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How to stop our growth
- Jacob Ninan
All of us who want earnestly to grow spiritually know what all challenges we face. Temptation after temptation follows us around wherever we go, people oppose us or mock us, troubles come along which seem beyond our ability, God's ways seem to be inexplicable and sometimes disappointing, etc. We find it's very easy to backslide and difficult to make progress. Certainly our spiritual development comes only through a battle--where we hold on to faith, seek God for help and make every attempt to get closer to God.
In such a context, the only thing we have to do to get stunted in our growth is to stop paying attention to growth. Growth does not take place automatically, as many people seem to assume. They assume that once we have come to God He will do everything that is needed and we will grow. Yes, God wants to complete what He has started to do in us (Php.1:6), but He cannot do it unless we cooperate with Him (He.3:6). Some people think that we have to only keep reading God's word, and that as we do that and see the glory of God revealed there we will automatically be changed to become like that (2Co.3:18). But no transformation will happen if we are only hearers of the word and not doers (Jas.1:22). Some others think that all we need is to be baptised in the Holy Spirit and then He will transform us into the likeness of Christ. But even the Spirit cannot do that for us if we will not receive His power and resist carrying out evil deeds (Ro.8:13).
In simple words, the way to stop growing is to be passive, and to keep on hoping that things will change, and God will do a miracle. This kind of hope is foolish because it is unrealistic. It does not recognise all the exhortations in the Bible to do what God tells us, nor does it consider what salvation means. There are rare occasions when God may intervene in our life with a miracle, especially if we are beginners in our Christian life. This was what God did for the people of Israel by opening the Red Sea. He may do similar things for an alcoholic by taking away his desire entirely, or clearing up someone's debt in an unexpected way. But we can't ask for miracles and sit passively doing nothing from our side.
Transformation of life begins to happen when we have heard the truth and respond to it by repenting from our old, sinful ways and seeking to do the right things, asking for God's help. This involves denying ourselves, giving up our old pleasures, and following Jesus (Lk.9:23). God wants us to do the right things till they become our nature.
If God were to magically change our hearts and make us do the right things, He would be making us into robots. But it is when we feel the temptation to do wrong but choose to deny that and do God's will that our transformation happens. This is not salvation by works, but these are works that follow salvation. If we are unwilling, it shows we are not seriously interested in salvation, even if we say and imagine otherwise.