Growing Strong in the Spirit
Spiritual maturity, like its physical counterpart, is a marathon and not for the fainthearted. We must be made of sterner stuff
The growth of any living thing is a long-drawn process. Many baby animals are mobile soon after they are born but human babies have to go through stages of crawling, waddling and falling before they can walk and run confidently.
Nevertheless, we can gauge our growth by how we progress through milestones such as walking, eating, speaking and many others. If our children do not pass these milestones by a certain time, we know that something may not be right and seek the appropriate care and therapy.
Our spiritual lives mirror our physical lives. After we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord, He blesses us with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide us to Christ-like living.
The fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — is a good spiritual barometer.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 22–23, NIV).
In contrast, the characteristics of a life that is carnal or lived according to our passions are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, division, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and other similar qualities.
“ The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5: 19–21, NIV).
Through the juxtaposition of these opposing characters, the Apostle Paul shows us that as we display more and more of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, so the intensity and desire to display the fruit of carnal living will dissipate until Christ has His full hold on our lives and the fruit of the Spirit become second nature.
As Jesus went to the Cross to take the sins of the world upon Himself and pay the ransom for our sins, so we who belong to Christ have actively crucified our carnal lifestyle.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5: 24, NIV).
Showing the fruits of the Spirit is an ongoing and painful process. We will stumble and fall along the way but do not be discouraged — get back up, dust off the dirt and grime and soldier on.
Our King has won the Victory for us and so we only need to press on to the prize we will definitely receive at the end of our earthly life.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 7–8, NIV).
For growth in the fruit and gifts of the Spirit to be effective, we would do well to avail of the following steps:
Dig deeply into the Word
Delve, meditate and digest the Word of God regularly and make it your source of truth and guidance. You will find priceless treasures to equip you for effective Christian living.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105, NIV).
Seek out community
Join a community of believers who also yearn to live the Spirit-filled life and show the spiritual fruits. Just as you are directly influenced by the five people you most frequently hang out with, so the spiritual community you are with also affects your walk with God. This is why the cell group ministry in every church is crucial.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10: 24–25, NIV).
Look for and accept genuine criticism
This is hard for many, including myself, but it is necessary. True friends cherish your welfare. They will not be afraid to tell you the unpleasant truths so look for and listen to them as their feedback will help you to grow in your spiritual walk.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27: 17, NIV)
Find an accountability partner
Find a good friend with whom you can share your struggles and triumphs and hold each other accountable for your spiritual journey. Keep in touch with each other regularly to find out how you are growing, where you stumbled, how to get back on track, pray and celebrate every victory.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NIV).
Live out your life
Although challenging, rest assured that these steps will bring dividends. As you follow them and increasingly open your heart, mind, soul and strength to want to know more and more of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, what you inculcate in your spirit will show forth in your external appearance and demeanour.
This becomes particularly telling as many among us may be watching us unawares.
“Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads,” — William J. Toms.
As you move into your deeper spiritual journey, may I then end this missive with the Aaronic Blessing for your quest?
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites.’ Say to them:
‘The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’ (Numbers 6: 22–26, NIV).