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? Because you may not understand the process of how to grow spiritually.
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!
Have you ever looked back at a particular time period or season of life to see how much you accomplished or maybe did not accomplish? As you begin to mull it over, you weigh whether or not it was time well spent based on the results you see. Have you ever not been thrilled with the outcome?
- 5 years at your job and you feel like you aren’t making any progress or having any impact
- 12 hours since you woke up and you have not accomplished a single task you set out to do today
- 20 years of marriage and your relationship with your spouse is falling apart
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? 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 do happen that are out of our 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, which is the means by which God changes our hearts to make us holy like Jesus. And that process doesn’t happen without WORK on our part!
And, let’s face it, it is not always that easy.
Here is how the Process of Sanctification works…
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?)
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 or seek out forgiveness and reconciliation in a broken relationship.
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)
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. How do you know when actual Spiritual growth has occurred? By watching for spiritual fruit to grow over time. Devote yourself to change even if you don’t see or feel the results you want right away. You don’t sow seeds in your garden on Monday and expect to have ripe juicy tomatoes to make salsa with by Saturday, right? You must water, prune and wait for the tomatoes grow. It is the same with spiritual fruit!
We continue to pour God’s Word into our hearts so that He can grow us through our personal time with God and discipleship by another Christian. When we consistently see a new behavior that is completely different from the old one, we know real spiritual growth has taken place. (REMINDER: This does not mean we never sin in the same way again, but we will not see a pattern of continually falling back into the same sin once growth has occurred.)
With the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, through the Process of Sanctification, God gives us 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
Yes, it is true that…you cannot control the way other people treat you or every aspect of your circumstances. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you CAN control how you handle your circumstances and the people in them. Pray for conviction and respond.
The Process of Sanctification DOES work. 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.to