Spiritual development occurs by the study of God’s Word (1Peter 2:1-3); by increasing our knowledge of God (Col 1:9, 10); by deepening faith (Eph 4:13); by showing love (Eph 4:15-16); and by developing Christian character.
Spiritual development, by its very nature, begins with the Holy Spirit finding you willing to grow. If this is not happening, consider this encouragement: “Let us go on unto perfection (maturity)” (Heb 6:1). Spiritual development involves a better knowledge of God, proper attitudes, practical and personal knowledge of the Word, character development, constant worship, and meaningful service.
Spiritual growth is similar to other forms of growth in that it begins inside, where life from God waits for the water and warmth to stir what God implanted. Growth outwardly begins with the devotional life of each believer.
Fundamental to knowing God Better To learn proper attitudes (Matt 11:28-30)
The Lord Jesus Christ gave the ultimate challenge to be yoked to Him and therefore learn all we need to be a consistently developing person. Christlikeness and spiritual development come at the cost of deliberately submitting to His control. He is the supreme example of the meekness and lowliness that is necessary to please God. A Christlike attitude isn’t something we try harder to get; it is God working in us and our cooperating with God. It would be a profitable exercise to read the gospel according to Matthew and identify the occasions where the meekness and lowliness of Christ are seen.
Developing a personal and practical knowledge of the Word (Luke 1 and 2): Zacharias and Elizabeth were “both righteous before God” as a result of knowing God. When Elizabeth knew she was to have a child, she hid herself for five months (Luke 1:24, 25). She appreciated the Lord looking on her with favor, and was thankful. She probably spent most of those five months with God preparing herself for the training of the child. That was her personal exercise as she thought of the responsibility of motherhood. They “both were walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” This presents a unified testimony and consistency to our children and also to others. Two ordinary people, given to the practice of the teachings of the Word of God, were chosen by God to do the extraordinary.
Developing character (1Tim 3:15; 4:7, 16; 2Tim 1:5; 2:15): Character is that which is inward, out of which flows the person who is visible to the world. We are marked by our character and we must take responsibility for our character development. A little sin in our life outweighs all that is wise and honorable in our character. The books of Timothy are full of character-building instructions. As a young man, he would have contrasted his father’s philosophical skepticism and his grandmother and mother’s unfeigned (sincere) faith. Lois and Eunice communicated their trust and confidence in God to Timothy.
Timothy was able to discern and learn sound doctrine as he developed in the things of God, encouraged by the living examples in the home. The trivial, unnecessary side issues were to be avoided. Appropriate conduct in the assembly was to be practiced. These character traits are not limited to one gender.
Ministering effectively to others: When we spend time with God, we learn God’s thoughts, begin to love God’s purposes, and appreciate God’s people. This response to our own devotional needs enables us to be a blessing to others.
ATTITUDE OF DEVOTION
A submissive and teachable attitude (Psa 42:1, 2; 63:1).
When we love a person deeply, we are not satisfied with superficial knowledge in love. We want it to be a growing and developing awareness of the one we love. So it is when a woman or man loves the Lord. In Luke 10:39-42, Mary not only opened her home to the Lord Jesus, but opened her heart also, as she sat at His feet and heard His Word. The Lord commended her saying, “she hath chosen that good part.” The Lord was compassionate. He let His love show. He maintained communication with His Father. He used the Word of God – and so must I.
ACTS OF DEVOTION
We need an ordered heart (Psa 46:10; Isa 30:15).
We need a time and place to meet with God to develop a spiritual view of God, ourselves, and our lives. In John 12:2-3, Mary worshiped as she anointed His feet with perfume, a costly act representing about a year’s earnings. She held nothing back. People criticized, but the Lord commended her. He welcomed and appreciated her gift and worship.
RESULTS OF DEVOTION
An occupied and grateful heart (Eph 5:18-6:9; Col 3:16-4:6)
Our hearts are warmed as we appreciate and have fellowship with God. Devotion to Him is greatly enhanced as we respond totally to Him. Faith becomes stronger the more we are controlled by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Spirituality increases as our character becomes progressively more Christlike. Our knowledge of the things of God deepens and our conversation with others includes spiritual things. We are happier and have a song and a thankful attitude that begets submission and willingness to sacrifice for others. 1 Peter 3:4 speaks of a “meek and quiet spirit.” This was evidenced in both Luke 10 and John 12. No words of self-defense were given, but both received a commendation by the Lord. Oh, the beauty of a meek and quiet spirit!
Principles to remember: a significant, developing spiritual life requires an open heart to respond devotionally to God. We receive a personal message as God speaks to our need; a promise from God as He assures us; a command from God for our good; a principle from God to guide in making decisions; an application we can make today or tomorrow. A responsive life needs an ordered heart to express itself to God. As we treasure life, we need an occupied heart prepared to meet situations that arise. As we share life with a grateful heart, we understand what Mary, a devoted worshiper, knew.