In a recent conversation, a pastor told me that his goal for his congregation, and especially for the children, was consistent spiritual growth. I could only wish this could be the goal of all pastors. Even so, I asked him, “How much spiritual growth?”
According to the Human Growth Foundation website (www.hgfound.org), if a child is growing less than two inches per year, “a thorough medical evaluation by a pediatric endocrinologist (or other growth specialist) is necessary to determine if there is a growth disorder affecting the child’s development.” At less than two inches per year, the child might be growing physically, yet the parents should not be happy about it.
Is it possible that our own children are growing spiritually “less than two inches per year,” and we are quite satisfied? Could it be that they have a spiritual growth disorder, and we do not see it? You see, we take them to church, and we hang out with church families and do church activities. We make the Bible available for them to feed on and a godly environment for them to breathe in. And if we can actually see some growth, is that not what it is all about?
The funny thing is that probably all of the children who are growing physically less than two inches per year and who are seeing endocrinologists have parents who provide their children with physical food and physical activity and good air to breathe. Just providing the opportunity for physical growth obviously is not enough, so should we assume that just providing the opportunity for spiritual growth is enough?
Of course not. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NKJV) we read, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Emphasis mine.) The Hebrew word translated, “teach diligently,” is the intensive form of shannan, and it means “to sharpen,” particularly to sharpen swords and arrows.
Interestingly, in Psalm 127, we read, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.”
So children are our arrows, and teaching is sharpening our arrows, intensively. Setting arrows near a sharpening stone is not enough. Arrows do not sharpen themselves. We must sharpen them. That requires planning, preparation, intensive work, and most of all, time.
Failing to sharpen our arrows can cause our children’s spiritual growth disorder. Just providing the opportunity and environment will not lead to sufficient spiritual growth for our children. We must plan, prepare, work intensively, and most of all, invest our time in all of these things, praying all along the way that God would sharpen our children through us, or perhaps in spite of us.