Spiritual growth is a key part of any Christian’s life. When we accept the good news, we commit to growing more and more like our creator God.
The amazing truth of our faith is that our God wants to transform us. He wants to liberate us from all that hurts and ails us. At the heart of this transformation towards holiness is spiritual growth.
What the Bible says about spiritual growth
James 1:2-5 is one of the most challenging passages addressing spiritual development in the Bible.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
In this thought-provoking teaching, James tells us to ‘consider it pure joy’ when we face trials. James doesn’t just tell us to pray when we face challenges and hardships, or to seek comfort from Jesus. Instead he tells us to think of every trial as a joy. That means any financial, health or emotional trial is an invitation to find joy in a sustaining relationship with Jesus.
But, how do you actually get there? How do you go from wanting to escape or evade hardship to instead welcoming it into your life? This passage in James explains that the testing of our faith produces perseverance and it’s this that makes us mature and complete. However, even though we know there will be a fruitful outcome, enduring a trial with joy is never easy.
That’s why, amongst many other reasons found in scripture, we must prioritize spiritual growth.
Here are three ways to encourage your spiritual development.
1. Seek joy in hard times
Being able to find joy in every trial won’t happen overnight but you can take on a posture of encouraging joy. The important thing to remember is that God will help you. He will partner with you until you can find joy in the most unexpected of moments.
Accepting that joy and sorrow can coexist, with neither lessening the other, is a lesson only learnt through enduring hardships.
A key way to continue growing spiritually is to remind yourself of James’ teaching every time you face a trial. By challenging yourself in this way, you are working towards being made “mature and complete”, as the disciple writes.
2. Expect to keep learning
There’s no end point to our learning about God or Scripture. Some people dedicate their whole lives to studying the Word and even that could never be enough.
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching..” Ephesians 4:13-16
We must expect to keep learning about who God is and what He has planned for us, no matter how old we are or how long we’ve been Christians. Continuing to learn, through every season of life, is an important part of cultivating spiritual growth.
Prioritizing learning as a Christian
2 Peter 1:5-8 says: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you posses these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In this passage Peter stresses that we should make every effort to add knowledge to our faith. It’s this pursuit that, he reasons, will keep us from being “ineffective and unproductive” in our knowledge of Jesus. In other words, to really get to know Jesus as our friend we need to make an effort to learn about our faith.
Thankfully this doesn’t mean we all have to sign up for a theology degree. A brilliant way to prioritize learning about your faith is just to pick a couple of authors who inspire you and read their books or listen to their podcasts. Whether you read books about prayer by Pete Greig or books studying the Sabbath by John Mark Comer there’s a huge range of writing styles out there to inspire and educate us all.
Your learning can happen from your phone too, with thoughtful blogs and scripture-filled writings found on the Glorify app. Adding a Glorify daily devotional to your morning routine is another brilliant way of expanding your knowledge of scripture without even reaching for your Bible.
3. Keep your faith central to your life
“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasure, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:14-15
Luke 8 contains the explanation of one of the most famous parables of Jesus. This piece of scripture highlights the importance of keeping the Word of God right at the centre of our hearts. We’re encouraged to diligently steward the Word of God in our life. So we have to hear the Word of God and not let it be drowned out by worries, riches or pleasure.
1 Peter 2: 2-3 makes a similar point: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
These verses encourage us to think about what we let shape and inform our life. In Peter’s words, we are to “crave pure spiritual milk”. This echoes the teaching in Luke to make sure the word of God isn’t choked by “life’s worries, riches and pleasure”. We know then that it’s important to seek purity in our hearts so that God’s word can take root and then develop and transform us.
Is your heart filled with fertile ground?
The comparison of our hearts to soil is a helpful one. We can use it to determine whether something will aid or hurt our spiritual growth.
When weighing up whether to pursue something, even something as simple as what to watch on TV, we can use this parable as a test. Will this thing help make my heart into fertile ground for God’s word? Or not?
Cultivating fertile ground in our lives for God’s word to sink in is the key to unlocking consistent spiritual growth.