We need to grow spiritually. That is common sense. But how does one go about growing spiritually?
Typical answers are 1) read the Bible. 2) Go to church. 3) Pray. 4) Love people.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with these answers, but as I reflect on life, there have been several instigators of spiritual growth in me, most of which were unplanned. Here is a brief list of things that caused me spiritual growth and why they resulted in that growth.
Instigator of growth: When I was in fifth grade I lost a game of Bible trivia to my Catholic friend.
Why this caused growth: I was a pastor’s kid. I mean seriously, how did I just lose that? Do I not know the Bible as well as I think I do? Uh-oh.
Instigator of growth: My friend got hit by a car while we were on a bike ride 40 miles from home, in which I had to then bike home not knowing how he was as he was taken away in an ambulance.
Why this caused growth: This was the first time I really prayed. I mean, really prayed.
Instigator of growth: I went to college.
Why this caused growth: I was on my own, had to make decisions and “do life.” I was out of my home, which also meant away from my dad, my pastor. For the first time I began reading the Bible on my own with a sincere desire to know it.
Instigator of growth: Getting married.
Why this caused growth: I had to adjust my jerk tendencies to live in a loving relationship with someone else. Forced me to deal with my sin. Forced me to put someone else’s needs in front of mine. Forced me to realize I needed other people and I wasn’t as strong as I thought.
Instigator of growth: Becoming a father.
Why this caused growth: Forced me to put several other people’s needs before mine, forcing me to deal with my selfishness and frustration. Showed me the love of my Heavenly Father in a way I never knew before.
Instigator of growth: Becoming a pastor
Why this caused growth: I kind of had to know what I was talking about. Forced me into a higher level of needing to know the Bible. Dealing with the criticisms of just about everyone in the world (it seemed like) for a number of years shook me to my core, made me realize my lonely stand before God, allowed me to overcome my fear of people, and deal honestly with my Father in heaven.
Instigator of growth: My dad died.
Why this caused growth: My guy was gone. I used to ask my dad questions all the time and talk stuff through with him. Many Saturday nights I talked to him on the phone about the next day’s sermon. Now he was gone. Dealing with the finality of death and all the stuff he left behind forced me to reexamine my own attachment to stuff.
The bottom line is this: If you want to experience spiritual growth, do something difficult. The Bible is fairly clear that tribulation is one of the best instigators of spiritual growth, yet you’ll never hear anyone tell you to seek out tribulation to grow, “Oh no, if you want to grow, just go home and sit in a nice comfy chair and read your large print Bible.”
Well, allow me to be the first, after all the writers of scripture anyway, to tell you that if you want spiritual growth, seek out some tribulation. Tribulation is what drives you to read the Bible for real, not just academically or dutifully. Tribulation will make you want to fellowship with other believers. Tribulation will make you pray. Tribulation will force you to think of others and love them.
Tribulation is what you need if you want growth. Hey, ask any plant, the more manure you’re in, the better you grow.
“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;And patience, experience; and experience, hope:And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”