Am I Growing Enough Spiritually?
I recently had a friend say that she needed to "fix herself " - so that she could help train up her kiddos in her Christian faith and wouldn't be a hypocrite. I can understand how she feels. It can feel disingenuous to be wanting to help our children learn to walk the Christian walk when we know how much we are struggling.
But where do we go from there?
How are we to grow spiritually and what must we do to become spiritually mature or to "fix ourselves" as my friend put it?
In order to understand spiritual growth, we can actually look at how any kind of growth works.
How do babies grow? What do they need? A good work ethic? To try super hard? Put forth more effort?
Growth is the natural process that kids go through when they are given what they need. When they are fed, nurtured, cared for, supported, they will grow. Genetics do the work.
We grow spiritually in much same way. Our spiritual growth is not a matter of self-effort, but rather submitting to the work of God in our hearts.
Please read that again.
You can’t work your way to spiritual maturity.
If that is true (and it is!), then what is our part in it?
Let's look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13:
"God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth."
What is the sanctifying work of the Spirit?
The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit Defined
Sanctification - the act of being declared holy and the process of being made Holy, being made into the image of Christ.
I’m not talking about getting saved as in moving from death to life - hell to heaven…that happens when we put our trust in Christ alone to save us. God has made us righteous because of what Christ did on our behalf.
We were declared set apart for God's use, declared holy and righteous. But it doesn't end there. We must continue to chose righteousness (in outward behavior) and trust that God HIMSELF is making us more holy, more set apart for him, more Christlike (in our inward person). This is spiritual growth.
I'm talking about the process where the righteousness (the right standing with God) that was given to us by Christ’s death and resurrection, gets worked out in our lives and choices - practical righteousness. It is when our attitudes, our likes and dislikes, our thought life, become more and more like Jesus’, and this is God's work in us - sanctification.
And it isn’t instantaneous, as much as I wish it was.
Look at that verse again - who is doing the sanctification according to that verse in Thessalonians?
My efforts? Nope…
It is the Spirit of God.
But it also happens through my BELIEF in the truth.
The Partnership of Spiritual Growth
There is a sort of partnership at work in our spiritual growth.
We chose faith (believing the promises of God) and obedience (acting according to what God says as opposed to how we feel or how the World says we should act). God uses those two things to work in us as His Spirit grows us up.
What else do we need to do?
Let’s look at James 1:21-23
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”
There are certainly things we should do!
If we look back at the Thessalonians AND the James verses, there are both active and passive parts.
Passive parts are what are happening to us - being saved, being sanctified, the Word being planted in us.
The active parts are the things that we are responsible for doing - having faith, getting rid of moral filth, accepting the Word (which is kind of passive!)
But when Paul says in Phil 2:12 that we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, this is what he means. He means us working out what God is doing in us.
What We Need in Order to Grow
Let me go back to the baby analogy for a second. Babies, when not well cared for, won’t grow. And we know something is very wrong when this happens. It happens only when they are ill or missing some key component that is necessary - sustenance, relationship, safety, and it’s called Failure to Thrive.
So if we look at our own Christian life and can’t see growth, then we know something is wrong. Most likely we aren’t getting some component that is necessary for our spiritual growth - food (time in the Word), relationships (time in prayer and with other believers), safety (faith in the promises of God). Without those things, we have spiritual Failure to Thrive.
So what are we to do? Where do we go when things feel stagnant, or we simply can’t get rid of that sin that has entangled us? How do we become more like Jesus?
7 Steps to Being Like Jesus
Not really. I wish! Or maybe 7 ways to stop sinning today? 😂
Well, the only three steps I know of for spiritual growth are:
- Get what you need spiritually to grow.
- Allow the Lord to change your attitudes and your heart.
- Walk in obedience where He leads.
Is this process fast? Sometimes, yes, but most of the time, no.
But it is good, and true, and worth it.
So we look at our lives. We look to see evidence of spiritual growth. If we are wanting the same things we have always wanted, doing the same things we have always done, if we can't seem to shake a certain sin that keeps tripping us up over and over, we may be experience Spiritual Failure to Thrive.
But there is a cure. We have a redeemer and Lord who has promised us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)
So it isn't actually about fixing ourselves at all. It's all about His work in us.