Spiritual growth is an important concept in the Bible that refers to the process of becoming more Christlike and developing a deeper relationship with God. As Christians, we are called to pursue spiritual maturity and continually grow in our faith. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the Bible teaches about spiritual growth and provide key takeaways for how believers can actively pursue growth in their spiritual walk.
Spiritual growth is not automatic. It requires intentionality and effort on our part. However, it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us that true transformation can take place. As we seek to grow closer to God, we must rely on His strength and not our own. Spiritual growth is a lifelong journey. There is always more progress to be made in conforming to the image of Christ. No matter how mature we become, God will continue to reveal areas in our lives that need work.
Key Takeaways on Spiritual Growth in the Bible:
- Spiritual growth is essential for every Christian and must be intentionally pursued. It does not happen automatically.
- Spiritual transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot achieve growth through our own human efforts.
- Growing spiritually is a lifelong process. There is no point at which we can stop pursuing maturity.
- God uses His Word, the Bible, as a primary tool for our spiritual growth. Reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture is vital.
- Things like prayer, fellowship with other believers, life circumstances, and sharing our faith also facilitate spiritual development.
- Trials and suffering provide opportunities for increased spiritual growth as we deepen our dependence on God.
- Progressing in spiritual maturity equips us to increasingly reflect Christ and fulfill the purpose God has for our lives.
Now let’s explore some of the key aspects of spiritual growth and what the Bible teaches about pursuing maturity in our walk with God.
- The Goal of Spiritual Growth
- The Role of the Holy Spirit
- The Role of God's Word
- The Role of Prayer
- The Role of Community
- The Role of Life Circumstances
- The Role of Evangelism
- The Necessity of Perseverance
- The Relationship between Grace and Effort
- Specific Areas of Growth
- Warning Signs of Stunted Growth
The Goal of Spiritual Growth
First, we need to understand the purpose behind spiritual growth. What are we aiming at? According to the Bible, the goal of our spiritual development is to become more like Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29 tells us “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” As believers, we are predestined by God to be conformed into the image of Christ.
The more we grow spiritually, the more our values, perspectives, behaviors, and priorities will align with those of Jesus. We’ll demonstrate increasing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Our lives will be marked by humility, compassion, righteousness, and holiness as we become more like our Savior. Spiritual growth is the process of becoming a mature disciple of Christ.
- The goal of spiritual growth is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The more we mature, the more Christlike we become.
The Role of the Holy Spirit
While spiritual growth requires diligence and effort on our part, it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit in us. First, the Holy Spirit plays a role in our spiritual rebirth. 1 Peter 1:3 says that we have been born again “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This spiritual rebirth happens at the moment of salvation when we place our faith in Christ.
John 3:5-6 tells us this birth is spiritual and facilitated by the Spirit: “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Our spiritual rebirth is made possible by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.
Not only does the Spirit birth us spiritually but He continues the growth process within us throughout our walk with Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” As we behold the glory of God, the Spirit transforms us into the image of Jesus, from glory to glory.
Paul says this spiritual transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit in us: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Our spiritual growth and maturation is accomplished by the power of the Spirit.
- While we are responsible to pursue growth, true spiritual transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. He births us spiritually and carries on the work to maturity.
The Role of God’s Word
In addition to the Spirit’s work, God also uses His Word as a vital instrument for our spiritual growth. 1 Peter 2:2 instructs: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” The “pure spiritual milk” referred to here is the Word of God which enables our growth.
Psalm 119:9-11 also connects spiritual life and vigor to the study of Scripture: “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word…I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” As we saturate ourselves in the Bible, we gain strength to overcome sin and pursue holiness.
God’s Word provides insight into His truth and allows the Spirit to reshape our minds to be more aligned with His perfect will (Romans 12:2). Reading the Bible exposes areas God wants to transform, equips us with wisdom for righteous living, and renews our thinking. If we neglect God’s Word, our growth will be stunted.
- Regularly reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture is crucial for spiritual growth. God uses the Bible to transform us.
