LECTURE ON TONIC FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
PRESENTED BY REV. PASTOR EJIKEME EJIM
ASSISTANT GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT, ASSEMBLIES OF GOD, NIGERIA
CENTRAL BIBLE TEXT:
2 PETER 3: 18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ“ (NKJV).
For our introduction, we would take some definitions of the words that make up our topic.
The word TONIC cuts across various disciplines including, but not limited to medicine and music. Here, we choose to limit ourselves in this discourse to its label as a booster, an energizer, a refresher or a stimulant.
SPIRITUAL is a word that relates to the soul or spirit, usually in contrast to material things. It is usually applied to divine, heavenly, holy, sacred, or saintly things, rather than to worldly or secular things.
GROWTH, of course, is all about the growing process – the process of becoming larger and more mature. It is applicable to various aspects of human or other life. There is physical growth, mental / academic growth, financial growth, material growth, and so on. Growth is all about increase in number, size, power or intensity. It could be used to define advancement, development, enlargement, expansion, progress, and more.
OUR MAJOR FOCUS:
Considering that our overall theme for this presentation is Strategic Church Growth, and whereas the word SPIRITUAL already belongs in the main to the church environment, we would do well to bring the words TONIC and GROWTH into the same environment or, as some may prefer, under the same umbrella. Our major focus in this chapter, therefore, is to do a concise presentation of some of those things which, if applied to the life of the Church, would, like a tonic, boost, energize, refresh, or stimulate the Church into spiritual increase (growth), with its characteristics of advancement, development, enlargement, expansion, and progress, as earlier reflected above.
To this end, and on account of time constraints, we shall try to do a brief examination of just three of the many tonics for spiritual growth.
TONIC NUMBER ONE IS THE WORD OF GOD.
What can we be or do without the living Christ? Absolutely nothing! We shall do well to recollect that among His many names, there is this one in Revelation 19:13, “And His name is called, “The Word of God” (NKJV). This is in perfect harmony with an earlier scripture which says thus: “IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1 – 3; NKJV). In the process of our being born again, much space is given to the Word of God. How do we come to receive faith for that blessed experience? Of course, through the Word! That is why we have all the preaching, all the teaching, and all the Bible based prayers and counselling! For instance, the Bible says: “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10: 13 – 14; NKJV). It was the same author of those immortal words who instructed his son Timothy, “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2; NKJV). It is the ministration of the Word that produces faith in the hearer: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17; NKJV). And the companion scripture reminds us that, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him (God)” (Hebrews 11: 6a; NKJV). Having given our lives to Christ, the process of spiritual growth is given a solid foundation in us as the Holy Spirit instructs us through the apostle Peter in these words: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2; NKJV). This instruction is of very great importance to the life and growth of a newborn babe. We are privileged to appreciate the importance of this scripture as we live in an era in which the world of medicine is seriously re-emphasizing and promoting breast feeding only as the best a nursing mother should give to her newborn baby for the first six months of the baby’s life. They call it exclusive breast feeding.. In this context, we call to remembrance those beautiful words by our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ: “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit; and they are life” (John 6:63; NKJV). It is therefore no wonder when the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul admonishes us in what we may correctly call a logical follow-up when he says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16a; NKJV). Moving on from the milk stage, everyone who desires to live the sanctified life (a life of Biblical holiness) must understand and appreciate the centrality of the word in the quest for holy living. Here are a few scriptures: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17; NKJV). “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. Your word I have hidden in my heart; That I might not sin against You. Your word is a lamp to my feet; And a light to my path. Direct my steps by Your word; And let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalms 119: 9, 11, 105, 133; NKJV). Let us be reminded that in explaining the parable of the sower, our Lord makes it clear that, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11; NKJV). Much earlier in our Christian scriptures, our God had expressly instructed General Joshua that, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night; that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8; NKJV). The apostles in the Jerusalem church understood the importance of the Word in ministry. At a time when Satan had designed to shift away their attention from this core aspect of their calling, they were quick to uncover his pranks (we are not ignorant of his devices – 2 Corinthians 2:11) and took appropriate remedial action when they said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business, but we will give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2b – 4; NKJV).
As soon as that was done, the outstanding result was there for everyone to see and acclaim: “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7; NKJV). We are, therefore, not surprised to read that, “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:1, 4; NKJV). The Word of God! Always central! Great Tonic for everything! Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, all depended / depend wholly on the word and minister same. The church stands on the word of God which “stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8; NKJV) and “is settled forever in heaven” (Psalm 119:89; NKJV). Praise the LORD!!
