Spiritual Growth

Duane Vander Klok

Many sincere people go through life looking for some book, CD or conference that will instantly and effortlessly turn them into mature Christians. But it doesn’t work that way.

While we live in an age of “instant this” and “microwaved that,” there is no such thing as instantaneous spiritual maturity. However, every believer can experience continuous spiritual growth if they are willing to apply God’s Word and develop their relationship with Him.

A Gradual Process
Spiritual growth is not automatic. If it were, every person who is born again would progress along a certain path and at some point automatically “arrive” spiritually. Instead, just like physical growth, spiritual growth is a gradual process of development.

Sure, God could have chosen to turn us into “super saints” the moment we got saved, but He didn’t. Instead, He chooses to teach us one lesson at a time. Just like He allowed the children of Israel to possess the land “little by little” (Deuteronomy 7:22), God’s plan for you is that you grow gradually.

When it comes to spiritual growth, the secret to your success is hidden in your daily routine. While what you do once in awhile can make a small difference, what you do every day can literally change the direction of your entire life.

Power of Thoughts
Your thoughts are very powerful. In fact, your daily routine – every action, every behavior – is motivated by what you think about.

It has been rightly said:
Sow a thought and you reap an act;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

This statement is true whether the sowing process begins with a positive thought or a negative one. Because your destiny ultimately begins with your thoughts, a key to growth involves keeping a close eye on your thought life.

Transformed Thoughts
Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:7-8, NKJV). To glorify God by growing spiritually and bearing fruit, we need to abide in Him and let His words abide in us.

God’s Word abides in you as you daily read the Bible, meditate on it, pray in agreement with what it says and let it influence your life.  As you abide in Him, you literally begin to think like God thinks and look at situations from His point of view. His Word goes from simply being processed by your mind to dwelling in your heart. You go from just reading His Word to understanding it, and it becomes a part of you.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is “alive and powerful.”  It has the ability to change you from the inside out. Romans 12:2 (NKJV) says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The word “transformed” used here refers to metamorphosis. It implies that, like a caterpillar grows into a butterfly, you are changed as you renew your mind with the Word of God.

Spiritual Maturity
Stability is one indicator of spiritual maturity. Have you ever noticed how some people believe one thing one day and doubt it the next? Because they are unstable and spiritually immature (just like the man talked about in James 1:7-8), they struggle with an inability to receive what they need from God.

Whether you’ve been a Christian for 5 weeks or fifty years, you can develop a more solid faith by integrating more of God’s Word into your heart and mind. As Romans 10:17 (NKJV) tells us, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8 paints a great picture of maturity. It says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” This should be more than just a pretty word picture. It should be every believer’s reality.

Getting There
There are no shortcuts to maturity; it’s a process. But you can become like the tree planted by the water. Here are some things that will help you:

1) Develop Deep Roots
Colossians 2:6-7 (TLB) urges us to cultivate deep roots. It says, “…as you trusted Christ to save you, trust Him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with Him. Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all He has done.” 

Just like a plant’s roots provide nourishment from the soil and anchor it in place, spending time in God’s Word and daily trusting Him nourishes you spiritually, anchoring you in Him. A wonderful side benefit is that as you become strong in the Lord, you will reap the fruits of joy and thankfulness.

2) Eliminate Weeds
Weeds are a sign of neglect. The parable of the sower teaches us what happens when there are weeds left unchecked in our lives. Matthew 13:22 says, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

You can water and fertilize a garden, but if you don’t pull the weeds, your plants still might not grow to maturity and produce a harvest. The weeds can choke them out. Similarly, weeds in a believer’s life can make the Word of God they hear from being fruitful.

For Christians, a weed is anything that chokes spiritual productivity.  Paul said we should “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). To achieve optimum spiritual growth, we need to identify and eliminate sin and anything else that slows down our progress in the Lord.

3) Endure Pruning
Jesus said, “…my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:1-2).

Every good gardener realizes that pruning is essential for increased productivity. All the dead branches need to be cut away as well as some of the living ones to improve the shape of the tree and to stimulate new growth.

For Christians, pruning is not optional. If you are going to grow to maturity and bear the maximum amount of quality fruit, you will experience times of pruning. When you do, recognize that it is God who is pruning – not to hurt you, but to help you. He is working on you to make you more fruitful than you ever imagined you could be!

4) Watch and Wait
We’re told in Genesis 8:22, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” 

God has ordained that there is a seedtime and a harvest time – it’s true in the spiritual realm as well as in nature. No one plants a seed one day and harvests fruit from it the next day. So it is with spiritual growth. As you plant the seed of God’s Word into the good soil of your heart, time passes and a harvest comes.

James 1:4 (NKJV) encourages you to “…let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” If you are developing deep roots, eliminating weeds as they crop up, and letting God prune you, a harvest is inevitable! Don’t stop what you’re doing. Watch and wait. The fruit of your spiritual growth will soon be evident!

Our prayer for you is from Colossians 1:10-11: May you live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(All scriptures are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)