The human body is very complex and intriguing. From our repository system to our nervous systems, we are very complex organisms. However complex we are, all of God’s creations share in one simple truth, and that truth is that we are either growing or we are dying. Look at the smallest part of a person or plant, our very cells are either engaged in gathering nutrients and doing their job for the organisms greater good or it is degenerating and dying off. This is a universal truth because everything that we can think of has been created by our holy God. He created us and everything for constant growth. Understanding this is the core of my message for you this week. We can either choose to spiritually grow or to spiritually die. There is no in-between for a Christian and I would like to expound on that today. In this message, you will learn what God’s Word teaches us about spiritually growing, how to tell if you are in the process of spiritual decay (growing stagnant), and what to do to readjust your life and focus on Christ alone. Now, let us begin!
When it comes to spiritual growth, we must always focus on what that means for us individually as born again believers and that growth is a journey. No one is baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and then is running in spiritual maturity. To think so is only to fool yourself. This is why it is written, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers [because of the time you have had to learn these truths], you actually need someone to teach you again the elementary principles of God’s word [from the beginning], and you have come to be continually in need of milk, not solid food. 13 For everyone who lives on milk is [doctrinally inexperienced and] unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a spiritual infant. 14 But solid food is for the [spiritually] mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between what is morally good and what is evil,” (Hebrews 5:12-14, Amplified).
The Apostle Paul teaches us two main things in this Scripture. First, that everyone learns at their own pace. Notice how he started by saying that you “ought” to be teachers by now. Many people have an expectation on themselves or even others, in which they believe that they should be at a certain spiritually mature place in their life but it doesn’t work that way. There is a process. This is where Paul reminds us that we all start drinking milk. That is focusing on learning the foundational doctrines of our faith (salvation through grace and grace alone, atonement, sanctification, and the cost of the cross in our lives). After these foundational principles are learned and understood, then Christians can start to feel convicted of how they have lived their lives in the past without Christ and start to make changes in it to live a transformed life. Then, after that step, Christians who understand and can apply the foundational principles of our faith can start to chew on the complexities of some of our heavy theological arguments. This is what chewing meat means.
However, in this Scripture I shared, the people were lacking the understanding of where they truly were spiritually and because of it they easily got confused by outsiders. The main point of identifying where you currently are spiritually is to help you understand where you need to be. Then, you can make a plan to get there! Paul reminds us that the purpose of spiritual growth is to be able to train our senses to distinguish what is morally good and what is evil. Basically to be able to identify what we need to take out of our lives. This takes time and is a continuous process that theologians call “sanctification.” This sanctification is a life long progress that is guided by the Holy Spirit. He guides us to be less of ourselves and more like Christ.
Our God knows us so well that He knows that we cant instantly change after baptism, no matter how much we want to. Since our sin nature is so great and it causes us to be easily tempted, He has made a way for us to overcome it. He encourages us by reminding us that He is always working in us and around us. For it is written, “I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return],” (Philippians 1:6, AMP). This is further evidence that growth is a process. If spiritual growth as instantaneous, God would not have to tell us that what He started will be finished. It is a humbling reminder to all Christians that we are not done until we see Christ face-to-face. God wants us to constantly grow ever closer to Him, and to love everything that He loves. Things like righteousness, humility, and sacrifice. These are things that we must always keep in the forefront of our minds. Even though you have taken the plunge (have been baptized), it does not mean that it is over. You just started your journey and it is not complete until you exhale your last breath.
We are to continuously move forward. God calls us to be warriors and to develop a spiritual endurance for the race of our lives. However, building endurance takes time, dedication, and training! So how can you train yourself you may ask? How about you start with something simple. For it is written, “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord [displaying admirable character, moral courage, and personal integrity], to [fully] please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing in the knowledge of God [with deeper faith, clearer insight and fervent love for His precepts],” (Colossians 1:10, AMP).
Simply put, we grow by doing. We cannot reap the benefits of spiritual growth without transforming our mindsets and to live out our faith in Christ. If you have truly been “born again” then your life should reflect it. We “walk” or live out that truth. A large part of spiritual growth or development is to understand the difference between quoting Scripture and being it! When someone sees you do they see Christ or do they hear quoted Scripture? Our growth must be continuous and we must be the example for others to follow in our footsteps. If not you have stopped growing and you need to realize it to do something about it.
Now, this brings me to my second point of this message, how do you know if you have grown spiritually stagnant? Many times you do not even know when you have grown stagnant, which allows compromise into your life. Let me give you an example. Any parent can confirm the truthfulness of this example. Let us say that you have a teenager that enjoys the outdoors and sports. They stink! They stink all the time. However, they grow nose blind. They get so used to their smell that they do not notice when they smell good or bad. It is not until a parent tells them to shower daily and to clean their room that they can finally understand the difference between a clean and dirty room. Eventually, they can even understand the difference between smelling nice or not.
