It's probably not surprising to you that you should be growing spiritually. Your pastor, your parents and your peers probably encourage you to do it. But there’s also a good chance that you have – on occasion – found that well-meaning tidbit of wisdom a little vague.
So, if you’ve ever wondered how to grow spiritually, this post is just for you!
Your spiritual growth is an important sign.
Some of my most precious memories of child-raising revolve around the bumbling, fumbling efforts of my babies learning to manipulate a spoon into their little mouths with underdeveloped motor control. My heart leapt at the signs of their developmental progress, even if it meant that I’d have oodles and scads of oatmeal to clean off the floor.
Just as physical growth is a sign of life and health in children, spiritual growth is a sign of life and health in believers. If we’re not growing spiritually, something’s not right.
Why is Spiritual Development Important?
- Because we are not merely physical creatures – Thanks to Darwin, we live in a world which believes that we humans are nothing more than our material components, despite the fact that everyday experience testifies to immaterial realities like thoughts, emotions, and consciousness in general. Our inner lives are not material things, and according to Jesus, they are of extreme value. (Matthew 16:26)
- Because it prevents ineffectiveness - Years ago, I heard a story about a man who confessed his reluctance to share his faith openly to his coworkers because he was not regularly living consistently with his faith. He sadly explained, “my life has sealed my lips.” Growing spiritually prevents our ineffectiveness as believers. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
- Because the Bible both expects & instructs us to grow spiritually – The Apostle Peter wrote specifically to us that we should make it a point to grow, and the original Greek words he uses point to the Bible as our primary source of nourishment. (1 Peter. 2:2)
- Because it's of ultimate value – God’s Word tells us plainly that our natural desire for the benefits of physical training is good and reasonable, but that it is far outweighed by the importance of godliness, which has value both in this life and the next. (1 Timothy 4:8)
- Because it fulfills our purpose as God-Glorifiers – Again, we are not accidental products of time and chance. God declares through the prophet Isaiah that we were made (purposefully) to glorify God – to be remarkable reflections of His character and creativity. But the corruption of sin now requires us to be made new though Jesus, and then to submit to His redemptive work in order to restore us to our original purpose of glorifying God. (Isaiah 43:7)
What is Spiritual Growth?
No matter how trendy it may be to think that we can effectively grow solely through observing and appreciating nature, or by taking the time to unify our breathing and our movement on a yoga mat, or even by learning to forgive and graciously accept ourselves and others, the reality is that growing in Christ means that we must become students of God’s Word.
That said, however, simply reading and absorbing Scripture is not enough. Jesus communicated this quite frankly with a group of Pharisees when he rebuked them for refusing to recognize Him as Messiah though He was standing right in front of their well-studied faces. (John 5:39-40)
I have a hunch that Jesus wouldn’t think much of the popular “Hey, I’m spiritual, but not religious” mindset.
A relationship to Jesus must be our spiritual foundation, which then gives way to the lifelong process of spiritual formation through the study and application of the Word. It involves the intentional pursuit of Christlikeness (Romans 8:29) by allowing the Word of God to transform our thinking (Romans 12:2), and by extension, living out our new convictions in meaningful ways. Dr. Tony Evans says this on his website:
“Spiritual growth can thus be defined as the transformational process by which we allow the indwelling Christ to increasingly express Himself in and through us, resulting in a greater capacity on our part to bring God greater glory and experience His greater good for ourselves.” 
Does the Bible talk about Spiritual Growth?
Absolutely. Here are a few Biblical indicators of spiritual growth:
- A hunger for hearing God’s Word and an increased willingness to step into the discipling of others. (Hebrews 5:11)
- A mature grasp of basic matters of faith and a movement toward the skilled understanding of more complex theological ideas. – (Hebrews 5:13)
- A continually heightened ability to draw distinctions between that which is good and that which is evil (Hebrews 5:14)
- A growth in love and knowledge leading to the ability to live blamelessly & discern God’s best (Phil 1:9-10)
- A life characterized by peace. (Romans 8:6)
- Becoming a skilled, self-disciplined & self-feeder of the Word. (2 Timothy 2:15)
How can you know if you’re Growing Spiritually
First and foremost, the time-honored test of determining whether someone is growing spiritually (especially yourself) is change. If you’re not regularly examining your inner and outer life for conformity to God’s Word – and then making the changes necessary to bring it into alignment – then there’s a good chance you’re not growing spiritually. The keys to spiritual growth lie in allowing God to transform you on the inside by changing the way you think (Romans 12:2) about everything.
