One early explorer to the North Pole, who charted his journey hourly to ensure that he stayed on course, experienced a strange phenomenon. His instruments indicated that although he had been walking north, he hadn’t made any progress. In fact, he was actually farther south than he had been an hour before.
He continued to get farther from the Pole. He discovered that he had ventured onto an enormous iceberg that was drifting south as he was walking north.
There is a world of difference between activity and progress. The Christian life is meant to be one of growth and progress. We are even commanded in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How can we know that we are growing in grace—that we are making real progress and not merely deceiving ourselves with activity?
The following questions can help you discern whether you are maturing spiritually.
1. Are you more thirsty for God than ever before?
The writer of Psalm 42:1 said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Have you been thirsting for God like that? Is He your passion? If so, your soul-thirst is a sign of soul-growth.
Do you yearn to know Jesus Christ more intimately? In spite of all of his maturity in Christ, in spite of all he had seen and experienced, the apostle Paul declared late in life, “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10). Didn’t he already know Jesus better than most of us ever will? Of course he did. But the more he knew Jesus, the more he wanted to know Him.
2. Are you more loving?
The mark of a Christian is love. “Dear friends,” urged the apostle John, “let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God” (1 John 4:7). If you are growing in love you are growing in grace.
Can you recall recent instances of Christlike love in your life? Have there been occasions when you’ve sacrificed your own preferences, plans, or rights for those of others? These are mileposts on the journey in grace.
3. Are you more sensitive to and aware of God?
The grace of God causes us, who were once dead to God, to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). One result of this new life is the glorious invasion of our souls by the Holy Spirit. His resident presence can give us a sense of being “alive to God” in daily life.
As you read this, you are bombarded by radio and television signals, cell phone conversations, and satellite transmissions. You are entirely unaware of them, for you aren’t built to receive them. Once you are “alive to God,” the Spirit makes you alive to God’s presence everywhere. Not that you are always sensitive to and aware of God, but if you find yourself noticing and often choosing to enjoy the Spirit’s promptings, chances are you’re growing spiritually.
4. Are you governed more and more by God’s Word?
Before we are made alive to God, we’re controlled mostly by what we want. But after we become alive to Him, we have a new desire to be governed b y His will. The true Christian has a new compulsion to do what God wants him to do.
A classic text on the sufficiency of Scripture for the Christian is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training are all growth-related words. When you are growing as a child of God, you can regularly point to how the Word of God has been teaching you, reproving you for sin, and showing you how to correct mistakes in your life. You can point to how the Bible has been training you to live in new ways God says are right.
Can you point to specific ways the Word of God has been doing this in your life during the past months? If so, you are growing in grace.
5. Are you concerned more and more with the physical and spiritual needs of others?
In Luke 9:11 we read of Jesus encountering a crowd of people: “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” This was typical of Jesus. He taught them God’s truth and often He would heal or feed them. He was concerned primarily with their spiritual needs but cared deeply about their physical needs, too. The more we become like Jesus the more concerned we will be about the physical and spiritual needs of others.
Have you been demonstrating a concern for the physical and spiritual needs of others through helping to provide for someone’s food, clothing, shelter, or health needs? Have you proven it through praying, giving, witnessing, or encouraging?
A sure sign of Christian growth is seeing needs you never saw before and beginning to meet them.
Growth in grace happens intentionally, not automatically. Like the explorer on the iceberg, you can drift away from spiritual progress, but you never drift forward. Without purpose and occasional evaluation, you’ll eventually find that, despite your activity, you’ve been carried away from Christlikeness.
The question isn’t how quickly are you growing, but rather are you growing? Regardless of your maturity, what is past is past. You can start fresh today and truly make progress.
Adapted from 10 Questions To Ask To Make Sure You’re Still Growing, in Discipleship Journal, Jan.-Feb. 1997. Use by permission of NavPress.