Let’s pick up on a thread that I started several days ago re: spiritual growth. Remember that we discussed two basic principles:
- spiritual growth occurs along three dimensions: knowledge, character and behavior.
- growth on these three dimensions occurs by iterations of hearing, believing and obeying God.
And, we used the following as a picture to illustrate the basic concept.
Now let’s break down the components of knowledge, character, and behavior so we can get to something that each of us can use in our daily lives and help others to do the same.
Several months ago, some faithful buddies and I brainstormed “christian attributes”. We asked, “what are the characteristics you would expect to see in a follower of Christ?” Obviously, many attributes came to mind, including wisdom, righteousness, humility, generosity, love, contentment, etc. We then organized them into four major themes: joy, humility, compassion, and perseverance.
Therefore, when we talk about growing in knowledge, we’re really talking about growing in knowledge of what it means to be joyous, humble, compassionate and persevering. When we talk about growing our character (internal attitudes and unseen behaviors), we’re talking about developing a joyous, humble, compassionate, and persevering character. When we talk about growing in behavior (externally observable behaviors), we’re talking about acting joyous, humble, compassionate, and persevering.
Clearly, there are many, many ways to organize these attributes. This is just the way we did it, and I think it works pretty well. In future posts, I can share the detailed “mind map” that describes how we organized the attributes and dealt with “super-themes” like righteousness and wisdom.
Now, remember the second principle that describes how we grow in the three dimensions and their four components. Generally speaking, we grow in knowledge by hearing God; we grow in behavior by believing Him; and we grow in behavior by obeying Him. Therefore, we grow in our knowledge of what it means to be joyous by hearing what God has to say on joy; we grow in chracter with respect to joy by genuinely believing these truths from God; and, we grow in joyous behavior when we obey these new truths that we genuinely believe.
I have lots of examples from Scripture and from my own experience to share, and will do so over time, but for now let’s start with one from Acts. Do you remember Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16)? They behaved in an extraordinary way. First, rather than grumbling (which I’m sure I would have been), they are singing and praying. Then, when the earthquake hits and the prison doors are busted open, they did not flee.
Now look, I’m excited by the growth God has caused in me over the past several years, but I am nowhere near this level of mature behavior. Paul and Silas were so focused on the welfare of their guard, they essentially sacrificed themselves for him…a non-Jew and a non-Christian. Why on earth would they a) be singing in prison; and b) not leave when God “obviously” was trying to set them free by way of the earthquake? In the first case, they had learned to be “content in all circumstances” (we bucketed contentment within the joy theme). In the second, they had serious compassion for the jailor and knew what “the right thing to do was” (see my previous post). Why were they so joyous and compassionate? Because they knew the promises of God and they genuinely believed them. They had already invested years into knowing God’s word and practicing the disciplines required for training themselves for just such a moment. Of course, Paul (at least) had the additional experiences of supernatural encounters with God, but these are not necessary to grow to the point Paul was. We can all get there by studying God’s word, proactively training ourselves to believe it, and them acting upon it in any circumstance.
And so my encouragement is simply this: know God’s word, believe what you know, and obey what you believe. Over time, learn a little more, believe a little more and obey a little more. Just keep moving forward and never stop.
If you need help, please raise you hand. I, and many others joining this community, are here to help you!
One Reply to “Themes of Spiritual Growth”
This is great! looking forward to the mind map.