How can I grow spiritually?
Before answering this question let us consider the following two questions:
- What is spiritual growth?
- Who is responsible for spiritual growth?
1. What is Spiritual growth?
Scripture describes spiritual growth as follows:
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” ~ Ephesians 4:13-15
That is to say, spiritual growth is the process by which we become like Christ. Therefore, spiritual growth is not merely knowledge of the Bible (Satan also knows God’s Word, Matthew 4:1-13). Nor is it just staying out of trouble (Jesus got in trouble with the authorities, that’s why they executed Him). Rather, spiritual growth is learning to walk in the perfect will of the Father as Christ did:
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” ~ John 5:19
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” ~ John 5:30
“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” ~ John 6:38
(Also see, John 8:28, John 12:49, John 14:10)
2. Who is responsible for spiritual growth?
To answer this question let us use the analogy that spiritual growth can be likened to a class in which there is a teacher and a student:
For learning to take place both teacher and student share certain responsibilities. The teacher must be prepared and well equipped to teach; knowledgeable of the subject matter and skillful in imparting it. The student, likewise, has the responsibility of being prepared and equipped to learn; interested in the subject and committed to learning it.
Scripture puts it this way:
(TEACHER) “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” ~ Philippians 1:6
(STUDENT) “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of The Word, that ye may grow thereby:” ~ 1 Peter 2:2
God bears the ultimate responsibility of teaching/growing the Believer. But our growth is greatly facilitated by our attitude/appetite for God’s Word.
Having addressed the two earlier questions of “What is spiritual growth?” and “Who is responsible for spiritual growth” we are now better placed to understand how we grow spiritually. According to Scripture, the mechanics of spiritual growth is by revelation/understanding of God’s Word by the teaching of The Holy Spirit.
Specifically, we grow and are sanctified (made holy) by The Word:
“…desire the sincere milk of The Word, that ye may grow thereby:” ~ 1 Peter 2:2
“…Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by The Word, That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” ~ Ephesians 5:25b-27
And it is the Holy Spirit that teaches us The Word:
“But The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” ~ John 14:26
“Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” ~ John 16:13-14
That is to say, a Believer grows spiritually as he/she studies God’s Word (the Bible) and is thereby taught by The Holy Spirit. This is the method God has ordained for us to grow into the likeness of His son, Jesus Christ.
The Role of Suffering
There are some lessons that must be learned in the laboratory. As good as theory classes might be, doctors/nurses in training must also pass their “clinicals” (i.e., real world tests to see how well they can translate what was learned in the classroom to actual, real-life situations). As good as theory classes and flight simulators might be, a pilot in training must pass the test of flying a real airplane. And so it is with many other subjects and professions.
And so it is with Believers. As much as we learn by Holy Spirit guiding us through God’s Word, there comes a time when we must apply our faith to real world situations to see just how well we have learned the lessons of life; to see just how much we have grown. We can’t know how big our faith is until it is tested. We can’t know how much we love God until we have to prove it.
The absolute test of the purity of gold (or silver) is to heat it up; to put it in a very hot fire (the refiner’s fire). It is only then that the unseen impurities will leach out. Scripture tells us:
“But who may abide the day of His [Jesus’] coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” ~ Malachi 3:2-3
Therefore, as a good teacher, God puts us in the laboratory; He puts us through “clinicals”; He tests us in the real world of job loss, cancer, rape, persecution and all of life’s challenges.
He puts us in the furnace and turns up the heat so that we can see what we are made of; so that we can learn how strong (or how weak) our faith is; so that we can learn how much (or how little) we love Him; so that we can see how much more we have to learn and grow before we are ready to “graduate”.
We can be assured, however, that after God put’s us through the test, after He grows our faith and our love, after He grows us Spiritually, we will make it to the “graduation ceremony” for Believer’s where we will hear,
“…These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” ~ Revelation 7:14b
Hallelujah and Amen!
CLOSING REMARKS: Teachers and Teaching
As discussed above the Holy Spirit is our ONLY ordained teacher. Yet all believers are called to teach (Matthew 28:18-20) and teaching is a Gift of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the Church (Romans 12:5-8, Ephesians 4:11-16). How can this be possible?
Jesus told us:
“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” ~ John 14:10
Therefore, since it is Christ that lives in each Believer (Galatians 2:20), then we can expect that while a Believer is in a right relationship with God, God will speak through him/her. In other words, we teach when The Holy Spirit speaks through us. If it is not The Holy Spirit speaking through us, then we (by definition) are not teaching God’s Word.
Similarly, the gift of teaching in the church (Romans 12:5-8, Ephesians 4:11-16) is a special spiritual ability given to some to be able to convey/explain/illuminate the messages in God’s Word, because we are “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11). Accordingly, a true teacher is enabled by the Holy Spirit and therefore speaks of Christ in the same way that the Holy Spirit does.
“…for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak… He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” ~ John 16:13b-14a
In other words, true teachers do not focus attention on themselves, their opinions, their theories etc. Rather, true teachers, who are guided by The Holy Spirit, always focus attention on Christ (“He shall glorify me”) and they focus on what God’s Word says about any matter (“for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you”), they do not emphasize their opinions/philosophies.
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” ~ 2 Peter 1:20
Spiritual growth comes by The Holy Spirit teaching each individual believer God’s Word. Sometimes this is facilitated by human teachers specially gifted by The Holy Spirit to teach, but this is strictly an auxiliary approach. Moreover, let us be careful that the person’s we look to as teachers in the church are truly enabled by the Holy Spirit.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” ~ Colossians 3:16