5 (More) Misunderstood Truths About Spiritual Growth

“Here are five additional simple, practical, biblical truths about spiritual growth.”

In my last post, I shared about what Christian growth often looks like. Christian growth isn’t just difficult in today’s culture—it’s been difficult through all of history.

Simply look at the gospels to see how the original disciples struggled to follow Jesus. And look at the New Testament letters, which reveal the constant struggles and issues the early church dealt with.

Many have asked me in recent months how they can grow more in Christ. Many Christians today feel like their faith is stagnant and that they are not growing at the pace they should be.

I shared before how growth in our faith often takes much longer than we expect, and that our struggle with our flesh is a lifelong one.

But I also shared that we work from our salvation, not for our salvation, because we trust solely in what Christ has done completely for us in the gospel. We are his by grace through faith in him.

I concluded part one with this powerful statement by Jerry Bridges:

“Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after. God has made provision for us to live holy, but He has also given us definite responsibilities to pursue holiness. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”

God has given us “provisions” to grow in holiness. And though we will never be perfect, he has called us to follow him, and he walks with us and empowers us to follow him.

So here are five additional simple, practical, biblical truths about spiritual growth. I hope they can help us see growth in our Christian lives.

1. Growth comes through engagement with God’s Word.

God’s Word is our primary tool for Christian growth. It is our spiritual food. Without the Word in our lives, we are famished and weak spiritually. Jesus taught us, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We need to feed our spirit, and strive to walk in the Spirit, not the flesh.

My friend and mentor Jon Bloom says, “What we desperately need, more than anything else in the world, is the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly.”

We desperately need more of God’s Word in our lives. This comes through reading, meditating and applying Scripture to our everyday life.

We also get more of God’s Word through the Bible teaching of a local church. Evangelist R.A. Torrey once said, “Christians who pray for power but neglect the Bible abound in the church. But the power that belongs to God is stored up in the great reservoir of his own Word, the Bible.”

The power you long for comes through reading and applying the Word of God.

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2. Growth comes through connection with the body of Christ.

God has chosen to work through his body, the church, to make us more like him. We cannot achieve growth on our own. If we do not take advantage of the encouragement and fellowship of other believers, we will always wonder why we are so far from the growth we want to see.

A pastor from Asia has written about how God often works in our lives through other believers, showing us his divine preference for the body of Christ to build itself up when it works together. This writer shared how he was praying for healing in an area of his life, but nothing was happening. He finally asked some others in his church to pray for him (even though he felt they weren’t people of great faith), and God immediately worked in his life through their prayers. This is because God works through the body of Christ, to show us how vital it is for us to have connection to the body.

3. Growth comes through confession and repentance.

We can see tremendous growth in our Christian lives when we confess our sins to a trusted Christian friend. Bringing our sins into the light through confession can relieve the burden and power sin tries to have over our lives. It takes humility and courage to do this, but the Bible calls us to do this so the body of Christ can work together to grow.

God calls us not only to believe in his Son, but also to repent of our sins. When you repent, you agree with God about your sinfulness and the ways you have turned from him, and you recommit yourself to walking according to his ways. This means to “put aside” sinful habits, to run away from sin, and to give no provision for your flesh to sin.

Yes, you may stumble in various ways, but you continue to get back up, recommit yourself to holiness and make it difficult for yourself to walk in your flesh. This is a lifestyle of repentance.

We do not always “feel” like confessing and repenting, but we shouldn’t let our emotions dictate our decisions. Jon Bloom says, “Our emotions are gauges, not guides. They tell us where we are, but we shouldn’t let them tell us where to go.” Instead, part of repentance is submitting our emotions to God and asking him to direct our hearts to believe his Word over what we see and feel. Our emotions change, but God’s Word does not.

4. Growth comes through loving and serving others.

God’s greatest dream for our lives is not success or opportunity, but obedience to him and finding people to love and serve in his name.

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Francis Chan has said, “Do you want to experience God? Go and make disciples.” There is something about obeying the Lord to love and serve others that fills our lives with joy and God’s presence.

Bob Goff said, “I used to want to change people. Now I just want to be with them.” This is often what it looks like to love and serve others: to be with them. To listen to them. To care.

Christian growth is not simply following commands, but a heart attitude to love and serve others. If we are not growing in loving others, we are not truly growing in Christ. We should pray and ask God to fill our lives with his peace, joy and love, and to help us to walk in love toward all we meet.

5. Growth comes through persistence after the Lord.

We need to regularly submit our hearts to the rule and reign of Christ if we are going to make any progress in spiritual growth.

Our growth as Christians is not a one-and-done prayer, but a persistent pursuit of God over our entire lives.

A.W. Tozer shares some profound insights about our pursuit of God:

“To have found God and still pursue him is the soul’s paradox of love.”

“Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the triune God. Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God. When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us.”

“Our pursuit of God is successful just because he is forever seeking to manifest himself to us.”

“O God, I have tasted thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.”

There is so much joy in persistently pursuing God and encountering him through his Word. May you be ever hungry to know him more and to walk with him closely. May your heart burst to experience his goodness and growth in your everyday life!

Through these “provisions,” God is working in us to help us follow him. God’s work in us is so much greater than our own, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to walk in these four ways God has set before us in his Word.

If you want to read more on the subject of Christian growth, pick up The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges and The Incredible Patience of God by Lane Adams.

Read Part 1: 6 Misunderstood Truths About Spiritual Growth »

Matt Brown (@evangelistmatt) is an evangelist, author and founder of Think Eternity, an evangelistic ministry that impacts thousands of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. This article was originally published on Matt’s blog at ThinkE.org.