Secondly, you’re probably growing spiritually if the hardships you experience are unrelated to the consequences of sinful habits. Make lots of poor choices and your life will be full of hardship – that’s for sure. If, however, the hardships you are experiencing aren’t due to sinful foolishness, then that’s a good sign that God is honing and sharpening you by using the kinds of adversity which make you stronger and wiser and more resilient. (James 1:2-4)
Third, you’re probably growing spiritually if you are talking to God a lot. Those who are still struggling to see God as sovereign in their lives, and therefore, to allow Him to guide their lives are probably not talking to Him frequently and regularly. (2 Thess 5:17)
Fourth, its probably a good bet that you’re growing spiritually if you’re increasingly seeking to imitate Jesus in your words, thoughts, and deeds. (1 John 5:6)
Fifth, you’re probably growing spiritually if you increasingly desire to teach or disciple others in their walk with God. (Hebrews 5:11)
How to Grow Spiritually With These Simple Strategies
- Memorize John 17:17. This classic Scripture straight from Jesus’ mouth reminds us that God’s Word is Truth. In a world that denies it, runs from it, hates it, or barely acknowledges the existence of truth at all, the growing Jesus follower should uphold truth. Therefore, you should honor it, exalt it, and make a commitment to telling the truth even when its costly or challenging. Position yourself to be taught the truth regularly, and always be willing to receive the truth. (Eph. 4:15; 1 Corinthians 13:6)
- Structure your personal quiet time so that it leads to an action step. It’s easy enough to listen to sermons, podcasts, videos, and regular Bible study teaching without actually doing anything about what you’ve learned. But we deceive ourselves when that’s all the effort we are willing to make. Absorbing God’s Word is much easier than living it out, but He calls us to be doers, and not just hearers. (James 1:22) For a video on how to study the Bible with an eye toward application, click here.
- Involve yourself in activities that challenge or stretch you in tangible ways. Struggle always precedes growth, so you should maybe: 1.) Enroll in an intimidating class. 2.) Read something academically challenging. 3.) Join a running club. 4.) Do something that forces you to examine where you are, take an uncomfortable step out of your comfort zone, and then assess your progress. These practices will shape the mental and emotional muscles necessary for spiritual development. To grow spiritually, you must allow the Bible to examine you on a regular basis. Sin burrows inside us in ways we can’t easily detect, but the Bible can. Overcoming sin with corrective truth leads to inward healing. So, get comfortable being a little uncomfortable. (Hebrew 4:12; psalm 26:2; 139:23)
- Be active in a faith-filled community. Personal, daily time in prayer & Bible study is a must for our Christian growth, but developing relationships with other people in community shouldn’t be overlooked. We need other people to encourage us, teach us, challenge us, and inspire us to deeper levels of faith. Not only should you regularly attend corporate worship services with solid Bible-based teaching, it’s also worth your time to join small group Bible studies and even seek out like-minded individuals to serve as accountability partners or mentors. (Hebrews 10:25)
- Purchase a study Bible in a translation that you enjoy reading. It ought to be obvious by now, but it bears repeating: God’s Word is your primary spiritual food. If you’re going to pursue spiritual growth, you must put yourself on some sort of regular, frequent Bible reading plan. So, it makes sense to acquire a Bible (preferably, a study Bible) in a translation that you actually enjoy reading. (Deuteronomy 32:46; John 15:7; 2 Timothy 3:16)
- Make it your first priority. If you’re serious about your spiritual growth and development, you really need to give it priority. First thing in the morning is a good practice, but if you can’t seem to manage it in your season of life right now, then at least be diligent to plan it into your daily schedule and hold yourself accountable to keep it (or get an accountability partner to check up on you!). (Matthew 6:33)
I’m here to tell you that investing in your spiritual growth is a means of healing that you can’t get anywhere else. May God bless you richly as you study and follow His Word.
That’s your Spoonful of Soul Food for today…