Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Growth

Forward Progress

Two men were riding up a long, steep hill on a tandem bicycle. It was required a huge effort, and when they finally reached the top, the man in front said, “I honestly didn’t think we were going to make it! I was afraid we were about to go backward!”

The man in back said, “Me either! That’s why I had my foot on the brake the whole time!”

It’s a humorous reminder that if we want to move forward, we must first stop moving backward. That’s especially true in our spiritual lives.

1 Peter 2.1-3 says, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”

Peter gives us an insight into the nature of spiritual growth. The main idea in this sentence is that they grow in respect to salvation. Let’s look at four things Peter says about it.

First, spiritual growth requires that we get rid of some old habits. Peter gives us a short sampling of them here: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander. It’s interesting that all of these involve sinful attitudes or behavior against others. Not only do these things stand between us and other people, but also between us and God, between us and our pursuit of growth.

Second, spiritual growth requires that we’re hungry. Here, Peter says our hunger should be for God’s word. We need the intensity of a baby’s appetite. At a practical level, we regularly study the Bible and look for opportunities to do so. Only God’s word can fill us and nourish us. 

Third, it requires that we look forward. Here, salvation is future (our final salvation with God in heaven). It’s also something toward which we grow. We should be getting further and further from this world while drawing closer and closer to the world above and beyond.

Finally, Peter tells us that the motivation is God’s kindness. The kindness of God is the sum of his grace, love, is mercy, and care for us. If we have experienced the kindness of God to any degree, we owe it to him to pursue spiritual growth.

Where are you in this process?


This time of year, many of us are already gardening, planting, fertilizing, weeding, landscaping, spraying, pruning, and all kinds of other springtime agricultural rituals.

The key to growing anything – grass, flowers, vegetables, shrubs, trees – is developing a good root system. Plants depend upon the nutrients and moisture provided by the soil. The deeper and more extensive a plant’s root system, the more it will be able to survive drought, wind, disease, and pests. 

So it is with our growth as Christians. We can’t grow without deep, healthy roots. The apostle Paul prayed for the saints in Ephesus “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3.17-19). Before they can grow upward, they need to first grow downward.

Paul had a similar exhortation for the Christians in Colossae. “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2.6-7). Growth, gratitude, and a deep faith are impossible without a deep root system. 

That’s why regular spiritual disciplines and practices are so essential to the formation of our faith. Bible reading, meditation, memorization, and study are building blocks of spiritual maturity. We need the daily challenge of personal Bible study as well as the weekly opportunity to study with other Christians. Prayer is an opportunity to expand our root system by expressing gratitude and praise to God, as well as offering our petitions to him. Worship keeps us vital and strong. It provides nourishment and refreshment from the harsh realities of life. It gets us in the presence of God and in the presence of his people. It puts our minds on a higher plane awhile each week. 

So, while you’re thinking about taking care of your lawn and garden, take a bit of time to nourish your soul. Get some water and feed, pull some weeds, and get ready to grow. 

Spiritual Metrics

Businesses pour a lot of energy and resources into monitoring and measuring growth. It’s what they call “metrics.” There are metrics for sales, marketing, social media, growth, income, revenue, costs, website traffic, inventory, customer satisfaction, employee turnover, etc.

Regarding metrics, Seth Godin (entrepreneur & author) says, “Just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s important.” Metrics deal with quantity and not necessarily with quality. Something may be big, but is it good? Is it worthwhile? Is it important?

As Christians we face a similar challenge. As Christians, we’re in the business of spiritual growth. But how do we measure that? The most important indicators of spiritual growth are qualitative, not quantitative. That means that spiritual growth is sometimes hard to measure.

Peter said, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1.2-11).

Peter gives us a set of spiritual metrics, things we should monitor: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. He tells us that if we track these things and practice them, spiritual growth will happen. 

He even tells us in this text what that spiritual growth looks like: a true and intimate knowledge of God; looking more like God and less like the world; bearing fruit; and being able to handle temptation. These qualities are the evidence of spiritual growth.

The takeaway is this: God has given us the metrics we need to grow in the right way. Our task is to use them in the right way.