Does it feel like you’re going nowhere in your spiritual life? Are you frustrated and discouraged? Don’t lose hope! Transformation awaits you…if you’re willing to invest the effort.
“You’re just a born salesman!”
I graciously acknowledged the compliment from my customer. I had made a good living in sales, but I knew that statement was far from the truth. My abilities and skills in the art of selling took years to learn and hone.
This process is the same for most endeavors in life. A skilled professional is not born with those skills. It takes years of study and practice to get to that level of achievement. Everyone who works in a trade or has developed a skill in any field knows this. It takes continual study and practice over many years to become proficient in an area of interest. The learning never ends.
What about spiritual matters?
When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I began to learn about spiritual matters, and it was the most exciting time of my life. The only prior knowledge I had of the things of God was limited to what I had learned from the denomination in which I was raised (Newsflash – you can be raised in a Christian household and Christian denomination and still not be a Christian). I never read the Bible, so I never knew the treasures it contained. Ignorance reigned. But now I was a son of God and I wanted to learn about my Father and my Lord. I knew the way things worked in my natural life, but for some reason it took time to realize that it would work the same way in my spiritual life.
I think that too often we spiritualize spiritual matters. By this I mean that we fail to apply common-sense principles and wisdom learned in life to our Christian walk. We don’t realize that the physical and spiritual are intertwined. We were originally created as three-part beings—body, soul, and spirit—and all three are meant to function as a whole. Instead, we treat this new life as a separate entity.
When we trust in Jesus Christ and accept his saving work for us, we become “whole” beings once again, but it takes time to learn how to walk as a whole person. We struggle with the new nature/old nature dilemma that Paul shared about in Romans 7, and we make it worse when we mentally separate our spiritual life from our natural life. Too many Christians go to church on Sunday and live like the devil Monday through Saturday. You cannot live Christianity as a one-day-a-week experience – I tried, and it doesn’t work.
After becoming a Christian, I suffered from the classic “Jekyll-Hyde” syndrome (yeah, I just made that up). One day I’d be spirit-filled and godly in word and deed. But the next day, evil Mr. Hyde appeared and left me in a state of remorse for words spoken or things done that were not “Christian.” I found it hard to leave a life of sin—bad habits are hard to break. For some unknown reason, I expected holiness to be part of the package I got when I was born again. But I soon realized that “it’s the same old me.” It didn’t take long to get frustrated and discouraged.
Transformation to spiritual maturity
After continually stumbling in my Christian walk, it finally dawned on me that acquiring knowledge and wisdom and learning how to walk as a spirit-filled son of God required the same effort that it took to learn the skills of my profession. We cannot expect spiritual maturity to merely happen without applying effort on our part. And we cannot fully experience God’s presence unless we seek Him with our whole heart.
But from there you will seek Yahweh your God, and you will find him if you search for him with all your heart and with all your soul.– Deuteronomy 4:29
It takes effort to search out the things of God. Without this whole-hearted effort, we will remain unlearned regarding spiritual matters. There will be a disconnect, a chasm that will effectively keep us from the full sharing that God desires to have with His children.
I made the decision to learn and apply God’s word, the same way I learned how to sell. I learned about the renewed mind and it opened my eyes.
I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to the pattern of this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can test and approve what the will of God is—the thing that is good and pleasing and perfect.– Romans 12: 1, 2 (REV)
Before I became a son of God, I conformed to the pattern of this age. I knew that it would take effort on my part to change that pattern in my mind to form a new one, a pattern of godliness, and be transformed into the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, because the truth resides in Jesus, you are to put off the old self that belongs to your former way of life and that is being corrupted because of deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which has been created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.– Ephesians 4:21-24 (REV)
(From old to new – the same transition I experienced in my sales career, and the same principles apply!)
In our natural life, we study under men and women who share their wealth of knowledge and understanding. The same is true in our spiritual life: we have the Word of God, the Bible, and the ministries of teachers within the Church. We have access to tens of thousands of books and articles written by knowledgeable, mature Christian believers. We also have the wisdom of God that we receive by way of the Spirit. We can communicate with the Creator – He who teaches mankind knowledge (Psa. 94:10). How awesome is that!
Make an investment to receive dividends.
Understanding the way things work, I invested more time reading and studying the Bible in order to build a relationship with my God and gain an understanding of how to live and walk like Christ. 40 years later, I am still learning, but my life has been transformed in so many different ways by God’s Word. I have grown in my knowledge and understanding of spiritual matters, and my relationship with my Father is much deeper. I spend much more time in study and prayer because I know from years of experience that this investment will reap great dividends in wisdom and knowledge. We grow up in wisdom and godliness just as we grow up in other areas of life.
With aged men is wisdom, in length of days understanding.– Job 12:12 (REV)
I am not saying that one must be old to know how to live a godly life. It’s simply a fact that we accumulate knowledge and understanding as time goes on. The longer we live, the more we learn and understand. This is true in both the natural and spiritual realms.
Learning to walk by the spirit is an ability gained through learning, practice and experience. The more you learn, practice, and apply the spiritual principles involved, the more proficient you become. And you will ever be learning, so your age doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start and don’t give up.
For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know only in part, but then I will know fully even as also I was fully known.– 1 Corinthians 13:12 (REV)
Today we know only a little compared to what we will know in the future. But God does not want us to be ignorant. He wants us to be knowledgeable of Him and what He has given to those who love Him.
Exert the effort!
It is clear that people can attain wisdom and the understanding that comes with it. But it takes a determined effort. Sadly, most people are unwilling to exert the effort needed to gain wisdom. Yet God implores us to do so!
Wisdom is the principal thing, so get wisdom; and with all your purchases, purchase understanding.– Proverbs 4:7 (REV)
How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.– Proverbs 16:16 (REV)
A lot of money is invested in pursuit of a career with the hope of attaining a lifestyle of some luxury. Yet very little is invested by comparison in pursuit of spiritual knowledge. Too many of God’s people are living unproductive and defeated lives because they have neglected true spiritual nourishment.
For everyone who partakes of milk is inexperienced in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, even those who through repeated use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.– Hebrews 5:13-14 (REV)
If you are inexperienced in the word of righteousness and genuinely desire to grow in your relationship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ, then invest in it. I encourage you to continue to study and pray. Approach your spiritual education with God the same way you would approach an education in preparation for a career. Your level of seeking will determine your level of growth and spiritual insight. Learn everything you can and apply it, practice it, and do it until it becomes your normal behavior. Your life will be transformed and you will be holy and pleasing to God. You will experience a deep, personal, and intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father.
The rewarding life God has prepared is waiting for you. Yes, it will take time and effort, but how much time and effort did you put into your career? Think of the time that is spent on learning a sport or mastering a game. I assure you – no, wait, God assures you – the benefits of pursuing His knowledge and wisdom are beyond measure.
It’s not difficult. It just takes investing the time and making a whole-hearted commitment. That’s the way things work in life.