Not long ago, it was my turn to share from scripture at a men’s group I attend. As I asked the Lord what to talk about, I found my mind turning to questions: Am I growing spiritually? If so, how do I know? I decided to raise these questions at the men’s group to see what people thought. After hearing and discussing their ideas, I added my thoughts.
One man said he saw growth in that he had come through difficulties the previous year. The hard times caused him to lean more on the Lord. As a result, he desires the Lord more and spends more time with Him. He also notices an increased sensitivity to the Spirit of God.
Another comment was that a revelation of ourselves makes us more open to the Lord working within. Seeing what we are as fallen people makes us desire more of the Lord within. This might mean growing in ways we didn’t expect. Root systems, for instance, don’t grow in a straight line. Roots branch all different ways in search of water or grow around obstacles (like rocks). God determines how we grow, and it may not be the way we imagined.
Growth may also show up as a greater ability to connect to others. Jesus was profoundly gifted at seeing through the eyes of others, understanding their perspectives, and understanding them. As we grow, we will be more like our Master.
Another gauge of growth is looking at where we’ve come from. This is intuitive. A quick glance over the shoulder can tell us how far we’ve walked. Looking at a map or GPS gives a sense of miles traveled. When we compare our lives in Christ now with years back, we can gauge spiritual change.
A bit of good advice: Don’t measure growth too often, and use the right measurement when you do. One of my kids discovered this when she planted a seed. The very next day she pored over the pot looking for any sign of green shooting up from the dirt. In four days, there was still no green. Such disappointment! My wife tried to explain that it takes time for the seed to break down, for roots to grow, and for a shoot to finally pop up. Most of the growth, at first, was happening underground. This type of growth will be missed if we only measure what is above ground.
I really appreciated the points my friends made and heard the Lord’s wisdom in what they said. My own reflections traced a path through various scriptures: Second Peter 1 where the divine nature increases in us; verses that speak of our conformity to Christ and bearing the Spirit’s fruit in our character; just to name a few.
But the main message from the Lord to me came through Mark 4. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a farmer who plants seed. He goes on to say that whether the farmer lays down or gets up “the seed sprouts and grows —he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself —first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head” (Mark 4:27-28).
Through this parable, the Lord impressed on me that, above all, I should trust I am growing, and trust Him with the process. This goes against our instincts in a sense. Everywhere I turn these days, people want measurable results. We can’t just trust to anything. We have to show it, graph it, prove it.
Perhaps that makes sense since our kingdom has been measured and found wanting (Dan. 5:27). But the Lord’s kingdom is beyond measure and without end. What can you do with such a kingdom but trust it?