The Role of Prayer
Prayer is another spiritual discipline that is vital for our growth. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray continually.” Through prayer we experience intimate communion with God, bring our needs and requests before Him, intercede for others, and devote ourselves to His purposes.
Psalm 145:18 promises “The Lord is near to all who call on him.” Prayer allows us to draw near to God and align our hearts with His. The more time we spend praying and engrossed in unhindered fellowship with the Lord, the more our spiritual maturity increases.
In Luke 18, Jesus shares a parable about the importance of persistent prayer: “He then went on to speak a parable to them to teach them that they should always pray and not give up” (v. 1). Prayer takes dedication and persistence. As we pray consistently and make our requests known to God, He grows our faith and dependence on Him.
- Consistent, persistent prayer is crucial for spiritual growth. Through prayer we deepen intimacy with God and align our hearts with His.
The Role of Community
The Bible makes it clear that fellowship with other believers is also essential for spiritual growth. We cannot pursue maturity in isolation. Being part of a local church provides opportunity for discipleship, accountability, service, and corporate worship.
The author of Hebrews instructs: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Meeting together consistently helps us encourage one another in spiritual growth.
Proverbs 27:17 also affirms the value of godly community: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” As we interact with strong believers, they help sharpen and refine us in our walk with Christ. We need the support and accountability of committed fellow Christians to stimulate continued growth.
- Fellow believers spur us on toward maturity and provide needed support and accountability. Christian community is vital for growth.
The Role of Life Circumstances
Trials, suffering, faith struggles, broken relationships, financial pressures, injustice, persecution, sickness, loss—these difficult life situations provide opportunities for increased dependence on God and acceleration in the spiritual growth process.
James 1:2-4 tells us: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God uses challenging circumstances to develop perseverance and bring about maturity.
Hardships expose areas we need to refine, build our faith muscles, teach us to cling to Christ rather than self, and train us to live surrendered to God’s will. As we learn to navigate difficulties according to biblical principles, we become spiritually stronger.
- Trials and hardships provide invaluable opportunities for spiritual growth as we deepen our trust in God.
The Role of Evangelism
Sharing our faith with unbelievers and making disciples also catalyzes spiritual maturation. Every time we step out in evangelism God stretches our faith and dependence on Him. He works through us and speaks through us.
The person who led us to Christ also often has a significant role to play in our early spiritual growth. Paul told the Corinthians, “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). Mature believers help new Christians grow.
Then as we mature, we have the privilege of discipling others. 2 Timothy 2:2 explains, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Spiritual growth is a cycle. As we grow we also guide others in their growth.
- Sharing our faith accelerates spiritual growth as we lean on God to speak through us. Discipling others and modeling maturity also advances our growth.
The Necessity of Perseverance
Pursuing spiritual growth takes tremendous perseverance and consistency over the long haul. There will be setbacks, failures, dry periods, attacks from the enemy, and many reasons to give up. We must determine in our hearts to tenaciously pursue maturity in spite of hardships and trials.
Galatians 6:9 encourages believers: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” While growth is a gradual process, eventually we will reap a harvest of righteousness if we do not lose heart and give up.
We must consistently put effort toward spiritual pursuits and not get discouraged by weak attempts. Our fierce pursuit demonstrates the authenticity and importance of growth in our lives. The passionate heart cries, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
- Persevering through struggles and weaknesses is essential. We must not lose heart but tenaciously pursue growth in the strength God provides.
The Relationship between Grace and Effort
As we have discussed, spiritual growth relies on the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. It is His sanctifying work that transforms our character and makes us more like Jesus. No amount of self-generated human effort can accomplish these spiritual changes.
However, this does not eliminate the need for diligent effort and discipline on our part. Paul explains the relationship between divine grace and human effort this way: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NKJV).
We must work vigorously and exert much effort, yet recognize that it is the grace of God enabling and empowering our labor. Our spiritual growth happens through working hard in total dependence on the Spirit’s strength.
- Both God’s grace and our diligent effort are necessary for growth. We work hard in dependence on the Spirit’s power within us.
