The Importance of Spiritual Growth
“The spiritual man gives thanks always for all things to God-by righteous hearing and divine reading, by true investigation, by holy oblation, and by blessed prayer. Always worshiping, singing, blessing, and praising-such a soul is never separated from God at any time.”
It is important for us to have a daily routine of personal prayer and devotions. You cannot claim to have a relationship with someone if you do not communicate with them. Can you imagine a marriage without communication? A marriage where one spouse simply ignores the other, never asks their opinions, never comforts them when they are hurting, never offers a word of encouragement when they are down is in no wise a healthy relationship. In fact, it is no relationship at all. Communication is of utmost importance in maintaining a healthy relationship. This is no less true of our relationship with God. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11). You have access to God’s personal direction and insights into His will for you in all situations through prayer (Ephesians 6:18; James 5:13). This is your lifeline, so to speak. Your prayers should include not just your wants, but also praise of the Lord for who He is, and not just what He has done for you. Let Him know how much you appreciate Him just for who He is. Do not think to yourself, “Well, the Lord knows my heart, so He knows how I feel about Him.” That sort of thinking is selfish and dismissive of your responsibility to communicate with Him. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Again, if we look at a marriage, many have been harmed and even ruined because one of the spouses took that very approach.
It is not enough that God knows what is in your heart, but that you actually speak it to Him. Put your convictions into action by telling Him how incredible He is to you, how much He surprises you, astounds you, and leaves you in awe of His tremendous power and glory. “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips” (Psalm 34:1). If it is good enough for the angels, it is good enough for you! (Isaiah 6:2-4; Revelation 7:11). And the most wonderful part of all is that He hears you (1 John 5:14; Jeremiah 29:12; Job 22:27).
Daily time in devotions is also important to spiritual growth. While prayer is certainly a component of devotions, the practice does go beyond prayer. This is the part of spiritual growth that requires us to actually listen to God in silence. “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:47). Taking a few moments to sit in silence and listen for God to speak to you through His Holy Spirit can bring wonderful benefits. You can gain valuable insights into your struggles, how to respond to others, your relationship with your spouse and children, etc. These insights might come as a “still small voice” in your mind, or it can come through Scripture. This brings us to the next component of devotions, which is reading Scripture. Daily reading of the divinely inspired self-revelation of God is a sure way to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and His will for us all (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:105). That small voice I mentioned might direct you to a specific passage of Scripture that speaks directly to you in whatever situation you find yourself in.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
It is important that you read Scripture with the conscious understanding that you are hearing the voice of God in the words on those pages. Thus, your daily practice of reading the Word of God is in reality a daily personal communion with the God of the entirety of creation, speaking directly to you in those pages. Do not approach Scripture as you would any other mundane textbook, but as a very real interaction with the Lord (Luke 11:28; Proverbs 4:10; Luke 8:21).
One of the principles of human growth that has proven to be true time and time again is that who we associate with often determines what kind of person we will be. Most of us as teenagers likely associated with someone or a group of people who were less than ideal. Many young people find themselves involved in drugs, violence, and other criminal activity as a result of peer pressure. As disciples, we must be aware of our associations. Who we choose to surround ourselves with will inevitably impact our spiritual growth. It is important that we diligently seek out the fellowship of other disciples since in such fellowship we find spiritual encouragement, support during times of difficulty, shared happiness in times of joy, and a community of like-minded people who are also in pursuit of the same goal as us — a relationship with God that goes beyond mere belief to experiential living. None of us is the Body of Christ individually — all alone. We are only that Body corporately; as we join together in our shared conviction of the person and deity of Christ, the salvation he provides, and the Way in which we should live (1 John 1:3; 1 John 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 12:5; Hebrews 10:25).
As you can see, there are very concrete ways for you to mature in faith, and to pursue the Lord more diligently and deeply. If you sincerely engage yourself in these three spiritual growth practices, you will find yourself becoming more mature and the steadiness of your faith more secure. And the more secure your faith is, the better equipped you will be to weather the onslaughts of the Adversary and of an unbelieving world. And the better equipped you are in the face of an unbelieving world, the more powerful your witness will be for Christ, your Lord and Savior.