Take The Old Paths

Mike Focht 4/19/2024

The paths of spiritual growth are very old and very well-traveled. As we begin to talk about the practical aspects of spiritual growth, it is important to accept the fact that there are no secrets. There is no “new way” to grow spiritually. Technology has not changed the process. God has not changed how we approach Him because we live in the day and age of internet accessibility, short attention spans, and information overload.

   Anyone who wants to grow spiritually must do so like the earliest Christians. The Bible clarifies what paths are indisputably necessary to reach spiritual maturity. Allow me to name a few: the Word of God, prayer, obedience, faith, Christian fellowship, humble surrender, suffering, serving others, worship, as well as baptism and communion. 

   Our problem is that we tend to look for quick fixes. The idea of slowly growing like a fruitful tree over numerous years doesn’t sound appealing to most. That is, of course, unless you are the fruitful tree. Christians tend to imagine their spiritual growth will happen like magic, randomly and mysteriously appearing! We know previously mentioned paths are necessary, but we tend to become discouraged when any path doesn’t visibly speed up growth. Then we say stuff like: I tried praying. . . Going to church isn’t going to make a difference. . . I don’t want to read my Bible. . . etc. 

   We give up pressing into prayer when our prayers are not answered as soon as we want or how we would like. We give up on fellowship when we don’t experience the particular friendliness we hope for or are not welcomed into the friend group we admire. We give up on the Word when the moments of delightful insight or emotional goosebumps come few and far between. We give up on clear paths of spiritual growth when we find they are hard and create friction between our sinful desires and God’s desire for personal holiness. We give up on the old paths when the new paths feel quicker, easier, and more entertaining. 

   Stirred emotions and good churchy experiences are not God’s path to spiritual growth. Even remarkable testimonies can give us the wrong idea at times. We can hear a radical testimony where God works in a life through glorious supernatural means and then infer from that testimony that the individual’s present spiritual maturity was built upon a singularly magical experience. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. God does work in supernatural ways to draw people to the right way, but once we get there, we still have to travel the same old paths of growth that every spiritual giant has walked. 

   The Bible is full of examples of people who experience the supernatural and then turn from those experiences and walk away from God. The supernatural experience didn’t compensate for the lack of God’s Word, sincere prayer, godly fellowship, or a surrendered will. Sadly, I am sure we can all name too many of our friends and family who have done the same. Looking for a miracle fix to spiritual growth is a sign of spiritual immaturity.

   God may miraculously heal a person to draw them back to Himself, send an angel to help them or warn them on their way, visit them in a dream or vision, or even speak to them directly and in an undeniable way through His Holy Spirit. But that very person still has to grow in Him the same way the rest of us do!

   Think of the most spiritual and godly people through all of church history. You will find that they were men and women who poured into God’s Word, spent real time in prayer, loved the church, served others humbly, boldly proclaimed the gospel, took baptism and communion seriously enough to die for their beliefs, and intensely worshiped God both publicly and personally. In essence, they were people who seriously and soberly followed Jesus in all the ways the Word of God obviously and clearly says we should.

   Are you serious about growing spiritually? Then firmly decide today to spend your entire life pursuing God on the well-worn and well-tested paths walked by the godliest saints of every age. There are no shortcuts to true spiritual maturity and the first step needed is to stop looking for one.