If you are a Christian, then your ultimate goal is to become like Jesus Christ. God has given us the Holy Spirit to live in us to help us grow to become more like him. If we want the Spirit to grow in us, we must join our life to his so we can know him, love him, and imitate him. The fruit of the Spirit is the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit in us producing character traits that are found in the very nature of Christ.
As Christian leaders we are to continually grow in grace and knowledge by cultivating the fruit of God’s Spirit planted in us when we became Christians. Galatians 5:21-23 tells us this fruit is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Like seeds planted in a field, we need to water and nurture those seeds to grow.
As we grow more like Christ it is encouraging to know that God has the same desire for us. In fact, the Bible says in Romans 8:28 that God predestined believers to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. Making us Christlike is God’s working plan and he will see it through to the end. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 The process demands our willing cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Becoming more Christlike requires both divine power and the fulfillment of human responsibility.
What do we learn from Jesus about personal growth as Christians? We can glean, even from a brief description of the adolescent Jesus, a clear framework for personal and leadership growth and development in four distinct areas.
Luke 2:52 tells us four ways that Jesus developed, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and favor with man.” This says if we want to become like Christ, we should develop in the four ways Jesus did.
He developed in wisdom – intellectual development.
He developed in stature – physical development.
He developed in favor with God – spiritual development.
He developed in favor with man – interpersonal development.
Growing in wisdom.
The Greek word for wisdom is sophia, and I have seen it defined as the varied knowledge of things human and divine, which are acquired through study and experience. To me, varied knowledge means, having both book smarts and street smarts in the arts, in science, theology, culture, economics, and politics.
Reading books and engaging in educational pursuits is a primary way to acquire the wisdom of others. It was Arthur Fletcher, the former head of the United Negro College Fund who coined the well-known phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Fletcher’s words are wise. When you think of growing in wisdom, you likely start with books and education. I enjoy books, (I have even written a few with one that is to be published soon) and education is a valued privilege. But growing the mind is not something that is limited to volumes read or diplomas gained. It is a lifelong pursuit and life itself is a valuable classroom.
Think of it this way. Growing in wisdom means learning about life in this world, not only by reading about it but by paying attention to our experiences. From experience I can tell you all sorts of things that will not grow a church. Live life and pay attention along the way. Read, listen, and ask lots of questions of others and of yourself. Study the habits of successful people. Observe the mistakes others make and learn from the ones that you make. Go places and see things. Enroll in a course on something. Take on projects and challenges. And when we think, think positively. Positive thinking alone is not the prevailing plan for your life, but it is certainly a wiser choice than the alternative. As a Christian leader, not growing in wisdom is a terrible waste.
In my next blog entry, I will address that if we are to become more like Jesus, we must also grow in improving our emotional and physical health.