TONIC NUMBER TWO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Having looked briefly at the Word as our Number One Tonic, we move on to Number Two. It is interesting to observe that the Holy Spirit is credited with authorship of the Word, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20,21; NKJV). What can we do without the Holy Spirit? The Assemblies of God motto captures it all, “Not by might, nor by power; but by My Spirit; Says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6; NKJV). We are admonished in the book of Ephesians 5:18 thus: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (NKJV).
Spirit who is the author of our Christian scriptures (2 sPeter 1: 20, 21) and doctrine (2 Timothy 3: 15, 17), meets us while we are unbelievers, begins the process of our salvation through the preacher, brings conviction into our hearts (John 16: 7 – 11), and leads us all the way through repentance and conversion and into becoming new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). He is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). In His role as the Spirit of Truth, He frees us from Satan, the father of lies and father of all liars (John 8:44). In His role as Tonic for our Spiritual Growth, He is our Teacher (John 14:26) and our Guide (John 16:13).
He Glorifies Christ in our lives (John 16:13) and Reveals to us what the Father and the Son would have us to know (John 16:13). As humans, we may forget. When we do, the Holy Spirit is there to Remind us (John 14:26). Fully aware of our need for help, he comes alongside as our Helper (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The Holy Spirit played a great role in the Old Testament scriptures beginning at Genesis 1:1 and on to Malachi 4:6. There is great need for us to search through the New Testament and take careful note of the role of the Holy Spirit in the gospels as they guide us through the lives of Zacharias the priest, his wife Elizabeth, and John their son; Joseph and Mary his wife, with Jesus their “son”; Simeon, Anna the prophetess, the Twelve, and the early Church. When we come to the realm of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22, 23), we observe the blessings of the Spirit as we walk with Him. When we come to the realm of the power of the Spirit for witnessing (Luke 24: 49; John 7: 37 – 39; Acts 1: 4 – 8), we see Him doing great and marvelous things as we go through Acts of the Apostles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc. We must state without any doubt or / and fear of contradiction that anyone who is interested in Biblical spiritual growth must make full room for the Holy Spirit as a proven, indispensable Tonic for such growth.
TONIC NUMBER THREE IS PRAYER.
“And it came to pass as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His
disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11: 1; NKJV). Beautiful scripture! John was, indeed, a great prophet (Matthew 11: 11; Luke 7: 28); and one of the outstanding things he did was to pray. We can say the same of the Old Testament prophets, the early church, the apostles, and most importantly, of Jesus, Who is “The author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2; NKJV). God said His house shall be called the house of prayer (Matthew 21: 13; Mark 11:17). John and Jesus prayed so much that their disciples in different places and times asked to be taught to pray!
The understanding given us here is that prayer was an outstanding characteristic of their ministries!! Jesus prayed very early in the morning (Mark 1: 35). Jesus withdrew himself from the crowd to pray (Luke 5: 16). Jesus prayed all night before choosing the Twelve (Luke 6: 12 – 15). Jesus prayed much and taught much on prayer. For great harvest, pray (Matthew 9:38). To escape temptation, pray (Matthew 26:41). For our enemies, pray (Luke 6:28). For healing, pray (James 5: 14 – 16). For whatever we desire, pray (Mark 11:24). Jesus prayed earnestly on the Mount of Transfiguration until His countenance changed (Luke 9: 28, 29). Jesus prayed his heart out in Gethsemane until his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Matthew 26: 39, 42, 44; Mark 14: 35, 39; Luke 22: 41, 44). Even on the cross, Jesus prayed (Luke 23: 34). And in heaven, at the right hand of Majesty, Jesus is praying (Romans 8: 34)! No wonder then that while on earth, Jesus offered His High Priestly prayer (John 17) and taught that “Men ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1). The apostle also Paul taught that we should, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The early Church was full of prayers – (Acts 1:14, 24; 2:42; 3:1; 4:31; 6:4; 6:6; 8:15; 9.40; 10.30;13:3;6:25; etc, etc).
CONCLUSION: Summary. I shall render three stanzas of three different hymns – one each on the Word, the Holy Spirit, and Prayer. MAY THE LORD HELP US ALL! AMEN!!