Growth takes time. We know this from a biological standpoint. Humans spend their first nine months of existence in the womb growing and being nurtured by their mother. Once we are born our growth continues through our teen years. We learn to roll over, then we walk, then our parents are sizing up our diapers and clothes. Year after year we have to get new clothes and new shoes because we can’t stop growing. We grow taller and bigger until we finally slow down between the ages of 16-20… It’s a lot of growth. But it takes a lot of time.
I think we can agree that growth takes time biologically, and most of us would probably admit that growth takes time professionally. Rarely does anyone wake up one day to realize that through no effort of their own they have achieved greatness and become the very person they dream of being. Rather, most people have an idea of where they want to end up in life and then they take the necessary steps to achieve that end. That takes time. In his book Outliers Malcom Gladwell records that it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you are considered an expert at any skill or talent. That’s a lot of time.
We understand that growth takes time physically and professionally… But few us like the idea of growth taking time spiritually. We often have that conversion experience where we feel God’s presence like never before, but it quickly fades and we soon realize that we have very little connection or relationship with God. And we begin to ask ourselves, “Why don’t I know all the answers? Why do I still struggle with this sin? Why am I still angry? Why don’t I feel God?”
When it comes to spiritual growth, we want the results immediately. Most of the time it is because the time associated with spiritual growth requires pain. We feel pain as we have to say goodbye to some relationships. We feel the pain of no longer reaching for the bottle to relax. We feel the pain of confronting the hurt we caused in someone’s life because of the way we lived before Christ. We feel the pain of sacrificing 10% of our salary so that the mission of God can move forward.
And often times, when confronted with these growth pains, we choose to not grow because the pain of staying the same is less than the pain of change. And then, we look at our lives and say, “Why haven’t I grown? Why am I not where I want to be spiritually?” And more often then not, it’s because we get impatient with what growth requires… So we quit and throw in the towel. But as we said at the beginning, growth takes time.
Rich Villodas tweeted the other day,
“If Jesus spent 8 hours a day, every day, for 3 years with his disciples, he would have spent over 8,000 hours with them. And after all that time, they still had significant gaps! Peter still denied him. Thomas still doubted. James and John still wanted power. 8,000 hours with his disciples and they had gaps.
Yet, we think 1 hour a week on Sunday morning is gonna change us?”
That convicts me! So often we don’t grow because we don’t put the time into grow. We never develop a consistent and steady prayer and Bible time. We don’t make it a priority to communicate and connect with other believers. We pack our schedules so full that we never have time to serve others. And all of these are steps to spiritual growth. And we often don't make the time for those steps. Which means we aren't growing by our own doing.
Please understand, when we feel distant from God and we feel like our spiritual growth is stunted, the problem is not with Him. It’s always with us.
So here's my suggestion: If you want to grow in your faith like never before this year, anticipate making sacrifices (pain!) so that you can spend more time with Him.