May 15, 2018
Spiritual growth can be difficult. In our face-paced and media saturated culture we can find it difficult to experience peace, contentment, and deep connection with others. Add spiritual growth into the mix and chances are it finds little room in an otherwise hectic schedule.
To complicate matters further, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for growth. We are all wired uniquely and have different ways of learning and growing. Regardless of how you best connect with God, there are some basics we can all examine to see where we're stuck.
Before getting to the list, one point needs to be mentioned up front. Spiritual growth is your responsibility. As with anything, what you do not actively invest in will eventually deteriorate. If you feel like progress in your spiritual life has stalled, maybe its time to re-invest with intentionality.
Here is a check list to help you see where the potential trouble lies. The first two on this list are going to be obvious, but they are critical nonetheless.
1. Your Biblical Intake is Negligible.
Revelation is a beautiful gift from God, and none more so than what we have in the Bible. Written over a period of 1600 years by some 40 authors it conveys the heart of God. We can never understand love, compassion, mercy, grace and other dynamics of the human experience without them framed by the author Himself, let alone theological concepts like salvation, or the nature of the church.
What is really compelling is the range of options we have today for assimilating biblical truth. I've heard many say they are not readers, but thanks to technology we can have our smartphones read it to us. Imagine a role for Siri beyond asking her to find you the nearest drive-through?
Rick Warren said many years ago that spiritual growth is nothing more than replacing lies with truth. That can't happen without the revelation of truth found in Scripture. Find a mode and version that works for you and kick start your spiritual renewal today.
2. Your Relational Time with God is Shallow.
Typically this would be considered the time we take in prayer. But prayer is not a one-sided conversation or even a one-dimensional exercise. Its being with God. it involves listening and connecting as much as asking.
Let me ask you something. If all you do is spend time asking God but never listening how do you think your heart gets shaped over time? Your relationship with God will revolve purely around your wish list being filled. How healthy would a human relationship be if based on this model? Exactly.
I'm also talking beyond mindless mediation that is so popular right now. Meditation is active listening for the voice of God, not just breath control or posture improvement.
3. You Lack the Proper Environment for Growth.
We hear a lot about the erosion of church attendance. Unfortunately, the best arena for personal growth is found within a church community, not without. Even with all the stories I hear about the scars people have over the church, its still an important part of God's spiritual toolbox.
I often feel that the moment when people leave a church is often the moment they needed to stay. That's because I've seen more people run from their problems rather than meet them head on and work towards reconciliation. I know that is not every case, but from my experience, its more often the case.
If your idea of spiritual growth has no room for difficult people or difficult situations, you will always remain in a cocoon. You don't have to be best friends with everyone and you certainly don't have to get along and agree with everyone, but you can certainly learn to love as Jesus does. That can only happen in community.
One last point. Whatever church you do attend is hopefully one that takes spiritual growth seriously. I hope you feel challenged from the messages and from the church ministries in general. If your church is more a social club bent on making members comfortable, well, maybe its part of the problem.
4. There is No Good Tension in Your Life.
We often treat tension as a bad thing. Frankly, I believe its one of the signs God is doing something in your life. Now I'm talking about good tension, not the kind that creates unhealthy stress that is detrimental to your physical well-being.
What I'm talking about is the tension felt when we've done something wrong and we feel the promptings of the Spirit to make it right. The prompting to be encouraging when we feel a negativity surge coming. The prompting to give more, share more, forgive more, and even love more.
I'm talking about the tensions you feel inside yourself that prompt you to not just become a better you, but more like Jesus. We live in a culture that pushes us towards comfort, but comfort as a default in your life is a guaranteed recipe for spiritual apathy and nothing is worse for your walk with God than a whatever attitude.
5. You're Experiencing an Authoritative Crisis.
I'm not inclined to talk much about politics, but the recent ascent of Donald Trump to the White House has caused a crisis of sorts. If there was a struggle in culture before Trump to accept authority, it has now reached unprecedented heights.
What does this have to do with your spiritual life? Plenty. If you struggle with authority on earth, you will struggle with authority in heaven. In fact, it will likely skew your concept of worship. Rather than being surrendered to the grandeur of God, you will see it as a means of personal preference.
I recognize that we've become skeptical of leaders for good reason, but when it comes to our relationship with God, its not an equal among equals situation. If you've ever demanded that God become answerable to you, you may have already fallen into this trap.
Besides, to compare God to the imperfect machinations of a human leader is to grossly misjudge the character and nature of God. There is no one, whose hands you are better in, than God's.
6. You Lack Any Form of a Scorecard.
What I mean is you have no form of accountability that propels you forward. This can come in many forms and with many different types of measurement tools, but you need to have some sort of goal you're working towards.
Most treat their spiritual lives in a haphazard manner with little discipline and little purpose. If we treated our jobs like we do our spiritual lives we would never get a promotion, a raise, or even an acknowledgment of a job well done. In fact, we would probably get fired.
What would you like to see God do in you this month, the next six months, or a year? How would you know if you were even getting close? Find someone who will keep your feet on the right path and hold you up when you feel like you're slipping.
Spiritual growth is not easy, but not having a plan just makes it harder. Hope this list was helpful and challenges you to up your game. Not only will you benefit, but those around you will too.
May 22, 2018
Great article Jon! As you mention, points one and two are obvious, but foundational. Still, we must all continually learn the lesson from Luke 10:38-42 and not be Martha “worried and upset about many things” but Mary “only one thing is necessary” sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to what he says. Yet it seems Martha did eventually learn this lesson for after the death their brother Lazarus, in John 11:20 “As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him…” and didn’t concern herself so much with the many people attending the wake at her and Mary’s home (vs 19).
May 18, 2018
Wow Jon Talk about hitting yhe nail on the head. I needed this reminder regarding not listening for that still small voice. Thank you.
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