Over the years, I have had the great privilege to see God grow so many people. It has been a joy to see God take folks from where they were to where they were growing and flourishing spiritually. Over the next several weeks, I want to share several principles of spiritual growth. This will not be an exhaustive list, but a list of general principles that I have seen in scripture, illustrated in others’ lives, and experienced myself.
As we begin, let me say that I believe that it is God’s will for every believer to grow and mature. Notice what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:29,
For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29, CSB)
I also believe that, although it is God’s purpose or will to make us more like Christ, we have to cooperate with Him. I love what Jerry Bridges says, “Sanctification (spiritual growth) is a work that God does, but it requires our effort.” (From Bridges’ “The Pursuit of Holiness”) God will mold, make, shape, and fashion us to be more like Jesus when we position ourselves to allow Him to work. God will work to accomplish His purposes in our lives when we come to the end of ourselves and surrender to Him.
Spiritual Growth Takes Time
The first principle of spiritual growth is simply that spiritual growth takes time! It will take time for God to grow and nurture a believer and He will use all the experiences of life to do it. However, if we are to mature, we must be involved in God’s training. Spiritual growth will never happen “on accident.” Intentionality is essential for spiritual growth.
Two Biblical Examples
Consider the examples of Moses and the Apostle Paul.
The account of Moses as told by Stephen in Acts 7:23-34 is helpful. Twice in this passage Stephen refers to 40 years, in both verse 23 and verse 30. Moses spent the first 40 years of his life in Pharaoh’s court and the next 40 years tending sheep on the backside of the desert. Why? God was bringing Moses to the end of himself so that He could use him. Only then could God work to accomplish His purposes and deliver the nation of Israel through His servant Moses.
Look also at the account of the Apostle Paul as recorded in Galatians 1:15 – 2:1. God prepared Paul to do the ministry He had called him to do. Paul spent three years in the Arabian desert and for almost 14 years in obscurity before he was ready to fulfill his ministry calling.
The story is told of a young seminarian who wanted to finish his coursework early so he could hurry to the mission field. He asked his professor, “Can I fit three years of study into two so that I can go to the mission field.” The wise professor responded, “You know, son, it takes God only six months to grow a squash, but it takes Him one hundred years to grow a magnificent Oak. What do you want to be?” The student then replied, “I think I’ll finish the complete course.” (Miles J. Stanford, “The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth,” Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975, pg. 14)