Monday, February 1, 2016

On Spiritual Growth {Guest Post}

Left to right: Blake, Hosanna, Eden, Elijah, Suzy, Mordecai, Chris, Ariella, Nathanael

Before I begin, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Suzy Crocket. I am the eldest of 5 sisters. I have been a child of my earthly parents for nearly 38 years and a child of my Heavenly Father for 31. I am so thankful that the Lord saved me all those years ago and never left me once since that moment! He has been so faithful to me, even when I was not faithful to Him. He has given me so much…a loving husband, 7 beautiful children, a purpose and a calling…a truly wonderful life! It has been almost 9 years since we were sent out of our local church, Nepean Baptist Church in Sydney, Australia, to be church planters in Romania. Romania is where I feel most at home. God has given me a deep love for the Romanian people, and I hope I’ll spend all of my days here. I have never written a blog post before…so bear with me! Writing is one of my very favourite things to do, though, especially if I get to write about what the Lord has been teaching me! Speaking of teaching, that’s another one of my favourite things. I love studying the Bible and getting to share what I’ve learned with others, especially young ladies and women. I am addicted to journaling, and I think everyone should do it. I collect Christian quotes, so you’re bound to see some in my blog posts from time to time. I also enjoy cooking, reading, playing the flute, and just hanging out with my favourite people: my family. So that’s me in a nut shell! I hope and pray that my passion for studying God’s Word and sharing it with others will make up for my lack of talent, and that God will use my posts to be a blessing, encouragement and challenge to you!

On Spiritual Growth

January is the month when many of us make resolutions that we hope will either improve our situation or ourselves. I hope that at least one of your resolutions for 2016 is to grow spiritually. Unfortunately, many of the resolutions that we begin the year with are never realised, and that is mostly because we don’t have a plan of attack, or we lose our motivation. So here are some inspiring facts about spiritual growth that help me to stay motivated:

1. In the beginning God created man in His image. It wasn’t long before God’s image in man was marred by sin… but guess what! God is still working to create men and women in His image today! Eph. 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

2. When God made the first man, all three Persons of the Godhead - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - were involved in that special creation, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” (Gen.1:26a). God is equally invested in your and my spiritual growth today. All three Persons of the Trinity are working in our sanctification or spiritual growth. (See Jude vs. 1; I Cor.1:2; I Pet.1:2). That’s how important our spiritual growth is to God!

3. Jesus Christ Himself shows personal interest in our spiritual growth. Listen to what He told the pastor of the church in Thyatira in Rev. 2:19, “I know thy works, and charity and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.” Clearly Jesus observed their walk from start to finish, and we can be assured that He is definitely watching our growth with interest as well!

God’s investment and interest in our spiritual growth really ought to be enough to motivate us to be proactive in our own sanctification, but just in case you need more reasons:

4. Our spiritual growth can and should be observed by others. In I Tim. 4, the Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to be an example, and to “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,” to use his spiritual gifts and to meditate on and obey the Scriptures. Why? That his “profiting (or progress) may appear to all.” (I Tim. 4:15). At least a part of the strength of our witness or testimony in the world around us lies in our spiritual growth. 

5. Our daily pursuit of Christlikeness, according to the Apostle Peter, ensures that we will have a fruitful, purposeful life, “And beside this, giving all diligence (that means effort on our part), add (that’s growth) to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Pet. 1:5-8).

6. Immediately after these words of the Apostle Peter, he goes on to give us yet another motivation for growing, that being the kind of entrance we wish to have into Heaven, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Pet. 1:11). Do you ever daydream about what kind of welcoming you’ll get when you walk through those pearly gates? What kind of grand entrance do you wish for? Let that be your motivation to give due diligence to your spiritual growth.

7. As born-again believers, children of God, our eternal destiny is to be like Jesus, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”  (I John 3:2-3). Commentator Matthew Henry said, “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our final day.” 

8. If your success in life and your physical health were directly linked to the prosperity of your soul, would you do anything differently? Listen to how the Apostle John greeted Gaius in III John vs. 2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” I was personally very convicted by this thought last year when I read this verse and studied it more closely. That phrase, "as thy soul prospereth," is so interesting. 'Prosper' means to grow vigorously. It is true that the process of sanctification is a life-long process, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be times in our Christian life of vigorous growth! I’m sure you’ve seen it in the lives of some new believers…I know I have. There’s no reason that we can’t have that kind of growth later in our Christian lives as well, as long as we’re willing to put in some effort!

