In last week’s blog we looked at the first principle of spiritual growth. That is, that spiritual growth takes time. We were reminded that spiritual growth never happens on accident and that it takes intentionality on our part for us to grow. We looked at the examples of both Moses and Jesus.
In his book Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, Donald Whitney says that God uses three primary catalysts to grow us:
Circumstances (especially adversity)
The Spiritual Disciplines
The first two catalysts can help to change us from the outside in; but the spiritual disciplines work to change us from the inside out.
God uses people to help grow us and make us more like Christ. As the writer of Proverbs says, Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, CSB)
It seems just the right people come into our lives at just the right time to mentor and invest in us. I love how Paul and his coworkers nurtured the new believers at Thessalonica in verses 8 and 9 of 1 Thessalonians 2: “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers and sisters. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you.”
These men were not only teaching God’s Word to these new believers but they were spending time among them modeling before them the truth of the Gospel. Most of us can look back and see that at times of accelerated spiritual growth we were walking alongside a godly mentor or a group encouraging one another to grow spiritually.
Let me also point out that some people come into our lives and model “how not to do it.” They live life in such a way that we look at their lives as examples of what not to do. Whether it be the way they treat people, an apparent blind spot, or a bad attitude, we examine their lives and think, “I don’t want to live that way” or “If I want to honor God with my life I must not have this attitude.”
God will also use the circumstances of our lives to grow and mature us. He will use all of the experiences of life, both the good and the bad, to grow us. He will especially use adversity in our lives.
You probably know the story of Joni Erickson Tada. When she was an older teen she dived off a dock, hit her head, and because of her injury has lived the rest of as a quadriplegic. You can only imagine how this athletic, beautiful young woman felt when she realized this would be her lot for the rest of her life.
In those early “dark days” a friend shared a truth that would help to shape her life. “God sometimes permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.”
Consider these verses from James and Peter:
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4, CSB)
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7, CSB)
God will use adversity to bring us to a place of total dependence upon Him. When things are going great and all is well if we are not careful we soon forget that we need God and can develop a “self-dependent” attitude. But when we are faced with trials and trouble, we get to the place where we desperately need Him. And because we need Him, we rely on Him, abiding in Christ and receiving all the life-giving resources we needed all along.
We’ve seen how God will use People and Circumstances to grow and mature us. Next week we’ll explore how He uses the spiritual disciplines to grow us.