As Christians, we believe that God has a purpose and plan for each of our lives. Yet often, we find ourselves feeling stuck in our spiritual growth, unsure of what God wants us to do next. In this blog post, I aim to encourage and equip Christians, especially those from Evangelical and Charismatic backgrounds, to understand the concept of divine progress – that is, making continual growth in fulfilling God’s purposes.
- God has a purpose and plan for each of our lives that unfolds over time
- We partner with God in this plan through continual growth and obedience
- Divine progress involves growing in godly character, spiritual gifts, and advancing God’s Kingdom
- Challenges and trials are used by God to propel our progress
- As we walk in faith and obedience, we can trust God to direct our paths
Understanding Divine Progress
The idea of divine progress recognizes that God has an intentional plan of growth and development for each of our lives. As Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV) says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God has prepared unique “good works” for each of us, things that only we can accomplish for His Kingdom.
However, this plan does not automatically or instantly unfold. Rather, God guides us through a journey of growth, equipping us over time for all that He has called us to. As Philippians 1:6 (NKJV) promises, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The “good work” refers to God’s overall purpose and plan for our lives, which He continues to direct and complete.
Therefore, divine progress is the process of partnering with God as He progressively guides us into His purpose and plan. It involves continually growing in godly character, developing our spiritual gifts, stepping out in faith when led by God, and being refined through trials. As we respond in obedience and faith at each stage, God propels us forward in fulfilling our destiny in Christ.
One key aspect of divine progress is growth in Christlike character. God often allows trials and challenges in order to shape our character into greater maturity (James 1:2-4). Learning to respond to difficulties with godliness – patience, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness – is far more valuable than simply having comfortable circumstances.
As we yield to God’s work in our hearts, the Holy Spirit transforms us increasingly into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Divine progress therefore requires denying our fleshly desires and being led by the Spirit, as Romans 8:13 (NKJV) exhorts: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Putting to death sinful habits and ungodly reactions allows space for godly virtues to flourish.
In addition, we grow in Christlike humility as we recognize that all our gifts and abilities come from God’s grace, not our own merit (1 Corinthians 4:7). This delivers us from pride and self-promotion and allows God’s power to work through us. Our character development is not for our own glory but for God’s glory alone.
Discovering Spiritual Gifts
Another aspect of divine progress is discovering and growing in the use of our spiritual gifts. Scripture affirms that each follower of Christ receives diverse gifts from the Holy Spirit for the building up of the church (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). These gifts include prophecy, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, wisdom, knowledge and faith (Romans 12:6-8).
As we step out to serve God, we begin to discern what gifts He has given us. This allows us to focus on using our gifts, rather than trying to be gifted in areas God did not intend for us. Serving others also takes the focus off ourselves and transforms us into vessels God can use for His glory.
An important part of divine progress is earnestly desiring greater spiritual gifts, while recognizing their proper place. As 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV) instructs: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” The greatest gift is love (1 Corinthians 13:13) but we should still eagerly ask God to develop and use the special gifts He has given us. As good stewards, we have a responsibility to cultivate what God has entrusted to us for His purposes.
Advancing God’s Kingdom
In addition to character and gifts, divine progress has a corporate dimension – the advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth. Jesus makes clear that each of us has a part to play in spreading the Gospel and making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). God equips us not merely for our own benefit but for the benefit of others.
Paul provides a great example of someone yielded to God’s plan of divine progress. Though specially called as an apostle, he did not consider himself to have “already attained” God’s purpose, but pressed on toward the upward call of God (Philippians 3:12-14). Despite persecution, challenges, imprisonments and shipwrecks, Paul continually advanced the Kingdom through ministry and new church plants (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
We too have a unique Kingdom assignment from God that unfolds over the course of our lives as we walk in obedience. This requires absolute surrender to God’s will, a willingness to take risks for Him, and perseverance through difficulties. As we trust Him step-by-step on this faith journey, we can be assured of God’s purpose unfolding in and through us.
Refinement Through Trials
A crucial truth about divine progress is that God uses trials and challenges to propel our growth in fulfilling His purposes. Scripture warns us plainly, “don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through” (1 Peter 4:12). Difficulties are not a sign of God’s displeasure or abandonment; rather, they are used by God to refine and prepare us for greater things.
As the trials of life buffet us, we gain greater endurance, patience, trust in God, and humility. Hardship strips away sinful dependencies, self-sufficiency, and superficial spirituality. Through pain, we learn compassion. Through weakness, we find strength in Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Had God protected us from every hardship, we would remain immature and unequipped for our Kingdom calling.
James exhorts us to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2). This joy comes not from masochism but from the quiet confidence that God is using all of it – pain, grief, disappointment, failure – to propel us into the purpose He has prepared. Our refinement here on earth equips us for an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Therefore, divine progress almost always involves challenges and setbacks that require childlike faith and endurance. But we can be assured that nothing can overturn God’s good plan; with Him, we are always moving forward.
Discerning God’s Progressive Guidance
Making continual progress in God’s purposes requires sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading each step of the way. It is a faith journey of trusting His direction, not a formulaic program. The divine Shepherd knows the unique path we each must take.
Certain key signposts can help us discern if we are moving in God’s direction. These include:
- Confirmation through Scripture as we spend time meditating on God’s Word
- Affirmation from fellow believers who know us well
- Circumstantial signs and opening/closing doors of opportunity
- Increased wisdom, revelatory insight, and spiritual understanding
- A sense of God’s peace when acting in faith
Conversely, a lack of fruitfulness, confusion, and relationship conflicts can signal moving in the wrong direction. But we must be careful not to second guess God’s leading when difficulties inevitably come. Patience is required to see the fulfilment of God’s purposes in His perfect timing.
Above all, our progress depends on cultivating intimacy with Christ, denying self, and following the Spirit’s promptings with childlike humility. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), we can trust Him to complete the good work He began (Philippians 1:6). Our part is simply to continually yield and obey.
The concept of divine progress recognizes that God has tailored a purposeful plan of growth and development for each of our lives. As we walk in intimacy with Christ, respond in faith to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and persevere through trials, we partner with God in fulfilling this plan. Though the journey has ups and downs, we can be confident of God’s steadfast guidance.
Divine progress involves growing in Christlike character, cultivating our spiritual gifts, advancing God’s Kingdom, and being refined through hardship. When yielded to God’s will, we move forward into the destiny He has prepared for us. Though the fulfillment of God’s purposes requires patience and endurance, the joy comes from seeing the unfolding of His beautiful plan. May we all embrace the journey of divine progress!