photo by Josh Post from Unsplash
Your spiritual growth is your personal responsibility.
We might accept this statement in every other area of our lives--replace "spiritual growth" with education, career, happiness, success--but we tend to leave the responsibility of growing spiritually to our pastors, to our parents, to our church.
It's an unpleasant truth but no matter how many churches we try, how "godly" the youth group is, how great of a pastor/preacher/Sunday School teacher we have, we can't expect ourselves or our children to grow spiritually without realizing that the real game changer is ourselves. With the Spirit's help.
It's tempting to think otherwise--that we just need the sermons to be more insightful, to stir us up; the Bible studies to be more inspiring; the Sunday School teachers, to engage our children more, and that everything will work out naturally.
Thinking that changing to a "better" church with "better teaching" or "better Christians" will be the answer is a mindset that is heavily influenced by the consumerism mentality of our culture--if it doesn't fit, change the brand, try another product, buy something else that seems to promise that outcome we want. We, the consumer, passively wait for it to solve our problems, and if it doesn't, we switch to the next available option out there. To paraphrase an old saying--cliched as it is--we're good at moving on, throwing away instead of trying to figure out why it didn't "work" the way we wanted it to.
Because if we did take some time to consider, we might realize that the whole point of spiritual growth is really not about finding that one perfect church or conducive youth group, however much either might help us--and I'm not denying that they can.
In heaven, where we're looking expectantly to, where all of this right now on Earth ultimately leads to, there are no longer any churches or youth groups or any of these means we're given during our time here to help us. What ultimately matters is our relationship with God. Our one-on-one relationship with Him. Our love. This is what endures, what actually matters. Talk about perspective.
The tools/means we were given to help us should not become our qualification for growing spiritually, or our excuse not to.
We end up fatalistically lamenting where God placed us, blaming our situations, becoming increasingly short-sighted and crippled by our discontent and yes, perhaps even entitled mentality.
God, I can't grow because You didn't give me the right conditions or means or people. None of this is my fault, in fact if anything it's Yours.
We need to think why God--with Whom all things are possible--chose to let us struggle in our corners. Why He chose to withhold what seems so clearly to us as good, even necessary.
Sometimes, my violin students complain that their instrument is lousy, the quality isn't good enough, their parents ought to have bought them a better instrument. I tell them that they just need to practice more. Maybe they have a point, but their progress isn't dependent on their instrument's quality. Ownership. This is a fact they vitally need to grasp if they are to have any drive or motivation to practice and improve at all: knowing that the sole factor of whether they improve or not is themselves. I remember the switch from a good quality violin given by a friend which I'd outgrown, to a larger, but cheaper instrument with a less mellow, scratchier tone. It was depressing at first--mainly because I realized my playing wasn't actually that good after all. It forced me to really buckle down and practice harder in order to improve my sound quality. Later on, when I moved on to the next size up, I switched to a better instrument once more.This time, that change was sweet.
Come on, guys. Imagine the early Christians in Rome having to listen to our excuses. You know, I was literally set on fire for what I believed. If we go by conditions, I had plenty of reasons for backsliding, or blaming my lack of growth on my environment. Being eaten by wild beasts wasn't exactly conducive after all.
I used to struggle with this thought when I was younger, and unhappy that there was virtually no one of my age group in my church. I would envy friends I saw who had big, close-knit youth groups of what apparently seemed like peers all "on fire for Jesus"; I would tell myself, there was so much I could do, so much I could grow, "if only."
I spent several years during that period of my life mucking around in discontent, envy, and self-pity, feeling sorry for myself and not having the maturity to recognize all the means and opportunities God had already given me to grow in, all the areas I could have made a difference in, instead of waiting for someone to step in and do it for me. I am not proud of it but I stagnated like this without any real growth until thankfully by God's grace, I woke up one day with the idea of seeing things differently.
So I unfortunately speak from first-hand experience. I won't bore you any more with my entitled immaturity (what's new?)
For a more balanced perspective on spiritual growth, however, it's more than just accepting responsibility. Being someone who tends to extremes, unfortunately, I came out of this rut only to fall into another one, this time the inverse.
I realized that:
I am primarily responsible for my own spiritual growth.
However, I need to be open to and consciously embrace how God will use external means (people, experiences, books, etc) to help me in my spiritual growth.
Likewise, I also need to be aware that my spiritual growth--even though it may be a primarily personal matter between God and I--inevitably has an impact on those around me.
(continued in part 2)
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
Click to set custom HTML
ALL IMAGES FROM PINTEREST UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED. THANKS, PINTEREST!