Pursuing goals requires specific and measurable markers. “I want to drop 10 lbs.” is better than “I want to loose weight”. I want to nail Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No 2 in B minor” sure beats “I want to be a better flute player this year.” Now shift this to spiritual pursuits. Our goal is to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But how do we measure our progress? “I feel closer to Jesus” is too subjective, and our feelings can be deceptive anyway. There are specific areas of our life which will yield a good read on our spiritual growth; consider these five and drop in the dipstick…
Busyness, sin and excessive entertainment: these three will always keep you from the Word. We blame poor discipline and a tight schedule, but the truth is that our lack of desire to feast on Scripture can often be traced back to the three stooges listed above. It is in His presence that transformation actually takes place. Not reformation, which is trying to change by our own efforts, but transformation. Peter tells us to crave the Word as a newborn does milk. I know I am growing in my walk if I want more of His Word: I want to know what God says and I want to live it out. And the peace we receive from parking our minds here is worth the price of admission in itself.
Remember counting down the days to our birthday or Christmas? There were those toys we had to have. The older we get, some things just begin to matter less. But don’t confuse growing older with growing deeper, in Him. On a spiritual plane we are constantly reminded that the “stuff” of this world never really satisfies. Fame and reputation? That’s great, but I’d rather GOD’S commendation: Well done, good and faithful servant. Big house, nice car, more stuff? Sorry, my inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, unfading and kept in heaven for me. Besides, whom have I in heaven by you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of heart and my portion forever. I know I’m growing in Christ when I develop a “care less” attitude towards the things I used to run after.
Love, Love, Love!
One of the two tests for Christian assurance is love. Do we love God and do we love others? Sometimes we feel guilted into doing things; that’s not Christian maturity. Christian maturity is when we stand still long enough to perceive God’s amazing love for us and in turn, begin to love and serve Him because we just can’t imagine it any other way. We stretch ourselves in our relationships and actually try to love our unlovables. We want to do the right thing, even when no one’s looking! Why? Because we are conscious of, and rely on, the love He has for us. We can’t help ourselves. It’s a slow transformation, but it’s beautiful to see.
While love is the first test of assurance, obedience is the second. Are you walking the walk? Are you gaining victory now, over sins that set you back five years ago? Do you want to do the right thing, even if you don’t always hit the mark? Obedience matters: how are you doing here? God will not take you to the next level until you own and obey what He’s already shown you.
Before we knew Christ, we lived for the here and now. Even our best attempts to live for something more was, at best, a stab in the dark. As we grow in Him, we are reminded that our life is but a vapor and we are living for something much bigger: eternity. Not only that, we are laying our lives down each day so that HE gets the glory and others are drawn to HIM in us. This brings comfort in the valley and keeps us from wasting our life on things that don’t matter. How is your perspective developing? So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
A couple things to keep in mind here. GOD is the one at work in us, conforming us to His image. He requires that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling but we also know that He is faithful and will not give up on us. And, growth often occurs in the valley: in our darkest night, our deepest travails and through our most persistent doubts and questions. He is faithful.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.