The marks on the back door tell of your children’s growth over the years. The clothing in the back of the closet the kids can’t wear anymore speaks of your children’s growth. The rising cost of schoolbooks as the kids move into high school and college bears testimony to the maturation of the offspring.
They’re growing up, but how can you tell when spiritual growth is happening? Where are the markers, and how are we to know if one’s development as a disciple of Christ has plateaued or is regressing? Unfortunately, there’s no answer book for this question; only indicators exist. Here are some indicators that we’re growing in Christ and getting it right.
Your appetite changes.
Your taste for spiritual things can change, and you find yourself loving Bible study and looking forward to it. It’s fun and far from being a chore. In Job 23:12, Job said he esteemed the words of God’s mouth more than his necessary food. Simultaneously, this is happening. For example, your thirst for a trashy novel, an entertainment magazine, or a controversial movie is drying up. Your appetite for spiritual junk is decreasing, and that’s good.
You’re disgusted by the shameful.
The more we become like Jesus, which is God’s plan for every believer, the more we will turn away from activities that used to fascinate us. In Ephesians 5:12, Paul described specific activities as “shameful to even speak of.” On another occasion, Paul discussed the enemies of the cross of Christ. In Philippians 3:19, he said whose end is destruction and whose glory is in their shame. He said they set their minds on earthly things. So there’s no need for any more explicit movies or dirty jokes. You don’t need them anymore because you have better things to read and do.
You have a love for believers.
There’s something almost uncanny about this, but the closer we are to Jesus, the more we’ll love His people. Likewise, the further we stray from God, the less use we have for them and the more critical we become of them. It’s an ironclad principle that never fails: love Jesus and His people. Love the world, despise His people. Remember that idea the next time you hear some backslidden church member running down church members. John 13:35 reminds us that we are His disciples and should love each other. So, if you find yourself treasuring those believers at church who genuinely give their best to God, even though it’s small to the world.
You feel an unusual peace and quietness.
The latest upheavals in politics and the economy don’t unnerve you as they used to. You’re far steadier than you were. You still care about the country, pray for your leaders, and work to be a good citizen. Still, you know that fixing your hopes on them is a recipe for disappointment. Colossians 3:1-2 reminds us that if we’re to rise in Christ, we should set our affection on things above where Christ sits at the hand of God. We should set our minds on things above, not on earth. Some of your Christian friends will be angry with you because you’re not upset by what disturbs them. They may accuse you of not caring or being unpatriotic. Indeed, you would be as panicky if you were in the know as they are.
You feel more patient.
Your love for people and patience with them is becoming steadier and more robust. Sometimes, it surprises you. You remember when unloving people, crazy drivers, and ungodly conditions in the world drove you to distraction, but now, you can minister to people who do things displeasing to God. Just as nurses and surgeons in the operating room look past the tragedy of brokenness and blood to treat their patients, you find yourself more able to do something similar. You look past the same and love the person regardless, enabling you to serve in jail, homeless shelter, and mission centers, all in love.
You have laughter and joy.
This development is surprising, but you may have expected that becoming like Christ would mean growing sterner, graver, and more serious. While part of you deepened that way, your spirit has sprouted wings. Now, you can soar higher, laugh at trouble and find joy in the simplest pleasures, rejoicing in Jesus when nothing goes your way. Sometimes, you find yourself laughing when nothing provokes it. Joy is like that. Psalm 16:11 reminds us that God puts gladness in our hearts more than when the grain and new wine increased.
You have a new generosity.
You haven’t given away all of your money or anything, but how you look at money is evolving. It’s become “a means to an end” and not the goal of anything. Money is a tool to bless people, for Christ’s sake. Some say one mark of maturity is to enjoy saving money more than spending it, but we can go that one better: to enjoy putting money to work in God’s service and people is best of all.
You find joy in anonymous acts.
It’s said that Jesus went about doing good, specifically in Acts 10:38. That’s the idea: leaving a trail of blessed people in your path. Of course, not all our working and giving should be anonymous. We’re bearing witness from God through our good deeds; thus, we want people to know their Source and be directed toward Him. However, blessing someone without knowing where it came from is just as big a delight. Most of our prayers for people should be anonymous. If you feel that you need to keep reminding people that you’re praying for them, it may indicate a lack of faith in your prayer and in the power of telling them that you’re praying for them.
Perhaps the best indicator that we’re growing in Christ is when someone brags about your godly character, and you think they’re joking. Christlikeness seems to be a lot like humility. Those with it are least aware of it but only see how much further they have to go.