Because the Christian is a new creation in Christ, growth is guaranteed. The Bible assures us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6). If you have placed your trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ, that promise is for you. To be sure, we all grow in different ways and at different times; there are even those seasons when it seems like we are growing in the wrong direction! Yet the Scriptures make it clear that we simply cannot not grow when we have been given new life in Christ.
Let’s see how this promise is given in an Old Testament book that you may not peruse too often—the book of Malachi.
To you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. (Malachi 4:2 NKJV)
Think about what this verse teaches us through the imagery of stall-fed calves. First, the stall suggests ownership; someone had to build the stalls and maintain them. Wild animals have no stalls. Second, the stall provides protection from the outside elements. Third, stall-fed calves are well-cared for. They don’t have to go out and scrounge for food because it is brought to them. And finally, the stall-fed calves continue to grow and grow until they finally grow up!
In this verse, those who fear the name of God are likened to stall-fed calves . . . and those who fear the name of God are those who have received the divine gift of faith in God. Those who have been given faith in God find their source of food in the Word of God. Our Lord has commanded us, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
So stall-fed calves are like Scripture-fed Christians. Both are given all the food they need to grow up to full maturity. For the Christian, maturity is to grow up in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But there’s more! Notice that Malachi 4:2 contains a double promise. Not only are we promised that we will grow up, but we will also go out. At Cross Community Church, we print on the front of every bulletin these words:
GATHER … GROW … GIVE … GO
God gathers His people together as a family, and in that process He grows us up into Christ. But growth is not an end; it is only a means to an end. The end is to model our Lord by giving and going. We grow in order to give and go. What a wonderful blessing God has planned for His people! We are not to simply remain in our spiritual “stalls,” munching placidly on what has been given us and growing fat. We are to go out in the strength of our heavenly Father’s care and bring the good news of the Gospel to all people. We are to be a source of nourishment and care to others.
Stall-fed calves shall not be stunted in growth; neither will Scripture-fed Christians! Feast on the Word of God each day and prepare to see the salvation of the Lord break forth in the lives of those you share Him with.
I’d like to offer one final word of encouragement. The ownership represented by the stall points to another Gospel truth: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And what God bought with His precious blood, He will take good care of. He will grow you so that you can give and go!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!