Being “born again” (cf. John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23) takes a moment of faith.
But becoming like Christ is a lifelong process.
What is “spiritual growth,” why is it important, and what steps can I take to begin growing in my faith? (I’m so glad you asked.) :))
What is Spiritual Growth?
Spiritual growth is the life-long process of growing in our Christian faith. It’s the big Bible word, “sanctification.”
Just as we grow physically, emotionally, and mentally from infant to toddler to adolescence to adulthood, spiritual growth is the process of learning to become like Jesus in our thoughts and behavior.
No one is impressed with an adult who acts and talks like a child. In fact, it’s embarrassing. Likewise, it is just as disconcerting when a person who’s been a Christian for years, or even decades, still behaves as though they just professed their faith in Christ yesterday.
Why is Growing in our Faith Important?
Spiritual growth is important because it’s a command, not a suggestion.
The New Testament is replete with the command, both specifically and in principle, to stop “behaving like babies, demonstrating juvenile Christian behavior,” and to “grow up” in our faith. (Eph 4:15; 1 Cor 3:1; Heb 5:11-12; just to cite a few references)
Stagnant, or non-existent, growth in our faith (1) inspires no one, and (2) makes us easy prey for the devil to fool us into swallowing whole what Paul describes as “every wind of teaching.”
This is why Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to grow up in their faith:
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” – 4:14
What are some “first steps” can I take to grow in my faith?
First – Find a Bible translation you like.
There are many responsibly translated Study Bibles available today. Honestly, we are without excuse when neglecting to know God’s Word.
My first Bible as a teen was the New American Standard Bible. I’ve since read through the New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV), the New English Translation (NET), Amplified Bible (AMP), Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the New Living Translation (NLT). I’ve enjoy them all.
I would also recommend a little book titled “Know Your Bible: All 66 Books Explained and Applied.”
I learned a long time ago that if we can identify the author, their original audience, and the author’s purpose for writing, it goes a long way to helping us understand the author’s intended meaning and then be able to translate that original meaning into present day life.
***Devotional books can be wonderful tools to help us grow in our faith. Just don’t make the mistake of allowing them to replace the study of the Bible itself. I’m linking a couple of my favorites here and here.
More than anything else, as you begin to grow in your faith, study the Word of God. Through the prophet Isaiah, God says,
“…I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2
The psalmist wrote,
“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” – Psalms 19:7-8
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” – Psalms 119:105
Fall in love with your Bible again, or for the very first time.
Second – Learn to pray by praying the Scriptures.
When I began attending church at 15 years of age, I really had no clue how to talk to God. (Even the disciples asked Jesus how to pray.)
Then I was shown Exodus 33:11 which says,
“…the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend…”
This was a game-changer.
I thought, “Are you telling me I don’t have to use “thee’s” and “thou’s” when I talk to God? And that I can say whatever I want, however I want??”
The Psalms are packed with 150 prayers, running the gamut of human emotion i.e. from joy to despair, thanksgiving to rage.
There’s King Jehoshaphat’s prayer of desperation in 2 Chronicles 20. The longest prayer recorded in the Bible is in Nehemiah 9. Jeremiah’s journey from hopelessness and anger to truth and hope in Lamentations 3. One of my favorite prayers is in Daniel 9. Jesus’ prayer the night before he was crucified is in John 17.
Prayers literally fill the pages of scripture. Need some help getting started? You can find no better way to learn to pray than praying the very Word of God.
***In way of extra-biblical resources, I would also recommend: The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers, and Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word.
Note that prayer is as much listening as it is talking. You don’t have to “carry the conversation.” Be still. Be quiet. God has marvelous things to show you. Which is why he said through Jeremiah,
“‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” – Jeremiah 33:3
The Bible says that when we pray, we have the Creator of the Universe’s undivided attention.
“As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given.” – Daniel 9:23
Third – Put into Practice What You’re Learning.
This is “application.”
If an athlete memorizes an entire playbook, but never applies it, putting it into practice, what they’ve learned is useless.
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” And, “If you love me, keep my commands.” – Matthew 7:24; John 14:15
C.S. Lewis once mused,
“There would be no sense in saying you trusted Jesus if you would not take his advice.”
One more thing…
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to spend an hour with Jesus every day. Start with just a few minutes. Anything is better than nothing.
Also, don’t feel like if you’ve missed a day or two (or a week, or more) God is waiting to scold you when you resume. God is madly in love with you. He’s waiting lovingly and patiently for you to spend time with him. He can’t wait. :))
For the Kingdom, nw