What does it mean to grow in our relationship with God?
This is a tough question. I believe that we have often defined this growth and maturity as something that it is not. It is a tough question to answer, because we have simplified formulas and measurements for growth.
- “If you do______ would you consider stepping up to ______?”
- “you don’t really grow in your faith until you start serving.”
- “If you give _____ money consider upping it to ________.”
While all of these actions are great, and I believe that they will flow out of a believer that is growing in their faith already, I don’t belief that the answer to how we grow is more religious busyness.
Often times I talk to someone whose church participation has dwindled or they have stepped away, and I hear something like this… “I was growing in my faith. I was coming to church every week, reading my Bible everyday, praying, and serving with my family.” Do you see how they defined a past season of growth by their religious busyness? I would even venture to say that I know many people and families living like this now. They are heavily involved and very busy. I love that, but here is the question…
Are they growing?
If so, how can you tell? Is church involvement and pushing ourselves into action the means by which we grow and measure growth?
When I talk to people who are seeking a deep or deeper connection with God. I ask this question, “when was the last time that you felt that God was prompting you about something, and what was the outcome?” I believe that this is a defining question.
Just because you are busy with religious action, doesn’t mean that you are following God or growing. Maybe your actions impersonate Jesus, but do you know Him or are you getting to know Him?
Matthew 7:22-23 is sobering for this mindset.
I believe that we have told people that by being busy, they will grow. We then measure their growth by measuring their busyness. In all reality it is God who does the work of growing us. We just make ourselves available and abide with and in Him.
I love John 10:27
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Outside of mistaking busyness for growth and measuring growth, we have cut out the most important piece. It is to listen and learn to hear God’s voice! The Holy Spirit is our helper and one that prompts us.
I am convicted over and over that many churches and Christians can go through their weeks and church services without any type of connection to the Spirit of God.
I have been playing music my entire life. I know that by what I say, how I play, and how I program my musical set that people can be moved emotionally without me needing to rely on God myself. I sense that many churches function this way, and it is also how we try to bring about spiritual growth.
Luke 6:12-19 tells us that Jesus went up for an entire night to spend with the father, before he picked His disciples and started doing ministry. Being God Himself, He still knew what it meant to abide with and listen to the Father.
We have also mistaken growth for Bible knowledge. Yes, in order to hear from God you need to study the Bible and know about Him and His character, but you can know about Him and avoid knowing Him. You can serve Him and avoid knowing Him.
Maybe our measurement for growth isn’t “am I doing more or giving more than before?”. Maybe our measurement is, “am I sensing God’s promptings more clearly, and am I acting on them with less hesitation?” I know that in some seasons of my life I may hear God more or less, but I know that over time God has taught me a lot about what is going on inside of me, what His prompts sound and feel like, and where my personal wrestlings that shuts these prompts out are rooted in. I am more aware of these than I used to be, and because of this, my friends and I know the best formative questions to ask when I am in a moment where God might be trying to speak to me about something.
- Are you aware of when God might be calling you to repent (change your mind and action) of something?
- Do you know what feelings you feel and what trigger points hit when you are struggling, and God might be trying to get your attention?
- Do you know where God wants to meet you in those moments personally, and how He leads you forward?
The more that we grow, the more these moments will feel natural. These are precious moments that reveal to us the depths of God’s desire for us to remain in Him and know Him.
We grow when we know Him and His voice more clearly.
If you are interested in reading more about how many of us might be backwards in this on the area of serving in church, you can read a past blog of mine called “The Cart Before The Horse… Serving In The Local Church”
If you are looking for a resource that is nothing more then one of many tools to offer space to be with God and listen to Him, check out this devotional that my friend J.R. Briggs wrote with Eugene Peterson. J.R. has always had a gift for asking good questions around what God might be saying.