I know I’ve thought this, and even more so heard this from person after person in my life, and why not? How else are we supposed to determine growth?
It’s a mystery. Spirituality is abstract in the first place. How can we quantify something and its growth without a concrete concept of what growth is?
I was challenged by this question as well as the feelings people were expressing and as I thought about it, found four elements to help us gauge our spiritual growth, you could almost picture them as legs on a chair, if they aren’t all working together the chair isn’t balanced and we will feel it:
- Feeling. (Phil. 4:7) I don’t want to put too much weight on this one because as human beings our feelings are very fickle. We can feel happy one minute and depressed the next – so determining our growth and connection with God based on our feelings isn’t always a good foundation. That said, we WILL feel a deep sense of peace, find indescribable comfort from our Savior and know we aren’t alone when we are walking close to our Savior. Are you finding comfort, peace and joy in Him?
- Fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) Apart from feelings, this is likely the go-to. I’ve heard sermons over and over again speaking of the need to develop individual “fruits” in our lives as the next milestone of growth. Frankly, I don’t always agree with this concept. You see, if we focus on refining the act of being “loving” through our own strength, we lose sight of God all together, but if we focus on God and rely on Him, the fruits of the Spirit naturally flourish in our lives. Yes, the fruits are a good gauge of how we are doing, but they are intended to direct us towards Jesus, highlighting our need for time and relationship with Him. Are you being quiet in His presence? Have others noticed a change in you?
- Knowledge. (2 Pt. 3:18) Learning is important, although not a stand-alone, we do need to learn consistently and develop our knowledge and understanding of God’s word. Without it we are choosing NOT to get to know our Savior on a personal level. It would be like choosing not to read a love letter from your lover, or when your wife leaves instructions for you when she goes away for the weekend, ignoring them and wondering why things are falling apart and the kids aren’t responding to the structure-less environment. What have you learned about God recently, from His descriptive letter and instruction manual for life that He left you?
- Obedience. (Romans 1:5) Knowledge without application is useless. If we have head knowledge but haven’t applied anything we haven’t really learned anything at all. Are you finding yourself drawn to obey the things you know God commands? Do the things you have learned come to mind easily and convict you in the moment? Are you responding more than you used to?
Don’t get discouraged because you “feel” far from God. Take the time to consider these areas of growth. Why not journal a response to all four of these points so that you can check back in in 3-4 months to see how you are doing in comparison to today?
Anyone who exercises or works-out gauges their development and progress in tangible ways, they weigh themselves, take measurements, watch how much they can lift or how fast they can run. We can and should do the same. After all, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pt. 5:8) and this is one area that I know he attacks, discouraging us into believing we aren’t good enough, haven’t grown and none of our effort have been worth it.
Maybe you have neglected one of these elements and are feeling off balance, having misinterpreted the feeling as a disconnection from growth all together. Perhaps laziness or frustration with not knowing what to do or how to grow has held you back. May this list give you insight, direction and hope for how you can balance your growth and movement towards Jesus.
I hope you found yourself encouraged and that you’re growing more than you think.