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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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