Ever find yourself feeling stuck when it comes to growing in your faith? You’re seeking God in His Word and through prayer, you’re not hiding any secret sin . . . but it doesn’t seem to be working? You can’t really tell if you’re any more like Christ today than you were last week?
You’re not alone! But let’s take a minute to remind ourselves what spiritual growth is all about. We grow spiritually when God, by His grace, works in our lives to make us more like Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). When we feel stagnant, let’s respond by chasing after the One who changes us, not the change itself.
And as we pursue Christ, longing for Him to help us grow in goodness, knowledge, self-control, and love (2 Peter 1:5-8), let’s be watchful of a few common misconceptions, lest they distract us from true growth.
1. It’s about an in-depth knowledge of the Bible.
Peter talked about growing in knowledge (2 Peter 1:5, 3:18), and biblical knowledge is definitely something to be desired and worked toward. After all, the Bible is the primary way of knowing who God is.
However, “knowledge” was only one point of growth in a long list. Most of us can probably think of someone in church or in small group who seems to know all the Bible answers, yet also appears prideful, critical, or like a plain jerk. Such a person clearly lacks some of the other qualifications of spiritual maturity.
In John 14, Jesus tells us, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). Knowing the Bible well definitely helps us to know Jesus’ teachings, but more importantly, we are to obey them.
As we read the Bible day by day, let’s us ask ourselves, what does this say about God? What does this say about me? And most importantly, how can I be living this out?
2. It’s about diligently practicing spiritual disciplines.
Peter urges us to “make every effort” in growing spiritually. Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Hard work is definitely a part of spiritual growth. We all know the basics—reading the Bible, praying, fellowshipping with other Christians, etc.
But let us not fall into the trap of thinking we’re doing good as long as we check all the boxes. Many of us have gone through seasons of doing all the right things, while not really seeking God or putting our heart into it. This would hardly count as “making every effort,” would it?
What’s most important is genuinely seeking a relationship with God. We are called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). As we continue to faithfully read the Bible, pray, and go to church, let us ask God to renew our hearts during those times so that we daily love Him more.
3. It’s about measurable growth in our lives every day.
Sometimes we have the impression that spiritual growth is a straight, progressive path. That somehow, we ought to be more mature today than we were yesterday. After all, if we’re not moving forward in our relationship with God, that would be backsliding, right?
If we’re putting all our heart into seeking God, but it still feels like we’re not hearing from Him, or we’re not drawing any closer to Him, is it because we’re doing something wrong? What if we feel stuck?
The truth is, we all go through seasons. Even David, the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), went through times where he questioned,
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? . . . How long must I wrestle with my thoughts . . . (Psalm 13:1-2).
If God feels distant, or Bible-reading seems like a chore, or we have no words for prayer, that does not mean we have stopped growing. James encourages us that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and we ought to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete” (James 1:3-4).
So even in those difficult seasons, let us affirm as David did, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). God will accomplish His purposes.
Let us chase after God, sincerely seeking a relationship with Him, trusting Him to equip us with knowledge and goodness, and faithfully persevering even when we can’t see any results—because we know that God loves us, and He is working even now in our lives to draw us closer to Him.