Five steps to spiritual growth
The Christian life can be likened to a journey, like the exodus when the Israelites left Egypt in search of a better place.
Though God planned to give them the Promised Land, they still had to cross the river Jordan, defeat giants, overcome walled cities, and set foot on foreign land before they could actually possess it.
God’s chosen ones could have taken 11 days to enter the Promised Land but, because of disobedience, it took them forty years.
This is an important principle: What God promises only become ours when we obey, seize the opportunities and play our part. If we merely depend on the pastor’s sermon every Sunday, we are bound to stagnate in our spiritual journey.
How can we “accelerate” the pace of spiritual growth so that we become increasingly mature with each passing month or year?
Unless we have a genuine desire to seek God and grow into maturity, we will not make much headway. We must be like the deer that thirsts for God’s reality and presence. Just like physical hunger drives us to eat and build strong bodies, we who hunger for God will see tremendous leaps and bounds in our faith walk.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”(Matthew 5:6).
In order to overcome the pull of the world and our flesh, and the deception of satan, we have to be strong and the only way we can achieve this is to seek God. “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4).
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).
In today’s fast-paced world, where so many activities and responsibilities compete for our attention, self-discipline and self-denial do not come easily.
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11).
Before we can obey God’s word, we need to study it with diligence (2 Timothy 2:15). The word is like a seed, which when implanted in us, renews our mind and transforms our lives. We need to progress beyond daily devotionals and pulpit messages delivered like capsules to us. Serious Bible study involves setting aside time for self-study, using reference material, and praying that the Holy Spirit will bring fresh revelation to us.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future” (John 16:13).
Another area where a believer often fails to be consistent is prayer. Going to God in prayer may be neglected when we are busy, whereas the reverse should be the case. It is during such times that we need more of God’s strength and wisdom.
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
In the Parable of the Widow and the Judge, Jesus taught why we need to persevere in prayer, even when results are not immediately seen (Luke 18:1-8).
We are encouraged by the fact the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayer when we are at a loss for words (Romans 8:26). Furthermore, Jesus is always interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25).
If a believer has a mentor to inspire and guide him in his faith walk, the latter can be a tremendous source of encouragement to him, whether in good or bad times.
When it comes to practical issues like seeking God’s will, or finding a job or life partner, there are no pat answers that spring forth from scripture. Wisdom from a mentor’s wise counsel helps a believer clarify his goals and direction in life.
Paul encouraged young Timothy to awaken the spiritual gifts already imparted to him (1 Timothy 4:14) and fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). He also exhorted him to preach the word to contend against false teaching (2 Timothy 4:2-3).
This is an area which depends on God’s sovereignty, apart from our own spiritual fervour. In response to our faith and earnestness in seeking Him, God may perform miracles in our life.
Experiencing a miracle may not be the most important thing in the Christian life. But when we know that God is alive and hearkens to our prayers, it encourages us and strengthens our faith.
Does God ask for perfection from us before answering our prayers? No. Just remember the desperate cry of the man who asked Jesus to heal his demoniac son: “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
God answers us according to His will and our faith. He may even surprise us by responding far more abundantly beyond what we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24).
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
“Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
So far we have touched on what believers need to do in order that we might grow steadily and not stagnate. In contrast, trials happen in our life, even though we might be fervent and obedient. God allows trials in our life for it is almost impossible for us to mature without experiencing it.
When trials hit us, we should view it positively, realising that its purpose is to mould our character.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1: 2-4).
If Jesus has to suffer in order to learn obedience, it means that we cannot avoid trials. “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
The servant is not greater than his Master. So how can a believer avoid suffering when Jesus had to experience it? “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Finally, what does it mean to grow in grace and progressively increase in our knowledge of God?
We can work alongside with God or we can be passive and complacent in our spiritual pilgrimage on earth. While God works in us, we also have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).
Receiving God’s grace is merely the first step in the life of a believer. The difficult part is to continue growing, keeping ourselves under God’s favour and impacting the world.
How do we overcome the giants—whether real or imaginary—in our lives?
Why we need solid food in order to be spiritually mature
Though we are seated in the heavenly places with Christ, we still have to walk in the Spirit and make a stand against the devil.
How do we monitor the progress we are making in our spiritual journey? Have we lived up to our full potential?
Jesus taught us we are to be perfect but Paul tells us he has not attained perfection. How do we reconcile these two differing views? Who do we follow?
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2017/08/moving-to-next-level.html
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Dr Lim Poh Ann