Why do we just stop growing spiritually? Or why, do we meet people that used to be so alive in their relationship with the Lord, and now they have reached a kind of plateau and one never observes any spiritual growth in their personal lives.
What is Spiritual Growth?
Spiritual growth is commonly defined as becoming more and more like Jesus in nature. But for me, it is equally important to not just become more like Jesus, but to grow up in your faith. By growing up I mean less past, sinful behaviour and more fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) produced in your life. This is a life-long process of growth facilitated by spending time in the Word and co-operating with the Holy Spirit. Spiritual growth is best described in the following two passages:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness…For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-8)
Paul urges us in Eph 4:1 to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received,” and later (verse 12-13) we are told to “be built up… reaching unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature; attaining the full measure of the fullness of Christ.”
The question then for each of us is: Have we stagnated in our relationship with Christ, or is that relationship growing to the full measure of fullness?
Five obstacles in our lives that hamper spiritual growth:
- A dangerous contentment – With our lives in general. No more stretching and believing God for something beyond our contentment levels. It shows in a limited vision of what my life in Christ looks like; no great desires for the Kingdom; limited passion for service and work. We say;“I am comfortable where I am right now.” Problem is that we cannot live on our past growth in our relationship with the Lord. God wants us to experience Him daily in our lives and continue to experience Him in an “abundant life” (John 10:10).
- Personal comfort. This is where many believers get stuck, a place of comfort. When we go “off the boil” and we simply stop growing because there is no energy being expunged to get momentum. In wind free areas, the trees stop producing roots to stabilize them and just so, we are not supposed to get comfortable in a wind-free life. If you are growing, you will always be outside of your comfort zone. When last did you get uncomfortable? When last did you commit to something that was inconvenient, learn a new skill that was difficult, take on a task that was complicated, start a new discipline which took away some leisure time, went out of your way to do something for someone else?
- Failure to self evaluate. Personal insight into your strengths and weaknesses is an empowering gift for change and improvement. Many of us do not take the time to examine our lives: how are we doing in our relationships; are we being our very best; where in our lives can we develop new strengths; what habits have I developed that are not contributing to my future. We have many reasons why we don’t evaluate ourselves: it does not come naturally to us; we just never take the time; don’t think it is good to look too intently on ourselves; other people don’t do it, why should I! If we don’t self evaluate, we don’t see the consequences for our life choices, we may even fall into a false pride: “I’m O.K. I’m doing fine!” The enemy hides the consequences of bad choices until it is often too late for us. Therefore it is important to keep a solid foundation of humility in our lives, which involves personal evaluation.
- Inability to die. The inability to die to old ways and habits to make way for new things in our lives. The inability to die to what we like, prefer, dream of or want. The inability to surrender what we think are our personal rights, to God’s sovereignty. The inability to die to thinking habits that are destructive. John 12:25 MSG “Anyone who holds onto life just as it is – destroys it.”
- The last obstacle to spiritual growth is the BIGGEST ONE OF ALL! Not enough nutrients that nourish spiritual growth, or not enough of a variety of nutrients. Like any plant will tell us: growth is dependent on sunlight and nutrients.
“Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” ‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’ (Luke 13:6-9)
This passage tells us that Jesus is expecting fruit (produced by godly living) from a (fig) tree, and that expectation is reasonable to the Father, who tends the spiritual garden of the believer. If no fruit is produced, He will not tolerate its lack of productivity, but instead will cut it down. It is best for the tree, to accept the nutrients and care given to it by the gardener and start producing fruit.
But how will you produce spiritual fruit, if you are not taking care of your spiritual garden with water and nutrients?
Here are two truths about spiritual growth:
It is not automatic, it is intentional.
It comes from God, but is facilitated by us, co-operating with the Holy Spirit.
All summed up in Phil 2:12-13 “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
So how is your spiritual growth? If you examine your life in the last six months, can you point to an area of your relationship with Jesus, where you have grown in understanding, trust and faith. Have you produced spiritual fruit in your life? Is there less of the old you and more of the new you in Christ? What about friends and family, have they seen evidence of your spiritual growth? If someone met you at the grocery store, or the school parking lot, would they know you are different to everyone else in the world, because you are a believer?
Art Linkletter , from the TV program: ‘Kids say the darndest things’ said:
I never want to be, what I want to be,
Because there is always something out there yet for me,
I get a kick out of living in the here and now,
But I never want to feel I know the best way how.
There’es always one hill higher, with a better view,
Something waiting to be learned that I never knew.
Till my days are over, never fully fill my cup,
Let me go on growing up!
Make a decision today, to remove the obstacles to your spiritual growth and embrace all that God has got for you in your life right now.
Make a decision to Grow Up in your faith
Father, I have realised today that I have allowed…. to get in the way of my personal spiritual growth. Your word makes it clear that I should be growing over time, developing greater fullness in You and producing fruit in my life. I want to be sure to live a life worthy of the calling I received from You, help me to start growing. Help me to put…. aside and to embrace growth. I declare that I am no longer stagnating in my growth, but as of today I am growing up and it is allowing me to not be ineffective and unproductive in my knowledge of Christ. I am producing fruit and displaying the fullness of Christ in every area of my life.
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