Specific Areas of Growth
Now that we have explored the general principles and key components of spiritual growth, let’s look practically at some specific areas where growth and maturation occur in the Christian life.
1 Corinthians 13 describes in detail the supremacy and necessity of Christlike love. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (v. 1). Everything else is worthless without love.
As we grow spiritually, we increasingly exemplify the patient, kind, selfless agape love of Christ. Loving others, including our enemies, and meeting needs sacrificially should mark our lives more and more. Our capacity to love like Jesus expands as we mature.
Christ perfectly epitomized humility. Philippians 2:8 says, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” As we grow, we become less prideful and self-focused and increasingly view and treat others as more important than ourselves.
We are willing to serve in menial ways and we overflow with gratitude for God’s grace and others’ contributions. Like Christ, spiritual maturity is evidenced by true, heartfelt humility. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).
Jesus modeled perfect obedience. He submitted fully to the Father’s will in everything. Hebrews 5:8 explains that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” As we grow spiritually, we increasingly obey God even when it’s difficult and costly.
We submit to commands we don’t fully understand. We choose God’s ways over our own. Our depth of love, reverence, and trust in the Lord expands enabling greater obedience from the heart. We become increasingly yielded vessels eager to do His will.
Christ’s entire life was characterized by worship of the Father. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Experiencing God’s presence and cultivating intimacy with Him became Jesus’ greatest joy.
As we grow spiritually, delighting in God and communing with Him are lifted higher than anything this world offers. We gladly surrender earthly passions and pursuits to magnify Christ. Like Jesus, intimacy with the Father becomes our supreme treasure and priority.
There is no one more holy than Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:15 tells us He was tempted in every way as we are yet was “without sin.” Sinlessness characterized Christ’s entire life. As we spiritually mature, sin loses its grip over us. Sensitivity to sin increases. We gain victory over patterns of fleshly behavior and active resistance to temptation.
Right living pours forth from the power of God’s Spirit within us. Things of this world grow strangely dim as we become increasingly captivated with the beauty of His holiness. We make choices that please and honor God.
Jesus demonstrated extraordinary faith and dependence on the Father. “I do nothing on my own” (John 8:28). “I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29). As we grow spiritually, we increasingly rely on, cling to, and rest confidently in our heavenly Father. We trust Him more, worry less, and wait patiently on Him. Our confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness expands. We live boldly based on what we cannot yet see (Hebrews 11:1).
The most vivid display of Christ’s servanthood was washing the disciples’ feet. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). As we grow spiritually, we become less self-serving and increasingly motivated to serve others and meet their needs.
We count it a joy to serve, rather than seeking to be served. We embrace humble tasks that showcase the love of Christ within us. We find great purpose in living as servants like our Master.
Warning Signs of Stunted Growth
While spiritual growth is a natural fruit of salvation, believers can also inhibit their growth through choices and attitudes that stunt their progress. Here are some warning signs that may indicate stagnation or decline:
- Lack of spiritual hunger for God and His Word
- Little or no interest in prayer, worship, or Christian fellowship
- Consistent walking in unrepentant sin and disobedience to God’s commands
- Avoiding faith challenges that require total dependence on God
- Not applying or obeying God’s Word
- Pouring time and energy into earthly pursuits versus kingdom work
- Continual dreariness and lack of joy in relationship with Christ
- Cares of the world choking out spiritual things
- Compromising biblical truth to accommodate culture
If we recognize stunted spiritual growth, it is vital to ask the Lord to revitalize our heart and get us back on the path of maturity. The Holy Spirit can rekindle spiritual hunger and empower us to pursue growth.
Spiritual growth is an exciting lifelong journey as God gradually molds us more and more into the image of Christ. While challenging, the process of becoming like Jesus and deepening intimacy with God holds great reward, both now and for eternity. “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
As we diligently pursue spiritual growth, relying on the Spirit’s power, we will progress toward maturity and experience the blessings of an enriched relationship with God and greater empowerment for kingdom impact. May we determine in our hearts to tenaciously pursue Christlikeness—drawing daily nearer to our Savior who loved us and gave himself for us.