God is not as interested in what we “do” for him as in our bearing spiritual fruit. And only his Spirit at work within us can produce the godly character he desires. Consider Paul’s prayer for the believers in Colossae: “We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
If only Christians were as concerned about their spiritual growth as they are about their physical growth! When Paul entreated the believers to “live a life worthy of the Lord,” he simply meant that they should grow in grace and bear fruit to the glory of God. Fruitfulness, in fact, is the only evidence that someone is a genuine Christian.
How can we tell we are growing spiritually? Scripture offers the only standard by which we can measure ourselves. Jesus declared, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Just as physical birth is a beginning point for physical growth, being born again is the beginning point for spiritual growth. We have the capacity to grow spiritually in much the same way that flowers, trees, and babies grow and develop. We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Further, we are exhorted to “crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
“God … makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7). If we fail to display signs of spiritual growth, either something is terribly wrong with us or we never experienced life from God to begin with. “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree … they will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:12, 14). The goal of this growth process is that we bear fruit.
The Holy Spirit will help you recognize areas where you need to grow spiritually if you will humble yourself and ask him for discernment.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:33-34).
Enduring faith is the committing of all things into God’s hands. Enduring faith says to the Lord, “I cast every event, every care, into your hands. And I hold you to your promise to commit all that you are — all your omniscience and omnipotent strength — to preserve me.”
Whenever you face afflictions and persecution, Satan loves to whisper fears and lies: “How are you going to make it through this crisis? What will you do now? If God is faithful, how could he allow this to happen to you? How could he put your loved ones at risk this way? What will become of you, your family, your job, your ministry?”
Enduring faith rises up and answers the enemy’s lies: “Devil, you’re asking the wrong questions. The question for me right now is not how I’m going to make it; it is not what will become of me and mine. I have already placed everything that concerns me into my loving Father’s hands. I have trusted all future events to him because he has proved himself faithful time and again. He can be trusted!”
The question for believers is, “How can I love and serve my Lord better? How shall I serve others as myself?” You see, enduring faith declares, “I have no will of my own; rather, his will be done. No more personal agenda for me! No more playing God by trying to solve my own problems or those of others.”
With such faith, you will be ready for whatever the present hour brings and your heart will be established in your heavenly Father. May the Holy Spirit keep your mind stayed on the Lord and his promises!
“Laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:1-2).
Do not blame God for not listening to your prayers if you have a grudge against another person lodged in your heart. Christ has laid out clear guidelines for us — he will not deal with anyone who has a wrathful and unforgiving spirit. We are to “lay aside” such attitudes. God’s law of prayer is clear on this matter: “I desire therefore that [you] pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
Do you have hard feelings smoldering in your heart? Do not look upon it as something you have a right to indulge. God takes such things very seriously and all the discord and friction among Christian brothers and sisters must grieve his heart more than all the sins of the ungodly.
If you think your prayers might be hindered, be sure you are not smoldering over your hurt feelings or mistreatment from others. Satan cleverly goads Christians into being more sensitive to their emotions than they are to the voice of the Spirit. This can lead to a spirit of revenge when there should be a spirit of forgiveness and love. Yes, even those who have hurt you the most deserve forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
Don’t go about giving in to feelings of hurt and retaliation, then run into the secret place of prayer at night and expect a miracle of deliverance. Jesus said to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Time is short and the day of the Lord is at hand. Set your heart on following the words of the prophet Micah: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Your feelings certainly do not affect your salvation or your relationship with the Lord. They may try to deceive you or rob you of your peace and joy in Christ; they may even harass or accuse. But it is time you recognize some unsettling feelings are messages from the enemy, intended to bring you down into despair and fear.
You may be walking in the Spirit, reading your Bible, praying and loving the Lord with all your heart when suddenly, unexpectedly, troubling feelings flood your mind and spirit. Wicked principalities buffet you with unwanted negative feelings when you least expect them. If left unchecked, your emotions can drag you down and distort your vision.
People may throw around theology and simple formulas, such as, “You shouldn’t feel like that! Where is your faith? God wants you to live in victory and constant joy.” But God wants to teach you some powerful lessons about feelings and how to deal with them — and it is vital that you arm yourself with the Word of God.
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Your loving Father did not give you feelings of fear and doubt; instead, his gift to you is a perfectly sound mind.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal … casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
These downcast feelings are tactics of the enemy that cause you to question God’s faithfulness. But God isn’t the author of them! Today you can turn the temptation to doubt into an opportunity for high praise as you cast down negative thoughts in the name of Jesus.
“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, KJV). The very word race suggests competition. God’s people are likened to runners in a long distance race, competing for a prize — the prize being a glorious revelation of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We corrupt the race towards eternity when God’s people compete with one another for success, prosperity and acclaim. Christ becomes nothing more than the sponsor, since all the runners claim to be competing in his name.
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). There was a time when the race was not to the swift or prosperous but, rather, to the humble and weak. This race encountered persecution, privation, hardness and martyrdom. Why did these runners go through such turmoil and suffering rather than drop out? Simply because, to them, the prize was worth it all. They wanted nothing but Christ!
If faith is rewarded with anything short of the prize of a high calling in Christ Jesus, it is not worth competing for. The winner of this race is the child of God who wants to obtain nothing but more of Jesus, casting the things of this world at the feet of the cross as worthless junk.
The Christian who gives up competition for worldly objects and applause will discover what it means to be content. In all history, only those who have learned to renounce the world and all that is in it have discovered true happiness. One such person said, “I never knew what it meant to be happy until I quit striving to be great.”
Ask the Lord today to refocus your attention so that you will win the worthy prize of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.