by Rose Avenue church of Christ
Let it be clearly understood. If we are to be pleasing to God, we have to grow. In previous articles we have been noticing some obstacles to Christian growth. Thus far we have discussed how Satan will try to distract us, appeal to worldliness in our lives, produce indifference in our hearts and ignorance in our minds. These are some of the key attitudes that will hinder our growth. While others could be added to these, let us now turn a different direction and notice some things in our lives that either produce these attitudes or keep us from being able to develop to the degree we ought to.
Remember that the Hebrew writer said, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers” (5:12) indicating they had let some things get in their way. I am convinced there are many who know they need to grow and want to grow but their lives are set up in such a way that they have made it either impossible or much more difficult than it ought to be. Let us notices some of these obstacles:
An improper mindset. Growth starts in the mind. I am convinced that most people with the desire to grow do not start with an attitude that they can’t grow. They have good intentions, but when they see how much effort it will take, they become overwhelmed. The Bible is a big book to learn, changing behaviors after years is such a hard thing to do, altering your schedule takes tremendous effort, etc. The result is many think they cannot grow. Here is a fact: If you don’t think you can grow, you are right (until you change your mind).
However, it does not have to be that way. While it is not easy, you can reprogram your mind. In fact that is what Paul called for in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Ephesians 4:20-24 says, “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” We all have things we are passionate about. Whether it is a hobby, a cause or a television show, we find ways to do what we want to do. When obstacles arise, we find ways around them. It’s all about our mindset.
So how does one reprogram his mind to grow spiritually? It starts with determination. Remember what Jesus said to Satan as He was being tempted, “Get thee hence, Satan” (Matthew 4:10). He was determined to not let the devil deter His work.
Start thinking about spiritual things and you will start becoming more as God would have you to be and thus growing. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” In Philippians 4:8, Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Another step that can help you is to pray to God for strength. James said that if we lack wisdom, we ought to ask of God (James 1:5). On one occasion Jesus called for a man to believe so that his child would be healed. He responded, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24). On another occasion the apostles of Jesus asked Him, “Lord, Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5). Are you allowing Satan to influence your mind to keep you from growing?
Poor planning. Often we fail to grow because we don’t give ourselves the time to do the things we need to do to promote growth. There is always something else to do so that we don’t have time to study, pray, visit our brethren, teach others, and for some, even worship. When we make plans or set up commitments we don’t think about how it will affect our spirituality. When we apply for a job, we make no efforts to build in time to attend the worship services. When we go on trips, we just cast God aside to pursue our pleasures. Is it any wonder we don’t grow?
Others do not have a systematic plan in place to ensure growth. For example, if your knowledge is to increase, there needs to be some sort of plan with which you will systematically read and study the Bible. There needs to be a time set aside regularly so that you can develop your knowledge. Another example is our failure to take a spiritual inventory (2 Corinthians 13:5). We need to know where we are and where we need to be if we are to start reaching toward our goals. We also need a plan to get there.
Formulating a plan is not an easy task. Often people see where they are and where they need to be and they see the huge gap between the two. As a result they are overwhelmed. Many in discouragement give up. Good planning not only involves the long range goal (growth), but short range goals and directions on how to get there. Jesus told us to count the cost of serving Him. In Luke 14:26-33 He used the examples of building a tower and going to war with a smaller army than the enemy. Such efforts require planning.
Truly, growth takes effort and good planning. And Satan would love nothing more than to hinder your good planning.
Lack of discipline. We have already noted that spiritual growth takes planning and a proper attitude. Implementing these plans takes discipline. When we lack spiritual discipline, we are not going to do that which will promote our growth. We will allow everything that comes along to distract our growth. Everything we start will either fail to be completed or finished with less than our best. One who lacks discipline is quick tempered, easily discouraged and led into sin. Because of a lack of self-control, he might set out to do right, but quickly he returns to his old ways. Satan loves the one who doesn’t have discipline. It doesn’t take much effort for him keep you from growing.
Christians are called upon to exercise self-control. It is one of the “Christian graces” (2 Peter 1:6) and a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:23). Whether it be our tongues (James 3), our fleshly desires (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Corinthians 6:18), our dealing with others (Colossians 4:5) or our tempers (Proverbs 16:32; James 1:19) we need self-control in all we do. To achieve our spiritual goals we have to stay the course and “press” (Philippians 3:14) toward the prize. Jesus said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62). Hebrews 10:38 says, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
While it is not easy, self-discipline can be learned. It is something that must be practiced every day (1 Corinthians 9:27). As we learn to bring every thought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:5) and all of our actions following the will of God we are destined to grow spiritually.
In our next article we notice some more obstacles to our growth.