ne of the early explorers to the North Pole charted his journey hourly to ensure that he stayed on course through the white wasteland. At one point a strange phenomenon began to occur. As he checked his position, his instruments indicated that even though he had been moving northward, he was actually farther south than he had been an hour before. Regardless of the speed at which he walked in the direction of the Pole, he continued to get farther from it. Finally he discovered that he had ventured onto an enormous iceberg that was drifting in one direction as he was walking in the other.
There is a world of difference between activity and progress. That is as true on a Christian’s journey toward the Celestial City of heaven as it is on a North Pole expedition. The Christian life is meant to be one of growth and progress. We are even commanded in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How can we know that we are growing in grace—that we are making real progress and not merely deceiving ourselves with activity?
It’s often hard to recognize spiritual advance over a week’s time or maybe even a month’s time. Trying to determine the progress of a soul is like looking at the growth of an oak—you can’t actually see it growing at the moment, but you can compare it to where it was some time ago and see that there has indeed been growth. The following ten questions can help you discern whether you are maturing spiritually. Use them to evaluate the past six to twelve months.
1. Are you more thirsty for God than ever before?
The writer of Psalm 42:1 said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Have you been thirsting for God like that? Is He your passion? If so, your soul-thirst is a sign of soul-growth.
Do you yearn to know Jesus Christ more and more intimately? In spite of all of his maturity in Christ, in spite of all he had seen and experienced, the Apostle Paul declared late in life, “I want to know Christ” (Phil. 3:10). What was he talking about? Didn’t he already know Jesus better than most of us ever will? Of course he did. But the more he knew Jesus, the more he wanted to know Him. The more Paul progressed in spiritual strength, the more thirsty for God he became.
Is your soul thirsty for the Lord? Do you long to see Him face to face? Like a deer thirsting for water, are you thirsting to be filled and saturated with God? That’s a sign of someone who’s growing as a Christian.
2. Are you more and more loving?
The mark of a Christian is love, especially love for other Christians. “Dear friends,” urged the Apostle John, “let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God” (1 John 4:7). If you are growing in love, you are growing in grace.
I have a friend who, early in his Christian life, quickly and openly expressed his disgust with individuals and groups who disagreed with him theologically. But as he has grown in grace he has become more gracious. He is less frequently combative and angry with those to the left of his views, especially if they claim to love Christ.
Can you recall recent instances of Christlike love in your life? Have there been occasions when you’ve sacrificed your own preferences, plans, or rights for those of others? These are mileposts on the journey in grace. Those stalled in selfishness are stuck spiritually.
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