My husband and I had just moved into our home in Seattle when one of our neighbors knocked on our door. They introduced themselves, welcomed us to the apartment complex, and presented us with a little plant. My husband and I were touched by their kindness and were excited to add our first plant to our new home. We placed the welcome gift on our window sill and resumed our unpacking.
Over time, our new home was put into place. Books were placed on the shelves, furniture was arranged, and the walls contained pictures that reflected our favorite things. We even added some more plants. As time went by, those plants began to grow. But we noticed that the plant we were given didn’t. It never died, but it never grew. It always looked the same. We ruled it off, thinking that this particular plant was just different from the rest. But when a year went by, we were perplexed. How could this plant never die but also never grow?
This little plant became a point of amusement between my husband and me. As we watched our other plants grow and grow, we would laugh in bewilderment over our plant that never died but never grew. At one point my husband ended up moving the little plant to a different window sill in our home. We didn’t think much about it, but one day, my husband made a noise. He pointed at the little plant, and there it was: a new leaf. This plant was no longer a plant that never died but never grew.
Since that moment, our plant has grown even more. My husband and I look at it and laugh in bewilderment differently than before. We still can’t believe the transformation that has taken place. I look at that plant often when I sit and type at my desk. It has become an illustration to me that growth is happening, even when we can’t always see it. But the plant also makes me think about how we need something in particular to grow. What that plant needed (we assume) was more light. It may have been watered well, but it required more light to foster that growth.
In the same way, we could be “watered” in our own lives but not actually growing. We could be taking in good things like encouragement from friends, books that give us helpful information about ourselves, or resources online that make us think. While these things may provide some nutritional value in our lives, we’re still missing what is essential to our growth. We’re missing Jesus.
Only Jesus can give us true growth. Why? Because Jesus is the One who gives us true life. Without Jesus, the Bible says we are “dead in our sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Without Jesus, we may look like we are flourishing on the outside, but inwardly we have not experienced the transformative work of Christ’s salvation. When we place our faith in Jesus, we receive His forgiveness and grace that cover our sins, transform our hearts, and grant us eternal life. Because of Jesus, we are able to receive true and lasting life.
And because Jesus gives us true and lasting life, He is the One who ignites and sustains our growth. When we become followers of Jesus, we don’t stay as we are. We grow more and more into the image of Christ as we put off sin and walk in obedience to God. This process is called sanctification. The Holy Spirit, given to us at the time of salvation, empowers us in our sanctification. While we play a part in our sanctification by obediently walking in God’s commands, the Spirit is the One who aids us and enables our growth.
But even though the Spirit helps us grow as believers, there are times when we don’t seek Christ or depend on Him. We can so easily get caught up in our roles and responsibilities that we fail to spend time with Jesus. Or we can become dependent on those good things that “water us” but don’t actually lead to deep spiritual growth. In turn, we can end up being like that little plant. Because of Christ, we aren’t spiritually dying, but we aren’t spiritually growing.
In order to flourish as believers, we need to abide in Christ (John 15:1–8). We need to bask in the light of Christ by drawing near to Him and spending time in God’s Word. Instead of looking to the things of this world to feed and grow us, we need to look to Jesus and rely on Him. This begs the question: are we living in the light of Christ? Are we remaining close to Him daily and relying on Him for everything that we do? If we find that we are seeking to grow as a believer apart from Christ, let us turn our faces to Him. Let us trust Him, depend on Him, and obey Him.
As we daily abide with Christ and live in His light with the help of the Spirit, we will experience spiritual growth. We will look more and more like the One we depend on and adore. So let’s not settle for stagnancy in our walk with Christ. May we seek the light of Christ and watch as He causes us to flourish.
Additional resources on growing in Christ