Every child can hardly wait to grow up. They hunger to become teenagers, to obtain driver’s licenses, to become adults. In the same way, there are many in the church who hunger to grow. They want to gain a deeper awareness of Christian truths, a stronger faith for living, and a maturity in their lives. That hunger is commendable. Spiritual growth is important!
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he criticizes the church. Christians, he says, are falling short of God’s desire for their personal growth.
The 1 Corinthians 3 of his letter begins with a reproach to believers because, Paul said, he could speak to them only as infants in Christ. He writes, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2).
God wants us to grow! He wants us to move beyond the elementary stages of milk into maturity and the meaning of meat. However, as we strive for a deeper spiritual life, there are some truths in growing maturity we might do well to remember.
I. We Will Meet Distortions to Faith in Our Spiritual Walk
One distortion which can disrupt our movement toward maturity is the feeling that what we hear in our present church isn’t truly meat. The thought arises, “You’ll never find teaching good enough here. What they preach here isn’t mature. You have grown beyond them, and you need to hunt elsewhere till you find meat!” It’s true that maturity occurs within a church. However, there are people who spend their whole spiritual lives jumping from church to church seeking after rainbows or windmills, never recognizing they already possess God’s message.
Paul stresses in that 1 Corinthians 3 that the place where you grow may not be the primary factor to your spiritual growth. Look at what Paul writes the Corinthians: “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:5-6).
It isn’t so important whether you are growing under the leadership of an Apollos or a Paul. Both play a part in God’s plan. It is not so much the place of growth that matters. What matters is allowing God to let you grow, and keeping your life in touch with Christ. The Scriptures say if you and I have grown in some area beyond milk, and are in meat, we should teach that truth to those less mature, rather than merely seeking more meat for ourselves.
The second distortion which can affect our growth in Christ is the feeling that meat must somehow be different than milk. If it isn’t different, if it isn’t new, then it isn’t meat.” That’s how cults grow in today’s society. They say, “what you have learned in the past is childish, immature, and illogical. Come and hear our teaching, because our teaching is new and exciting and makes sense to the modern intellectual mind.”
Newness is not a requirement for spiritual meat. Often it is that simple childhood faith that God intends as the meat for our lives.
The third distortion that can close us off from meaningful maturity is the feeling that growth in our lives has caused us to move beyond the commonplace into a position of superior truth. Before long, pride begins to stir within us, and a judgmental spirit distorts our closeness to God.
We need to grow! But growing for the sake of growing is not the intention of God. God expects growth to lead us to more Christ-like living. An incessant drive for growth can become a wedge to separate us from Christ’s desire for our lives.
II. Familiarity Can Limit the Mastering of God’s Message
A young mother in our church has started reading the Bible with her second-grade son. Recently, they were reading from the Gospel of John. When she read John 3:16, her son commented, “Oh, this is an old one.”
Being familiar with a Scripture can do that to us. We can “know” it so well that we know all there is to know about it. And we find ourselves blinded to a God-intended meaning hidden within the passage.
Also recently, I was reading the daily devotion. The day’s Scripture was the “Prodigal Son.” In my years of ministry, I have preached on the prodigal son numerous times. I’ve studied the passage. I’ve read commentaries on its meaning. I’ve outlined the message. You know what I found myself doing? I said, “Oh, I know this. It’s an old one.” And I skipped through the Scripture, hurrying on to the devotional thoughts. I consciously had to return and re-read the passage to allow God to express the message in His Word.
It is important to grow. But “knowing” the Scripture can become a limit to understanding God’s message.
III. Remember That One Person’s Meat May Be Another Person’s Milk
Do you know how Paul identified a person who needs milk? He looked at actions! In that first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reports jealousy and quarreling among the believers. There is pride of experience and background. There is an effort to build a relationship with second-rate labor and giving left-over attention. There are lives lived and acts conducted which shame God’s temple in one’s body. There is a blindness to God’s wisdom and God’s intention.
No doubt among those Corinthian readers were individuals ready for “meat.” Paul’s audience included leaders and active believers in the church. Yet while some were mature, many of his readers still needed milk. This was a disappointment to Paul, but since milk was needed, Paul fed milk.
In any church, there are people spiritually mature in one area and childish in another. On most any given Sunday morning in any church, most any sermon preached will contain milk for some and meat for others.
A particular sermon may be milk for you. If the message offers new insight and touches tender nerves, listen carefully. If in the sermon you recognize steps to take, then apply its message to your life, take the steps, and grow. That sermon will give you the milk you need to develop faith.
On the other hand, it may be that what you hear in a sermon will be what you already know and practice. In this area you may have moved beyond milk in your spiritual maturity. Well, listen to the message for what God wants to say. But in the meantime, pray for those around you who will grow from what they hear, and ask God to develop their taste for meat.
IV. Growth is a Matter of Personal Decision
Growth builds on foundations already in place. If we want to grow in meat, we will need more than sermons and teaching. Preaching can give elements of meat. Teaching can give directions to maturity. However, our growth is going to come through our own willingness to read, study, and follow in our daily lives.
One major difference between a high school student and a college student is the viewpoint of learning. In high school, students frequently feel their only responsibility to learn is what the teacher gives in the classroom. A college student, on the other hand, has matured. He or she understands that learning comes through reading and study outside the classroom far more than in class lectures.
In Bible Study, the value of the session comes from effort at home much more than the classroom teaching. The teaching will help. But the growth comes from within ourselves. We will grow if we want to grow. We will learn if we want to learn. The decision to take the time to do so is up to us.
Jesus spoke of a man who entrusted his property to servants (Matthew 25). The owner distributed his possessions to three stewards — to the first one he gave five talents; to the second, two talents; and to the third, one talent. Remember? Two of the servants multiplied their gifts while the third buried his.
Consider for a moment the talent in that Scripture. Assume, in addition to money, the talent might allude to our understanding and wisdom. Our desire is for meat: spiritual wisdom. However, why should one expect God to supply additional wisdom until the person applies the understanding he or she already possesses? The multiplication of rewards to the servants in Jesus’ parable was only to those who wisely used the gifts they were given.
You and I have heard the “milk” of stewardship. We know God’s intention. Why expect abundance from God before we practice the stewardship we know? You and I have heard the milk of forgiveness. We know God’s requirement. Why expect God’s peace until we deal with the bitterness we are holding? You and I have heard the milk of living pure lives. We know how He wants us to act. Why expect God to multiply His blessings until we begin to practice the pure living He expects?
In Hebrews 5:14, the writer says, “solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
God is sending us a dinner invitation. Christ Jesus is the host. Sit down and share in some milk and some meat. You’ll find it the best meal you ever tried.

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