In a YouTube video, Alan Glustoff, a cheese farmer in Goshen, New York, described his process for aging cheese, a process that adds to a cheese’s flavor and texture. Before it can be sent out to a market, each block of cheese remains on a shelf in an underground cave for six to twelve months. In this humid environment the cheese is carefully tended. “We do our best to give it the right environment to thrive . . . [and] to develop to its truest potential,” Glustoff explained.
Glustoff’s passion for developing the potential of the cheese he produces reminded me of God’s passion for developing the “truest potential” of His children so they will become fruitful and mature. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul describes the people involved in this process: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (v. 11). People with these gifts help to stimulate the growth of each believer as well as to encourage acts of service (the “works” mentioned in verse 12). The goal is that we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13).
Spiritual growth comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit as we submit to His maturing process. As we follow the guidance of the people He places in our lives, we become more effective as He sends us out to serve.
Who has been most influential to your spiritual growth? In what ways have you been challenged to grow? How can you encourage the growth of someone else?
The New Testament contains three main listings of spiritual gifts—Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, and 1 Corinthians 12:28–30. In addition, Ephesians 4:11 lists offices carried out by those with specific gifts, and 1 Peter 4:10–11 classifies the gifts into speaking and serving. That no two lists are identical suggests they’re not exhaustive. In each, the emphasis isn’t on the quantity of gifts but on their diversity and purpose. They’re to be used in a loving way to promote unity in the church (1 Corinthians 12:12–27; 13:1–13), build up the spiritual maturity of the believers (Ephesians 4:12–16), and bring glory to God (1 Peter 4:10–11). In Ephesians 4, interposed between the unity (vv. 1–6) and maturity (vv. 14–16) of the church, Paul highlights the teaching gifts that help grow, build up, stabilize, unite, equip, and mature the church (vv. 11–13).