For the spiritually mature, we are the parents in this story. The teenager is the Christians that got to the spiritual maturity of a teenager. By allowing the world to compromise themselves and because of the lack of “spiritual hygiene” they started to get into a funk. They grow stagnant and as we know with everything in the universe, we are either growing or we are dying. However, notice that it takes someone of spiritual maturity to identify that there is a problem in their teenager’s life, to begin with. We must be active in helping those around us be cultivated into what Christ calls us all to be. Now you may be asking yourself, how can you tell if you or someone else has grown spiritually stagnant? I would like to share some of God’s Word with you to answer that question.
It is written, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 1:5-8, AMP).
The only way to truly understand when someone is lacking in their life is by knowing what they should have. The Apostle Peter teaches us that someone who is in a stage of spiritual growth will supplement their faith and virtue with knowledge. As in to apply what they have learned and seen in their lives. There are qualities in a Christian’s life that are progressing forward in spiritual growth. These qualities are identifying markers for a person moving forward. Knowing is the key to this. Are you hungry for God’s Word? Are you dedicating time daily to develop your relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you daily? Are you showing your neighbor (everyone regardless of their faith or background) the love of Christ? This love that is supposed to be pouring outside of you? If any answer to these questions is “no” then you are having the first identifier that you or someone near you is in spiritual decay. However, this is not the only marker. I would like to share some more Scripture to help support this claim.
For it is written, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law,” (Galatians 5:22-23, AMP).
The Apostle Paul has taught us in this Scripture that someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit and is moving forward in Christ should have these fruits in their life. Are you lacking love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control in your life? If you answered “yes” then you have grown stagnant! You may be asking yourself, “how did I get to this point.” However, don’t focus on negativity. By knowing how you should be living your life and what should be pouring out of you is simply a benchmark for Christian living. Knowing where you have to be and what aspects of your life is the beginning of making the changes you need in your life to get there! Now, I would like to move forward on this message to help anyone reading this message who has found themselves in a state of spiritual decay or death.
Now, if you have identified that you have grown stagnant in your spiritual growth or have realized that you have allowed compromise into your life, what do you do now? Guess what? There is hope, and His name is Jesus Christ! No one is expecting you to be perfect, however, we are all called to move forward. As Christians, we have no room in our lives to sidestep or slide backward. However, things happen. We lose our loved ones, we lose our jobs, we get hurt, and we also find ourselves in seasons of drought. When we find ourselves in these seasons it is easy to lose some of the hope we have held in our hearts until the hardship came into our lives. But that is not the end of your story. If you find yourself in this slump, please read closely to the steps I am going to share with you. They will transform your life for the better and they will help you get past the slump that you may currently find yourself in.
First, when you identify any issues in your life and your spiritual walk, list them out. Take some time and reflect on why you have grown stagnant in your faith. Think about the hurt, and think about the million reasons why. Reflect on what you should have done instead of what you did. This is the most important step because the next step is to repent. However, if you are simply repenting the symptoms of your problems or the tip of your iceberg, how can you expect God to rejuvenate your faith if you are not putting in the effort to identify the root of what has caused you to grow weary? You cannot! You must put in the work and identify all the underlining issues in your life.
Then, the second step is to repent. Once you have identified all the struggles that you are having in your life that are hindering you from consistently giving God your very best, then repent of them. Honestly give God every struggle you have repented of. The doubt, the compromises, the lack of faith, the times where you should have forgiven and shown love, and the times where you wish God could not see what you were doing or thinking. Give it all to Him. He wants it. For it is written, “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose],” (1 John 1:9, AMP).
In sharing this Scripture, I am lead to share with you the third step. Stop looking back! If you have truly repented of your past sins and what has been causing you to stumble and fall, why would you look back? Learn from Lot’s wife, there is nothing good behind you. When it comes to spiritual growth, there is only room in your life to look up and to move forward. Do not allow the past to distract you. Whether it is something that you did and the enemy is trying to pull you back or if someone in your life is trying to set you back again. You do not have time for that mess. If you have truly given it to the foot of the cross, it is no longer your problem. It is Jesus’. When you repented of whatever you have repented of, Christ exchanged the ugliness of your transgression for His righteousness. This means He poured Himself into you and there is no more room in your life for the past. So, do not look back!
The last step is to find an accountability partner. If you have stumbled or fallen away from the path of spiritual growth, find help. You are not alone. We all stumble and fall sometimes. This is why Christ gave us a body. We have one another. However, you need to make the first step and reach out for help. Find your pastor, find your Christian mentor, or find your spiritual big brother or sister. Find someone who loves you and cares for your growth in Christ! Lean on them for support and have them hold you accountable for being who Christ expects you to be. Glean from them! Serve beside them. In this manner, Christ can flow through every pore of your body.
These are the steps to help you adjust your life if you have fallen prey to spiritual decay. In this message, I have identified what God’s Word tells us about spiritual growth, how to tell if you have grown spiritually stagnant, and what to do about it. However, having this knowledge does not bring change into your life. It does not bring joy nor spiritual development. What you do with it does. You have the power to do better, to be better. God commands this from us all. He is bigger than us, our problems, or our perspectives. Understanding this and making a change for the better is what we all must be doing daily. So I pray that this message is received and that everyone remembers that we only have two options in Christ. We are either growing in Him or dying without Him. That choice can only be made by you individually and I pray that you make the right choice. Amen!