly character within us.

 

Spiritual growth is evidenced by spiritual fruit, as listed in Galatians 5:22, 23 – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. These are the qualities mankind was originally created to embody before the Fall. Once sin entered our hearts, we added the opposite qualities to our genetic makeup: Hate, Sadness, Impatience, Irritation, Unkindness, Cruelty, Rudeness, Faithlessness, Infidelity, Disloyalty, Roughness, Insensitivity, Selfishness, and Lack of Self-Control (or Indulgence). The list could go on.

 

To move from our spiritual infancy toward spiritual maturity, the phrase “growing pains” is insightful. It means growing is going to hurt in some way. Pursuing growth will cost us something. We’ll likely be moving out of our comfort zones into places we haven’t been or would rather not enter. We might think we want to “grow” and “mature” in the Lord, but it will come at a price, whether it’s time, sacrifice, suffering, self-denial, work, vulnerability, repentance, studying, or training ourselves to listen, memorize, or ask hard questions.

 

Even if we do one, or all, of those things listed, we may miss experiencing growth by only “going through the motions” and not applying it at a deeper heart level. We don’t necessarily grow just because we are going through hardship or simply because we are studying the Word. Going through hardship may be God’s tool of choice to train us in righteousness, but how we respond to hardship will determine if we actually grow or not. We might dedicate hours to studying God’s Word or attending church, but if we never apply what we read or hear into our lives, we only acquire head knowledge.

 

For example, we may memorize every scripture about forgiveness, but if we never apply the principle in our relationships, we have never really matured in this area. If a Christian listens to an entire sermon series on godly marriage but never applies it to how they treat their spouse and their commitment to the relationship, did they actually grow? No. We can put ourselves into position for potential growth opportunities, but we have to do the work of internalizing and applying it so that it actually produces fruit in our lives. We must humble ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit within to allow the internal work to transform us. Oftentimes, it includes a self-reflective process along with a sometimes difficult obedience to live out the growth in our lives and relationships.

 

Staying stagnant in our spiritual life is displeasing to God. If our faith remains in a childlike state, then we will become stale and useless. When spiritual fruit fails to show in our lives, God will pull out the pruning shears and get to work on us. He’ll cut away whatever is keeping us from growing and being fruitful.

 

As we enter the growing season, may our vegetable and flower gardens continually remind us of the spiritual growth work we have to do to cooperate with God in moving toward maturity. I’ve heard it said many times that a person does not naturally drift Godward. When it comes to our relationship with God, we are prone to wander and forget. Instead, let us climb the trellis of remaining in Him and remembering who we ultimately want to be like, blooming into a reflection of Christ.  

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Ephesians 4:15,16 “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”


Philippians 1:6,9 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns…I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.”




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