Obstacles to Christian Growth (Part 1)

by Rose Avenue church of Christ

It is certainly no secret that the Christian is expected to grow.  It is something that needs to start as soon as one obeys the gospel and it needs to continue throughout your service to the Lord upon this earth.  In 1 Peter 2:2 we read, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”  Peter understood that it is imperative that “babes in Christ” grow.  We understand the principle from a physical perspective.  Let us strive to apply it spiritually as well.  As the mature in Christ, do we place enough emphasis on this with new converts?  Do we strive to ensure that they understand they HAVE TO grow to be pleasing to Him?

And as Christians we also ought to know that growth can NEVER stop.  There are some who have made considerable spiritual growth in their lives but they think they have come far enough.  They have matured in the faith and they know it.  While that maturity is good, it is NOT a time for retirement.  It is pure arrogance to think that you cannot learn anything more or that you have come far enough that you can “ease up” on the studies.  Yet that is what many do.  Rather than studying subjects and books of the Bible from a fresh perspective each time and building upon what they have learned, they stick to the same material they learned and used decades ago.  What they learned back then may be right, but is there deeper understanding and can it be developed further?  Peter in his second letter, written to Christians who already knew much of what he was talking about indicating a level of maturity (see 2 Peter 1:12-15), closes with this admonition, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)  The word “grow” in that text is a present tense, active voice verb with a general meaning that the action is something that is to be happening right now (i.e. ongoing action) and is to be performed by the one being addressed.  Thus growth is something that should NEVER end, especially spiritual growth.  I am reminded of Hebrews 5:12 which begins, “for when for the time ye ought to be teachers…” indicating they had quit growing or had not grown at all.  It was presented as a rebuke followed by a strong warning for those who fail to “go on to perfection” (maturity) (6:1).  By the way, has ANYONE reached the state of perfection or maturity to the degree that they cannot grow anymore?  Think about it and be honest before you answer that question.

But if growth is so important, why do we not grow as we ought to?  The answer is because of obstacles that are put in our way.  Obstacles would be anything that hinders or slows our progress toward a goal.  Hebrews 12:1-2 calls upon us to “…lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…

Satan wants to hinder each of us from growing as we ought to.  He knows that spiritual maturity is his worst enemy.  That is why he will do anything he can to keep you from growing.  Paul warned the Corinthians to not let Satan take advantage of us, “for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11).  He is looking for opportunities to devour you (1 Peter 5:8).  He is a wiley being (Eph. 6:11).  That is why we must be sober and vigilant at all times.

Let us take some time to notice some of the obstacles that Satan will put in our way to hinder spiritual growth.  Here are two major obstacles to consider in this study.

Worldliness.  This is perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to growth today.  Far too many Christians fail to grow as they ought because the world has too great of an influence in their lives.  They want to serve the Lord, but they don’t want to give up the world in the process.  As a result they seek for a happy medium.  The problem is that what makes them happy displeases God.  Jesus understood this mentality as He described the various soils in the Parable of the Sower.  That seed (the word of God) which fell on thorny ground was described as, “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt 13:22).  If we are going to grow we have to decide that God is going to be our ONLY ruler.  Matthew 6:24 says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  The gospels record an account of a ruler who met Jesus one day requesting information on inheriting eternal life.  He admitted that he had been a devout Jew having kept the commandments since his youth.  But Jesus knew his heart and said to him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)  Sadly, the rich, young ruler went away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions.”  If we are not willing to give up the ways of the world, we will never grow to the degree we ought to.  And Satan is fully aware of this and will do all that he can to keep the ways of the world coming.  John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15)

Distractions.  This is perhaps one of Satan’s most effective weapons in hindering our growth.  He knows that all the desire in the world to do something good is worthless if he can keep you busy doing everything else. You can know the word of God inside and out, but if you fail to apply it, you are not going to grow as you ought to.  We live in a world that is far too busy.  From the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed, our schedule is micromanaged.  We have so many more things we think we have to do, that there is little time left to do things necessary to grow spiritually.  We “pencil in” a little reading time and maybe a short prayer, and a couple of hours of worship each week, but beyond that we are just too busy to take our spirituality serious.  Growing in Him certainly does involve making time for Him, but it also involves a determination to NOT let anything distract us from that.  On one occasion, some disciples came to Jesus offering to follow Him, but they had other matters to take care of first.  Jesus was not willing to accept that.  Luke 9:57-62 shows that Jesus must be first before all things if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Consider what made Mary’s actions more pleasing to Jesus than Martha when He was at their home. She knew what was most important while Martha was “troubled about many things” (Luke 10:38-42).  If we are not careful, we will allow many things, some of the very honorable within themselves, to distract us from growing as we ought.

The next few articles in this bulletin will be devoted to examining some other obstacles to our spiritual growth and some things we can do to overcome them.  Let us never forget that we have to grow to please our God.  Are you growing as you ought to?