Measuring Growth

When I was a kid, we had one of those growth charts on the back of my parents door.  If memory serves me right, it was a Winnie the Pooh character themed chart.  I know that some may have no idea what I am talking about so I will explain.  The chart was essentially a giant paper ruler that was attached to the door, and we would stand against it from time to time and allow my parents to mark our height and the date on the paper.  This allowed us to see how much we had grown since the last time we had been measured or really between any two times we chose.  We have a similar system in our house now where my wife marks the wall and records the dates of our kids’ measurements.  The funny thing about it is that no one asks why we would do such a thing (at least no one has yet), probably because most of us do something similar.  Measuring physical growth is a normal process and helps us to see that we are healthy and maturing as we should.

What about how we measure spiritual growth?  I don’t know why it should be so, but for some that I have encountered it is considered improper or wrong to assess spiritual growth.  Many others have no idea how such a thing can be done.  I won’t profess to be an expert on the subject (which shows that I have grown in this area), but I will offer a few tips that I have learned from my own walk with the Lord and growth as a disciple.

  1. You need a definite starting point – This one is pretty straightforward as well.  Babies are measured when they are first born and all subsequent measurements are referenced from there.  The life of faith begins when we are born again.  If you haven’t been born again or are not sure what I mean by this, I would encourage you to take a moment and read this page. You can come back to the list in a minute.
  2. You need a reliable measuring stick – Just like the growth chart on the wall would be useless if it weren’t placed at the proper height or didn’t have the proper increments, measuring spiritual growth requires a standard of measure.  The Bible is the only acceptable measuring stick for a believer in Christ.  There is no other place to measure against.  Don’t measure against another believer or some other religious ideals or church teaching or anything else.  These may give you “false readings” and are not reliable as an indicator of growth.  The Bible provides an objective standard by which we can measure our growth.
  3. You need to recognize growth – I am not the same guy I was all those years ago when I started down the path of discipleship.  I am able to look back on things I wrote down in journals that I kept and in articles and blogs that I wrote and see the difference that God has brought about in me over time.  I can look at my life and the way I handle certain situations and circumstances and see the difference between then and now in my attitudes and behaviors and my faith in God.  This is growth.  Paul gave us some broad markers that will show up in our life as fruit from the growth (Galatians 5:22-23), but these aren’t the only things that we will notice as we grow. 
  4. You need to celebrate growth – Have you ever noticed how excited a kid can get when they see that they have grown 1/4 of an inch?  When we assess where we are spiritually based on God’s Word and in reference to our past, we are encouraged to see how God has worked in our life, and make no mistake about it, growth comes from God.  Christ is the one who said, “apart from me you can do nothing.”  This isn’t about a self-help project or therapeutic deism or something; this is about appreciating God’s work in our lives.

Let me close with this.  Spiritual growth isn’t about being saved or staying saved.  That work is finished, completed by God already.  God will see it through to the end (Philippians 1:6).  This is about being true to the One who has called you and appreciating the work He has done and is doing:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

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Categories: Discipleship, Growth, One Word | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Measuring Growth

  1. Well…you could have guessed that I would not be too crazy about this one.

    Only because it brings the focus back to ‘us’. This sort of emphasis brings the believer back to himself, and then the trouble can start. By despairing of one’s abilities, or by feeling a bit too good about one’s “progress”.

  2. Steve,
    Yeah, I could pretty much assume you wouldn’t appreciate this one, but I still stand by it. Living things grow and there is nothing wrong with noticing or assessing the growth in us. I would even argue that the Bible tells us to do so. (2 Corinthians 13:5 and Galatians 6:4, just to name a couple of examples).

    It isn’t about our abilities or our accomplishments, it is about recognizing what God has done in us and through us and with us.

  3. Again, Jeff, it’s a matter of focus. I try and look at Jesus and not at myself. Yes, the Lord is at work in me. That is a given. Do we look at ourselves, or compare ourselves to others who may be doing the same thing. I don’t think that is a good idea. That often begets pride, or despair.

    Here’s a very good Lutheran way to look at it:

    “How do you know the Holy Spirit is at work in you?…

    …you are breathing, aren’t you?”

  4. Do we look at ourselves, or compare ourselves to others who may be doing the same thing.

    If you read again above, you will see that I specifically cautioned against doing this very thing. I agree with you that we should focus on Jesus, but this doesn’t mean we can ignore our own self.

  5. It’s a matter of focus and emphasis.

    Since growth comes to the Christian, apart from his own efforts, then why put any emphasis on it?

    You can caution against comparing yourself to others, or arbitrary benchmarks, but that doesn’t mean that many won’t fall into those traps anyway.

    Why go there if you don’t have to? I don’t think we have to.

  6. You could just as soon ask why we have scales to measure our weight or bother to asses our height. They are markers of physical health. Spiritual growth as I have discussed it here is about the markers of spiritual health.

  7. We can control our weight, but we cannot control our spiritual growth.

    Focusing on our spiritual growth is futile since we have nothing to do with it. What are you going to do, tell people how you have improved since you’ve been a Christian? What then does that do for the Christian who has seen no improvement, or thinks it’s not enough?

    No, I still don’t think any good comes of it. I’d rather focus on the fact that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves, and then focus on the One who has.

  8. I think that the Apostles would argue against you in this instance. We are given responsibility for how we grow.

    3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
    -2 Peter 1:3-10

    This isn’t the only passage like this, but I didn’t want to barrage a ton of passages in here. The point is that there is something that God leaves to us when it comes to “how much we grow.” God doesn’t force us to all be the same, He invites us to experience Him and grow and lets the relationship be determined to a large extent by us. He has redeemed us from Egypt and wants to lead us to the promised land, but He isn’t going to drag us down the path, we have to walk.

  9. OK, Jeff.

    Good luck on your spiritual growth project.

    You’d better get at it. You’ve got a long way to go, my friend. 😀

  10. All the way to Kingdom come as the saying goes. 🙂

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