Spiritual growth is something that a Christian should experience regularly. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), but are also being made into his likeness at the same time (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is the process of sanctification. If God has saved you, there will be evidence of growth and maturity over time.
But there are many Christians who seem to get stuck at some point, and there is little to no spiritual growth for a long time. If you are in that spot right now but still actively seeking Jesus, don’t worry. This is not a hopeless place to be, but it can feel that way. I’ve been there, and although you may not be able to see what God is doing during that time, he is at work. He will bring you out of it, and there will be growth because of it.
But for others, there may be more to your lack of spiritual growth. Here are five reasons you may not be growing in the things of Christ.
1. You are giving into sin.
If there is a sin issue in your life, one that you can’t seem to get over, it can halt what God wants to do in you. As long as you are willfully choosing to give into sin, there are going to be consequences to your spiritual growth and your relationship with God. And the longer you give into those things, the deeper the rut in your life.
This can be disastrous for the Christian. I have met more than one woman who refused to give up a sinful relationship, and the consequences were devastating. It led to a complete disconnect with Christ, which is what sin does.
You must take drastic measures with sin. Do not coddle it, do not give it your attention, and do not consider it harmless. Jesus rightly says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30).
Don’t give into despair if this is you. It not an easy place to be, but for every temptation, God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability to resist it (1 Cor. 10:13).
2. You are in the process of being healed.
Anyone who has a history of abuse in their life, whether sexual, verbal, physical, spiritual, or emotional, needs healing. Without taking care of your wounds, you can only go so far in relationship with others.
This is also true of your relationship with Christ. Eventually, he will want to get at those hurts, which can be a long, painful process. He will re-break bones that didn’t mend properly and tear off the scabs on your heart and scrape out the infection. He heals us so that we can pour into others and experience the full range of joy that comes from the redemptive, healing love of Christ. Staying in your hurts means that you will be limited in your ability to love Christ and love other people.
The sad truth is, the church is full of hurting people, many whom have just learned to cope with the pain or numb themselves to it. But that part of you that remains hurt will be a part that remains ineffective. If you are trying to manage your pain apart from Jesus Christ, guarding your wounds from the only God who can effectively heal them, turn to him now. Embrace all that God has for you, including a healed heart.
3. You are not in community with other believers.
We are a body, meant to grow up together into the head that is Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16). When we isolate ourselves or withdraw from community, it hurts us and it hinders the body of Christ. We are not meant to do life alone; we were created from the beginning for relationship. It is essential for the Christian to be connected to the body of Christ through the local church.
Think of the sheep that wander off alone from the rest of the herd-they become vulnerable prey for wolves and other predators. It is the same for the Christian who tries to do it alone. It is only in relationship with other believers that we can grow into what God has called us to.
So connect and dig into community, in whatever local family God has called you to be a part of. Confess your sins to one another. Pray for each other. Worship in the congregation. Use the gifts that God has given you to build up the body of Christ.
4. You haven’t tasted and seen that the Lord is good.
Paul says that our longing for “the pure spiritual milk” is a result of tasting the Lord’s goodness. When we taste his goodness, we long for that which makes us “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3). I know that whatever God does to mature and sanctify me will be for my good and his glory, even if the circumstances are hard. I long for more of him because he is my ultimate good.
Knowing and seeing that God is good, even amidst persecution, death, and suffering, is the attitude of the mature Christian. If you haven’t savored his goodness, your spiritual life will be dull. We were made to worship him and reflect his glory, and we cannot do that if we do not taste his goodness to us daily. Spiritual growth always gives glory and praise to God.
5. You are not building discipline into your life.
This is not a call for more legalism, but for discipline. The two are different, though they can appear the same on the outside at times. Discipline is a way of saying “no” to yourself and “yes” to Jesus, and it is demonstrated in the action you take to grow closer to him. We are not disciplining ourselves for discipline’s sake, but for the purpose of bringing glory to God with our daily habits and routines.
Without building discipline into your life, you will lack the strength to follow Christ when the going gets tough. And it will always get tough. Christianity is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve been a Christian for any time at all, you know that you will experience the sufferings of Christ. They will come, and the discipline that we establish will be life-giving and God-glorifying in times of trial.
To use an analogy, the athlete must train for the competition, and so must Christians. We must read our bibles, and pray, and fast, and do the things that Scripture tells us to do. We must stand ready for our Lord, awake and watchful, because he is coming back. Legalism is practicing these things and condemning others with no inward heart change. It is discipline for the sake of discipline, done for self-glorification, rather than Christ-glorification.
We cannot change our hearts; God is the one who gives the growth. But we can devote ourselves to Jesus humbly, seeking him through community, scripture, prayer, healing, and forsaking sin in our lives. Growth is dependent on the action we take as Christians to love God with all our heart, soul, and might (Deut. 6:4).
There are many in the church right now who are stuck or fall away because they don’t really want to do the hard things that Jesus demands for our spiritual growth. They just want to show up and live the easy, cushy Christian life when no such life exists. Spiritual growth demands a life that is ultimately submitted to Jesus Christ and his will.
If you are a Christian, your suffering will lead to spiritual life and growth.
Your self-denial will lead to a changed heart and mind.
And your love will point towards the only one worth our total devotion: Jesus Christ.