Spiritual Growth Comes When God Challenges Us!

10 You, however, have followed my (St. Paul) teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:10-17

St. Paul above describes the importance of spiritual growth and discipleship. The largest congregational study on discipleship was done by Willow Creek and is called “Reveal.” It involved over 500,000 congregations and found that there are four groups of people in any given church; explorers of faith, beginners in Christ, growing in Christ, and Christ-centered followers. A Christ-centered follower believes, God is for me, and my plans, and my agenda in this world. Those who are truly Christ-centered, are fully surrendered. They've given up their dreams, desires, and agenda and exchanged them for Christ's. Christ-centered Christians have moved from self-centered to Christ-centered. The central conclusion of the study found that churches can move people from one stage to another by providing opportunities to study and reflect on the Bible. If you want to grow in your faith, you have to read, study and wrestle with the Bible. What the study also found was that participation in church activities alone does not create spiritual giants! Programs do not build spiritual muscles!

The study also found that spiritual growth isn’t linear, but comes in spurts. It makes sense that we grow in our faith when we are challenged and struggle in our lives. When God allows us to go through life’s challenges He is teaching us to rely on and cling to Him. He is also leading us down the path of spiritual growth. It is difficult while we are in the midst of life’s challenges, but there is a spiritual reward on the other side for trusting God’s plan. Interestingly, as a person moves closer to being Christ-centered in their spiritual life, they want the church to challenge them more and hold them accountable. As we grow in faith we want to be fed meat, not milk.

The reason I bring this up is to encourage you in your spiritual growth and to remind you that your struggle is good. It produces spiritual fruit that is pleasing in God’s sight! Martin Luther came up with a similar process of spiritual growth and discipleship, but he called it “becoming a theologian.” His process was a cycle of prayer (oratio), studying the Bible (meditatio), and wrestling with life’s trials and the Devil’s fiery arrows (tentatio).  This daily process humbles us and shapes us by God’s Spirit to be built up in Christ. It is a process in which God uses everything in our lives both good and ill, for our spiritual benefit.

God Bless,

Pastor Joel