Numerous comparisons can be drawn between a tree and the Christian life. Here I will focus on the aspect of personal growth.
A tree is first a seed buried deep within the fertile soil. The sun and rain fills the land in which the seed is sown and it begins to grow roots sprawling down deeper into the soil. It will depend on the height and strength of the tree just how far down these roots must travel and strengthen. Over time it will begin to grow into a seedling, then a sapling, as it begins to form above ground. It grows in height, width, and greenery. Eventually, it will bud or bear fruit depending on the species of its kind.
It is safe to say that each year it grows it will look differently than the last until it reaches full maturity. The same is true of the healthy Christian. Each year or season of our life should have distinct aspects of growth that looks different than the prior season. If five years have passed and we are in the same place in the Lord as we were five years prior, we have reason to question our progress. We need to check to see that our seed is planted firmly in Christ. We need to examine whether we are receiving proper Sonlight and nutrients.
The Sonlight only comes from the Son. Conforming to His image and likeness is the only way to become more and more like Him. We do this by spending quiet time with Him, beholding Him and getting to know Him. This is not just a time for petitionary prayer, but for relaxing in His Presence. Prayer is communion with Jesus. This is two way spirit to Spirit communication. Words are not required, and often divert our mind from Him to our own needs and internal dialogue rather than truly communing with Him.
Nutrients come from a variety of sources and yet all of it comes out of Christ. This is to say that we water the seed in multiple ways of receiving what Jesus is saying. The most popular and most universally accepted manner is reading the Bible and meditating on the words of Scripture. This is enhanced when the Holy Spirit is involved for it is the Spirit that gives life. The Word without the Spirit can create legalism and religion whereas the Holy Spirit brings liberty and frees us into being true sons and daughters of Christ.
However, nutrients also come from the teaching of those who are mature in the Lord, specifically but not exclusively those who are five-fold leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers). It is important to learn from others who have been called by the Lord to equip the saints in the work of the ministry (Ephesians 5). This happens, or ought to happen, in our local church, but also on a larger scale from regional, national, and international equipping ministries. We need to learn from a diverse spectrum of the body of Christ to be healthy. Reading books or articles, listening to podcast or sermons from such ministries or attending local or regional conferences are great ways to receive these nutrients. Just as each Christian needs a community of Christians to grow in Christ, each community needs continual and regular contact with other communities to grow as well.
We cannot grow in a bubble. We cannot stay cloistered in our local church without tasting of the fruits of the larger Body of Christ. We need each other and we need to seek out and honor the giftings God has placed in other ministries. When we honor the other groups by learning from them that which we honor begins to grow in our own life. This is how the Body grows into the fullness of the stature of Christ.
Another way to access these nutrients is to be in relationship with a prophetic community. This means being around people who hear from God and see people through the eyes of Jesus. When people can see the treasure God has placed in you and call it out of you, you grow at an accelerated rate. There is nothing like encountering prophetic ministry. It speaks to who you are in Christ and helps you see what Jesus has put in you. It gives you the confidence to begin to release that dormant gift or to use the gift in greater measure than before.
To return to the illustration of the tree, when we grow in Christ we find out what sort of tree we are and we begin to grow out our branches into the areas of influence God has called us into. Once firmly rooted in Christ, we stand firm and reach out beyond our previous territory and then we see our branches laden with fruit that we can give away. We get to watch the glory of God become revealed through us and into that which we put our hands to. We can all grow like a tree if we are first planted into the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ.