For the most part, I am surrounded by Christians who would tell you they want to experience more spiritual growth and know God more intimately. But this does not mean they actually are experiencing more spiritual growth and knowing God more intimately. What I see in many Christians (and myself as well) is a frustration toward their distance from God and the sins they seem to keep falling back into. Somewhere along the way, many of us have gotten the impression that if we simply have a quiet time in the mornings and pray, everything will work itself out. Poof! Growth is happening!
While I believe having a daily time of Bible reading and pray is a big part of the growth process, it is not all there is. We are dependent on God for growth and God has chosen to grow us through certain means, like Bible reading and prayer, but something is askew if we think that hearing from God in his word and talking to him in prayer for 20-30 minutes a day is all the work that is needed to become more like Jesus.
At this point you may be thinking, “Please don’t add something else to my schedule. I’m barely keeping my head above water as it is.” If you are having a daily meeting with God in his word and through prayer and you are a faithful, serving member of your local church, I am not asking you to add something else to your schedule. This is where many Christians become discouraged in the growth process. They think they’ve got to work through a stack of Christian living books in their spare time, make it to another Bible study, and fit the next prayer meeting on the calendar in order to get closer to God. When they can’t pull this off, real spiritual growth seems impossible, so their motivation begins to dwindle.
The reason why fad diets don’t work in the long run is because they’re so hard to fit into real life. Church potlucks, going over to a friend’s house for dinner, and the holidays have many people giving up after too long. Instead of eating no bread and no sugar, it’s much easier to make simple changes in your food choices, trim down on portion size, and eat the good stuff in moderation. This is more doable in real life and will lead to lasting change.
I think it’s similar when it comes to spiritual growth. You don’t have to treat Christianity like it’s a burdensome second job to become more like Christ. This implies that following Jesus is something to be added on to your life, but in reality, if you are his, following Jesus is your life. Therefore, striving after holiness should permeate your life instead of supplement it. Practically speaking, this means actively following Jesus through the activities and events you already have on your plate. If you are a student, then use your ten-minute study breaks to think about the things of God (Philippians 4:8). If you are a soccer mom, then use your drives in the minivan to listen to spiritually-stimulating music and pray with your kids about the things in your day. If you are a working man, then take advantage of your commute and download some sermon podcasts or enriching audio books. In addition, let’s all train ourselves to look out for evidences of God’s grace and love as we are going throughout our days so that we can have more to praise him for. Also, since you’re going to be at church on Sunday, make a list of people you plan to encourage or pray with and take notes on the sermon with the intent of discussing them with someone after the service. Church, let’s learn to see everything on our plates as an opportunity to pursue God.
Lord, give us the grace to follow Christ through our lives instead of in addition to our lives, and as we do this, make us to know you more and become more like your Son.