Paul’s second missionary journey started because he wanted to re-visit the towns where he had preached the word of the Lord and see how the new believers were doing. (Acts 15:36) In that sense, he was not simply a pioneer or evangelist; he also cared about the ongoing spiritual growth of the people in the churches that he planted.
Growth is a major theme of the New Testament. Peter urges to ‘like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.’ (1 Pet 2:2) Having had a son who detested milk and who stopped feeding at a very young age, causing me great anxiety and distress, I used to view this verse with some incomprehension. Both my granddaughters, however, have loved milk, and so finally I have seen what this verse means! – their delight in feeding, their contented guzzling and excitement when fed by their mother, has shown me how we should be as we seek God for the nourishment He can give us.
Paul uses the analogy of seeds growing on many occasions to remind us that growth is the natural progression for believers. (1 Cor 3:6-7) He talks of the body growing and building itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4:16) To the Colossians, he wrote that the ‘whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.’ (Col 2:19) From this, we see that growth is what happens naturally as we allow God’s Spirit to dwell in us and work in us.
At this time of separation and isolation, it’s more important than ever to ask, as Paul did, ‘How are you doing?’ Spiritual growth needs to be maintained, and this happens through our personal walk with God (developed through prayer, reading God’s Word, fellowship and witness) and through our collective gathering. We can’t gather together yet properly, but we can still maintain contact through texts, phone calls, letters and other means. Don’t forget others at this time; seek to keep in touch and to ask about spiritual growth, not just physical wellbeing, for as Paul and Timothy demonstrate, a relationship which cares about spiritual growth is a precious thing indeed.