There are certainly many more reasons that can motivate us to pursue Christlikeness, but I want to stop there so that I can share with you some steps that you can take to make sure that your resolution to grow spiritually this year won’t end up unrealised.

1. Take responsibility for your own spiritual growth. Believe it or not, I even know of people who left their very good, very doctrinally sound, very active church, because they were not growing spiritually! As if it was the pastor’s responsibility, or the youth leader’s responsibility, to make them grow! Wrong! The pastor and youth leaders certainly have their role to play, and it is an important one, but in the end, the buck stops with you! Even the best preacher in the world cannot make you grow if you aren’t putting the work in yourself.  Think of it like this. Your body needs to eat 3 times a day, 7 days a week. Skipping meals makes your body weak and tired, and skipping meals repeatedly can cause sickness and even death. Your soul needs to be fed with spiritual food. Every day. If the only “meals” your soul is getting are the ones it gets from church on Sunday, that may be enough to keep it alive, but it won’t be enough for it to grow! So take responsibility today for your own spiritual growth. Don’t depend on your pastor, youth leader, husband, or anyone else to feed you. Decide to feed yourself!

2. Realise that spiritual growth is about more than simply reading your Bible, praying and going to church. These are basic essentials, but it isn’t enough to read - you must obey. It isn’t enough to pray - you must believe. It isn’t enough to go to church - you must be involved, you must exercise your spiritual gifts, you must listen to the preaching and let God change you through it! 

3. Realise that sanctification has two parts to it according to Rom. 6:4-6: Mortification and vivification. 'Mortification' is when “our old man is crucified” with Christ, that is, when we deny our sinful nature of its fleshly desires. It is a necessary part of our pursuit of Christlikeness to remove from our lives those things that are either sinful, unhelpful or hindering spiritual growth in our lives. 'Vivification' is what this passage in Romans refers to as walking “in newness of life.” It is the daily decision to choose to walk in the ways of righteousness and truth. Without mortification and vivification, you can read and pray as much as you like, and you will see no change. 

4. Be disciplined. Remember that verse in II Peter? “Giving all diligence.” That means make a concerted effort! Make a list of those things that the Lord wants you to mortify, and make the decision to do it. Flee from temptation. Avoid those places or people that tempt you in these areas. Be disciplined in your Bible reading and study. Schedule the time in each day, and stick to it. Don’t make any exceptions. Using a Bible reading plan can be very helpful. Be disciplined in your prayer time as well. Use a list. Be committed to church attendance - for every service. Make exceptions only for very objective reasons, like if you’re REALLY sick. Minor ailments like headaches, menstrual cycles, etc. shouldn’t stop you from being at church. 

5. Journal your devotional times. Not only will it help you to remember and assimilate what you have read, but it will give you a yard-stick with which to measure your growth. At the end of each month or year, you can go back and read how much the Lord has taught you. Trust me, it is so encouraging! It is also a wonderful legacy for your children to inherit after you die - a way that they can keep you with them after you are gone and continue to learn from you. Journal how the Lord has answered your prayers, too. Re-reading these will grow your faith in an amazing way!

6. Especially in the beginning, it is very helpful to make yourself accountable to someone. You could choose your husband, a parent, your pastor’s wife, or a good friend - someone you know you will be able to be truthful with, and who will be faithful to rebuke you if you need it! Have them call you every day, or every week, and check up on how you are keeping up with your reading, prayer and church attendance, and even how you are going with mortifying the desires of the flesh. It may be uncomfortable at first, but the rewards are definitely worth it!

7. Finally, dedicate some time each day to Scripture memorisation. Remember, in Ps.119:11 the Bible says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

May your soul and mine prosper in 2016!


Susan Abbett said...

Great thoughts, Suzy! Spiritual growth should always be a priority for us! Thanks for sharing these helps--I know I will be reading and rereading these verses to stay on track! Lots of hugs from France

Jessi said...

Very very helpful. I am sure I will be reading this post several times as well to get it in my mind. And if the Lord leads, I may even teach it to our ladies here in Kenya. Thank you so very much.