Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Don't I Seem to Grow Spiritually? (Hindrances to Spiritual Growth)

"Why don't I seem to grow spiritually?" is the question of many, not realizing that there are "spiritual earthworms" hindering the growth of their plant of spirituality.

1. False Security (Are you fully persuaded that you need spiritual growth?)

One hindrance to spiritual growth is the presumption that we're already spiritual enough and need to grow no more. The Bible teaches that sanctification--the process of being holy or of growing spiritually--takes a lifetime (Phil. 3:12). I think most of us are unwilling to deny that with our lips. But we do so with our lives. Sometimes we draw false security from good things around us. One of which is having godly parents, an orthodox church and/or a Christian fellowship.

We should remember that each of us has a personal accountability before God. You cannot bring your godly pastor-father there. God measures you by your own practical holiness (cf. 2 Cor 5:10).

Another good thing from where we might draw false security is our theological knowledge. Whenever we think we know God enough, our thirst for Him drifts away, along with our spiritual progress. But the infinite God can never be fully comprehended by finite, sinful creatures like us. Moreover, knowledge by itself is not enough (Jas 2:17). It takes application of the Word to cultivate holiness in our lives and, consequently, grow spiritually.

Everybody needs growth. But the question is more that just whether you intellectually believe that. The question is whether you constantly live in awareness of such need. And the sign that you don't is when you don't evaluate your spirituality everyday.

2. False Sources (What is your means of spiritual growth?)

Pragmatism is the key of most churches for discipleship. Basically, it is the belief that we should use whatever method that will work to win people. Since most young people love bonding and fun, outing and games might be a good move. Since most unbelievers love music jamming, why not utilize Praise and Worship to evangelize them?

The problem with this, aside from the fact that it is man-centered, is that it contradicts the Bible. Paul warns us from trading "the wisdom of this world" with the simplicity of the gospel preaching (1 Cor 1:17ff) and ear-tickling tactics with sound doctrine. (2 Tim. 4:3) Through and through we can read that it is God's word which transforms us. (Psa 19:7-11; 1 Pet 2:2; Rom. 12:2). Jesus Himself, while praying at Jerusalem, gave us the true key for spiritual growth: "Sanctify them by Your Truth. Your Word is truth." (Jn 17:17)

You can indulge yourself into many "spiritual" strategies but they won't grow your faith. Christ's disciples are being made holy by the truth of God's word. What we need is the word of God saturating our lives. What we need is to have the word read, the word listened to, the word prayed, the word memorized and the word sung.

3. False Standards (Who is your standard in spirituality?)

One of the biggest mistakes we can do is to compare ourselves with unbelieving people for spiritual checkup, forgetting that these people naturally will not progress in spirituality because they're dead (Eph 2:1). It is just normal for them not to grow because they don't even have life. But it is utterly abnormal for Christians not to grow because we are already born again (Jn 1:13).

How about co-believers? Albeit helpful for some reasons, comparing ourselves to them to the point of making them our standard of spirituality is wrong. Just because you are spiritually better than your churchmates or siblings, it doesn't mean you can be laxed or assume you're growing according to God's will. Also just because your mentor is better than you, it doesn't mean being like him is your chief end. Our standard for spirituality is Christ alone (1 Jn 2:6).

So the question is not whether you are better than others. The real question is whether or not you are being more like Christ everyday.

4. False Success (How do you know that you are pursuing spiritual growth?)

You've gone to the church. You've read your Bible. You've said a prayer. You got all of your spiritual disciplines done, and you still feel like God is far away and you're not spiritually growing. What's wrong?

It's not that you are doing the wrong things. But you are doing it the wrong way. We got used to do's-and-don'ts and how-to's that sometimes we already forget the essence. We are forgetting why we're trying to maintain our spiritual disciplines. We are forgetting that these are means of God's grace. It is God Himself who sanctifies. These are just doors we knock at to see God more and beg for His sovereign, sanctifying grace.

Most of the time we see spiritual disciplines as an end of themselves so we end up dog-tired with unfruitful legalism. We should, by God's grace, pursue spiritual disciplines only because we want to know God more, be closer to God more and love God more. We succeed in growing when we do not just perform our religious routines but pursue God through them.

5. False Spring (Why do you desire to grow spiritually?)

Finally, motive matters! If we seek to grow spiritually because we want the attention and praise of others, God will not bless our desire. Only when we seek His glory in our pursuit of spiritual growth will He be with us in our pursuit (1 Cor 10:31).

There is a very thin line between pursuing personal growth for God's sake and pursuing personal growth alone. Beware not to be too much consumed with looking at yourself. Those who are being transformed into Christ's likeness gaze at His beauty (2 Cor 3:18).

Had we shunned these hindrances our growth will be assured. That will happen not instantly though. So be patient and know that God is not done with you yet (Phil 1:6).