Seeking Spiritual Growth: How to Grow and Why We Stagnate?

In the last post, we talked about the four markers for spiritual maturity and growth. The next logical question we then have to ask is how then do we 'attain' these markers? Here we will discuss on some of the pointers that are pertinent to help us attain these markers.

1. Understand that God supplies the resources for spiritual growth

The first thing that we need to understand is that God supplies for our spiritual growth. He brought us into this and He took upon Himself to make sure that we grow to conform to the image of His Son. As Peter would say in his second epistle:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. - 2 Peter 1:3
 Without belaboring on other similar verses that suggest the same thing, if we can bear in mind that this is indeed the case, then it means that we can grow spiritually if we open up our eyes to discern the resources He has given us - though most of the time, it is already staring at us.

2. Understand that we need to make effort for our spiritual growth as well

One of the things that people mistook is that there are short cuts to our spiritual growth and that spiritual growth is automatic. But as suggested above, we need to at least make the effort to look at the resources God has given to us, even with all the resources given to us. As Paul would tell Timothy in his first letter to him, Timothy was to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. As much as the people around us want to help us, we need to make the effort and take the step to practise what they are teaching us to do. What this really means for us is that hard work is required of us to strive to grow in our godliness. It simply does not come by automatically.

In case we think this is an obvious point, I once talked to a young believer (young in terms of maturity) who has been in church for 3 years plus. This person's growth throughout the years has been pretty nominal at best, though he does want to grow. But he refuses to read his Scripture (to the point that he does not know how to operate his Bible App on his smartphone) and as a result, anyone can just come in and influence him with wrong doctrines. I can tell him anything and yet not be proven wrong because he has no means of proving me wrong. He is constantly seeking short cut, going to prayer rooms to seek "word of knowledge" from the intercessors, thinking that this will hasten the spiritual growth. He refuses to acknowledge that he needs to make effort to grow spiritually, and as a result, he pretty much remains near where he began a few years back, till the point that some people around me are doubtful if this person is indeed born again or not.

3. Primary tools of spiritual growth: Personal

There are two primary tools of spiritual growth that I know, which most Christians will be instructed not to neglect in their personal life. The first is the regular reading of Scripture in devotion and study. This is pretty much basic for all of us and there is no running away from this. Many passages can be quoted to substantiate this point and almost all of us know some of them by heart.

And may I add that by Scripture, it does include the Old Testament, lest we mistake it to be a prelude to the Scripture. Just because the New Testament is 'new', it does not imply that the Old Testament is outdated. Think about it, Paul told Timothy that all Scripture is Spirit-inspired. Which Scripture was he referring to? Of course it was the Old Testament, since he did not know that he was writing an epistle that was to become part of Scripture as well.

Another primary tool is prayer. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to pray unceasingly. Prayer is automatically assumed by Jesus when He taught the Lord's Prayer in Matthew. More can be said about prayer, but suffice here to say that if we do not learn to commune with God on a regular basis through prayer, then we will be hardpressed to hear His voice if we even want to hear His voice in the first place.

Perhaps one of the most effective things I have tried and practised in my own personal prayer life is the practice of silence. I have mentioned this before, but from the tradition that I am raised in, silence is not a commonality but I have benefited from the times of silence that I have learned to hear Him.

4. Primary tools of spiritual growth: Corporate

The primary corporate tool of spiritual growth has to be the church, where God has placed all the resources for us to mature:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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. - Eph 4:11-13
Hence, being involved in the church is the first step towards spiritual growth. Does your church provide basic doctrine class? Do you get to be mentored by spiritually more matured believers in your church? Do you get to join in a small group on a regular basis? Join them! Participate in them!

But this is not the only benefit of church in spiritual growth. The church, should by right, provide an environment for the regular meeting of believers for mutual encouragement and learning. You are not just going to church to receive but also to encourage one another so that we can continue to keep one another accountable in our spiritual lives.

5. What about other resources? 

I have heard many people talking to me about the church not being able to meet their needs in terms of spiritual inputs etc. Assuming these concerns are genuine and do not come from consumeristic believers who just want to feel good in church and do nothing else, then I must encourage this one thing to bolster your spiritual growth towards maturity - to seek resources outside of your church. There are many avenues to do so like:

- Courses with theological institutes.
- Reading other books from other traditions
- Christian conferences and seminars organised by other parachurches and Christian organisation
- Getting involved in serving with other parachurches and Christian organisation
- Seek mentorship from outside of your churc
- Go for mission trips

I am by no means suggesting that you should walk out of your church but I am saying that you are not limited to what your church can provide. Remember that your pastors and leaders are only human beings trying to serve God to the best that they know how and they may not be able to deal with all your concerns. Going to these avenues allows a few advantages including:

- Broadening your perspectives and horizons - seeing that God is still working outside of your church.
- Learn new things that you may never get to learn in church
- Meet new people whom you may never get to know in church
- Serve in areas that you may never get to serve in church

And I would want to make a note on broadening perspectives. Many a times, I find that Christians are very narrow minded in terms of what they think God is doing. But interacting with Christians from different traditions and denominations and different walks of life has taught me that the Christian life is richer than what you think if you just wall up in your own church. It enriches your spiritual lives but more importantly, it provides you the 'tools' to approach God in different manners and hence different ways to feed your souls. You get to hear new perspectives (not necessarily correct one) which help to stretch your mind and appreciate what your church is teaching.
Space constraint does not permit me to discuss all the issues but I hope this will help you start thinking about your own spiritual growth. 

Do comment if you have other points which you want to bring up. 

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