If you want to walk closely with the Lord, then growing spiritually is your heart’s desire. What’s more, it is chock full of wonderful benefits: the peace of Christ, the joy of the Lord, close fellowship with Jesus, sensitivity to guidance, empowerment for work and ministry, and all kinds of other practical blessings in daily life. Who wouldn’t want to grow spiritually?
We may want to grow, but stumble at the threshold of opportunity. Why? Spiritual growth opportunities can be very difficult to recognize. They come at you “sideways”—in ways that are not obviously “spiritual,” making them easy to miss. We typically look for growth to come from the wrong directions. Let me explain…
Let’s consider what spirit growth is NOT.
I love the river of peace! I love being carried through my days upheld and guided by the Spirit with a peaceful, easy feeling and divine synchronicity working upon all my appointments, phone calls and chores. It is so beautiful when that happens—and it has been happening a lot lately. But that is not spiritual growth. It is spiritual delight. Such enjoyment of the Lord is the result of spiritual growth, not the growth itself.
Then there’s Bible time in the morning with tea and my favorite reading chair, or teaching sessions at conference when the speaker carries you to new horizons. I said in school, “Just lock me in the library for a year and send in pizzas and I’ll be happy.” But that is not spiritual growth. It is spiritual knowledge. You only have to look at the Pharisees to see they spent way too much time growing their brains, while their hearts were shrinking! That’s reverse growth through excess knowledge.
When “new recruits” first come to the Mission where I work in addiction recovery they think that now that they are with a bunch of committed, like-minded believers everyone is going to get along marvelously and show Christian character as we seek to serve Jesus. But that’s not spiritual growth. That’s spiritual death. We will only find that once we’ve died and gone to heaven!
OK, what is spiritual growth? I have to “break it down” for the guys coming in off the streets into our addiction recovery program that their spiritual growth is going to come to them in the moments that they least expect to find it and in times that look more like the devil than the Lord. Say what? Yes, there are moments here and there of genuine growth by revelation, by impartation or by healing; times when God downloads into you a transforming perspective; or releases a gift of the Spirit; or helps you mend from a deep root of bitterness or fear. These times are real and are definitely worth seeking so that we can get the breakthrough.
But, but, but there are other times, times we don’t have to seek, times we would rather run from, times that don’t happen occasionally, but every day. Times of trouble, times of offense, times of need, times of temptation, times of being rebuked or rejected, times of failure, etc. These are the bread and butter times when spiritual growth is an ever present opportunity just waiting to happen.
If we handle the moment according to past emotional reflex and deal with it stressed up (anxious) or stressed down (despairing), the old nature has taken over and we get no growth. To get the growth we have to act fast to reconnect with the Lord and quickly give the fear, anger and guilt, etc. to Him so that we can keep floating in the river of peace. That means there is a lot we have to learn how to handle differently. See any need for growth?
Consider this analogy from nature: the soft, wide ring of a tree shows it’s summer growth; it is the harder wood formed while facing winter’s cold and winds that gives the tree (or the board you are working with) it’s abiding strength.
Get a load of the “Spiritual Growth ABCs” at our website!