hat is spiritual growth, and how do I obtain and maintain it? You may be thinking, Not another article about what I’m not doing to grow spiritually! Trust me, the last thing I want to do is bore you with “three steps to becoming spiritually mature.” My prayer is that God would illuminate and reveal His word to us regarding the results of connection to Him. Before we get too far along, I must start by saying, intimacy takes time! In developing an intimate relationship with the Father, I had to become spiritually, emotionally, and mentally vulnerable before Him. When I think about being vulnerable before God, 2 Peter 3:18 immediately comes to mind; it states, “But continue to grow and increase in God’s grace and intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The process of spiritual maturity is illuminated in the words: continue, grow and grace (one of my favorite words in the Bible!). Allow me to explain: Continue - The very word suggests an ongoing process. We are invited into an intimate relationship; through that relationship we receive a revelation of what God wants to do on Earth through us. Grow - To grow is to become greater. Grace - This is the supernatural power provided by the Holy Spirit to be what God has called you to be and to do what He has called you to do. Sis, in essence, spiritual maturity transforms you into the instrument God designed you to be. Our self-denial, dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit, and pursuit of Jesus develops our maturity. It’s not a mishap or a marvel; if you are not growing, you are either dormant or dying. The Bible Dictionary (Carpenter & Comfort, 2000) defines spiritual maturity as: “Developing Christlike character and behavior in the Christian through a renewed mind and tested faith.” You see, connection with Him produces growth and fruitfulness. From the Old Testament to the New, the Bible uses a significant image of a vineyard and vine to illustrate spiritual growth and maturity: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. My Father examines every branch in me and cuts away those who do not bear fruit. He leaves those bearing fruit and carefully prunes them so that they will bear more fruit; already you are clean because you have heard My voice. Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, and neither will you if you are not connected to Me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is like a branch that is tossed out and shrivels up and is later gathered to be tossed into the fire to burn. If you abide in Me and My voice abides in you, anything you ask will come to pass for you. Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory to the Father” (John 15:1–8, VOICE). Jesus’ analogy of the vine and the branches was to teach spiritual growth symbolically. The expression “in you and in me” creates a beautiful union between the vine and the branches. Christian development requires an extreme reordering of one’s prerogatives; our self-gratifying tendencies transform into the desire to please God. We begin to develop a lifestyle of obedience to God.
Don’t overthink it!
Set some time aside.
Try listening first.
The key to maturity is viscosity and persistence in doing what we know will bring us closer to God. A few things come to mind: reading and studying the Bible, daily communion through prayer, worship, meditation, being a part of a community, rendering your gift as an act of service, and stewardship. These methods pertain to the disciplines of relationship with Christ. These practices may seem overwhelming, so allow me to push your thinking a bit. Like any other meaningful relationship, spending time to invest in the union’s growth will produce intimacy. There can be a one-sided element in relationships, but, conversely, with Christ, the association is mutual. When we abide in Christ, He abides in us.
I want to encourage you to reconsider how you think about being in a relationship with Christ. Abiding in Christ is a truth for every believer. Salvation is the genesis of the new life in Christ. The vine and the branch is a symbiotic relationship that is the foundation of Christian maturity, and it doesn’t stop there! There are levels of maturity to be enjoyed. A surrendered life to Christ will inevitably generate good fruit, which is the ultimate goal of spiritual maturity.
Maintaining growth is cultivated by preferring Christ and yielding to the Holy Spirit in daily communion. Maybe you are wondering, How do I read and or study the Bible? How do I pray? How do I worship God in my daily life?
Don’t overthink it! And don’t be discouraged if a million things suddenly come to mind (all of which require your attention) the moment you sit down to read or study the Bible – it happens to us all, just set those thoughts aside so you can give God your undivided attention.
Set some time aside. It might take some time to figure out what works best for you. If you are a parent, try to plan that time when your children are asleep. If you are a working professional, maybe that time is during your lunch break or listening to an audio Bible on your commute to work. Perhaps the best time is right before you go to bed. During that time, decide on a passage of scripture, read from a devotional, revisit the scripture references from a Sunday service, or read the “Scripture of the Day” from YouVersion (or a similar app).
Try listening first. Reading the Bible can be challenging to comprehend. I suggest listening to the portion of scripture you are focusing on at least three times, then read the entire book or chapter for the full context. For example, I am reading/studying John 15:4; to grasp a complete understanding of the scripture, I have to read the whole chapter of John 15. This approach aids with comprehension and application.
Pray. Reading scripture is a natural transition to prayer. After you have read the Word, ask the Holy Spirit to pray through you. Permit Him to govern your thoughts. Listen quietly for His voice. He will speak! Not to worry, if you are unsure what to pray for, pray scriptures. You can never go wrong praying the Word of God. Allow me to provide an example. John 10:27 (TPT) states, “My sheep will hear my voice, and I know each one, and they will follow me.” A prayer could sound like: “Father, Your sheep know and hear Your voice according to Your Word. I thank you that I am Your sheep; therefore, I hear Your voice. I will not be led astray by the enemy. My ears are in tune with You, and I will not be confused. I have clarity in every aspect of my life because You lead and guide me according to Your will.” Simple, right?
Our minds, emotions, body, and spirit are interconnected. As you begin to invest in spiritual growth, you might find that some things start to surface, such as unhealthy thought patterns, unresolved wounds from the past, negative thinking regarding yourself and your identity, etc. Know that if God is revealing it, He is going to heal it! His Word will uproot things out of us that He wants to heal, transform, and restore. His Word will anchor us back to the truth, which means falsehood will begin to be exposed. Don’t allow the enemy to discourage you by what the Holy Spirit reveals; instead, be encouraged that His Word is at work in you. All that you need He will provide. And remember, grace empowers you to be and do what God has assigned. Grace removes the pressure. Trust and believe, God always completes what He starts. He is committed to your transformation and spiritual growth!
Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained. Holman Reference.