INSIDE: As Christians, we are supposed to experience growth in the Lord, right? The Holy Spirit dwelling inside us is supposed to help us change, right? So why do you feel so stuck? Why aren’t you experiencing JOY in your life?
Are you read for some tough love?
If not, stop reading this post right now, because I am about to get real.
Still, reading, eh?
Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Do you ever feel like you just aren’t making any progress?
Life is full of “1 step forward, 2 step back” moments. And it’s totally okay to be disappointed when things do not turn out as we hoped or planned they would.
But sometimes we take our disappointment too far and don’t take responsibility for where we fell short.
Dissatisfied with an unfulfilling career? Who controls your attitude on the job and how much effort you put in at work each day?
Defeated by your chaotic schedule? No matter how much is on your ToDo list, who controls how much planning goes into your day?
Depressed about a failed relationship? Who controls the way you treat and respond to another person?
Yes, things happen that are out of your control BUT…
(HERE COMES THAT TOUGH LOVE I WAS TALKING ABOUT)
It is time to stop complaining about results you don’t have because of work you didn’t do!
OUCH! Did that hit you hard in the gut?
If so, I understand. I am talking to myself here too!
In the book of Philippians, Paul makes a statement that can be very misunderstood. When he says “work out your own salvation,” Paul is NOT suggesting your salvation is based on your good works (because that would contradict so many other scriptures in the Bible). What he is actually referring to here is how to grow spiritually through the process of sanctification. That is just church talk for “how God changes our hearts to make us holy like Jesus.”
That process doesn’t happen without WORK on our part! And let’s face it, it is not always that easy.
There are three stages we must go through to experience spiritual growth.
1 – CONVICTION of SIN
This comes from the Holy Spirit.
Conviction is that nagging feeling that you can’t seem to get to go away. Often, you feel like something you are doing needs to stop OR something you are not doing needs to start. You may dismiss it, ignore it or even get angry about it, but conviction from the Holy Spirit doesn’t go away and eventually needs to be dealt with. And while God could snap His finger and “fix” us, that is not His design to change us.
We have free will to choose to listen to Him and because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, we will eventually be compelled to choose to change. (Not feeling any conviction? Hear what John Piper says about that in Am I Saved?)
2 – ACTION to CHANGE
This must be done by you and requires HUMILITY and PRAYER.
You must accept that YOU need to change, not your circumstances or the people in them. This could be your attitude or your habits. It could be that you need to ask for help. Maybe you need to seek forgiveness to reconcile a broken relationship. (Read more about how to do that HERE.)
Ask God to give you His strength in your weakness. This is when the enemy will attack- when you are tired of doing good, he will point out how hard it is and try to convince you it is not worth it. This is the hardest part and when many of us give up. There is no guarantee that your change will be accepted or even welcomed by others and the temptation to fall back into sinful patterns can be strong. But God is stronger!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (English Standard Version)
3 – SPIRITUAL GROWTH
This is done by God for His good pleasure.
Some more tough love – we often attribute “temporary behavioral change” to spiritual growth when it is not that at all. God will grow us through our personal time with Him and discipleship by another Christian. How do you know when actual Spiritual growth has occurred? By watching for spiritual fruit to grow over time. This is not a “quick fix.”
Devote yourself to change even if you don’t see or feel the results you want right away. When you consistently see a new behavior that is completely different from the old one, and no longer feel drawn to fall back into that old sin, you know real spiritual growth has taken place.
Because of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, we have the ability to:
- work for the glory of God and not man’s approval
- break bad habits when it is hard (and even painful) to do so
- find peace and self-control in the middle of difficult circumstances
- not revile when we are reviled, love when we are not loved and forgive when we haven’t received an apology
Spiritual growth is possible. God CAN change you. The question is are you willing to do the work?
Want to dig deeper? Check out this great message by John Piper, Why God Sanctifies Us Slowly.