When Paul, our oldest, was a little boy he was concerned that his younger sister Julia was taller than he was. There was no use explaining to him that the normal growth pattern for kids their age was that girls grow taller more quickly but eventually boys catch up and pass them. He was not buying any of this and so we kept a record of his growth and measured his progress. This was a great way of reassuring him that growth was actually taking place and a way of observing it as it happened.
Of course, measuring progress is an important factor in the success of any enterprise, whether it is physical growth, the development of a talent, the success of a business or organization, you need to be able to see and measure your progress!
One area, however, that we tend not to do this is in our spiritual lives. I do not believe this is because we do not want to, I think it is because we do not know how to do this and there are only a few such admonitions in the Bible.
One such encouragement is in I Corinthians 11:28 where Paul tells the Corinthians to examine themselves and their spiritual condition before taking communion. Another instance is in II Corinthians 13:5 where once again Paul tells these same Corinthians to "test" themselves to see if they are in the faith. These passages clearly state that there is a need to examine or measure ourselves. However, they do not provide the manner in which we can do this.
I would like to make a few suggestions on how we can measure our spiritual growth:
1. Compare yourself to Christ
A disciple is not above his teacher but everyone after he has been fully trained will be like his teacher.
- Luke 6:40
The big mistake we make when trying to measure ourselves is to measure ourselves against someone else. If we compare ourselves to a spiritual giant we feel depressed. If we compare to a backslider we feel superior and proud. In order to get a true "fix" on where we are in our spiritual life we should compare ourselves to Christ and His word who never change their position.
By doing this, two things happen:
- We do not feel discouraged or proud because Jesus is the perfect ideal and we can truly know exactly where we stand when compared to Him and His teachings without feeling inferior.
- We can get a true measure of our progress from year to year because unlike human models, He does not change and neither will His word. By comparing ourselves to a fixed position, we can measure how much progress we really do make in different areas.
Another way to measure our spiritual growth is to:
2. Compare your purity level
…purify your hearts
- James 4:8
Our ministry or service is not worth anything if we are not walking in purity. Jesus said "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God," but the opposite is true also, those with impure hearts will not.
We need to continue to tighten and refine the screening of our eyes and ears and mouths and hearts to filter out the dirt and sin of this world. Very simply put, are we talking, seeing, listening, practicing cleaner things than in the past? It is a difficult process but an honest self-examination will let us know if we need to change our filters to guarantee more purity or not.
3. Ask others to rate you
…I hope to send Timothy… for I have no one else of kindred spirit.
- Philippians 2:20
Paul said there was no one else like Timothy to care for and be concerned for the church. High praise coming from high places. Very few people will take it upon themselves to rate you spiritually because it is a personal thing and a sensitive issue. However, if there is someone you feel is truly a spiritual person, someone you believe is succeeding in their spiritual growth, ask them to give you an opinion as to how you are doing. We are not to judge or criticize each other but we are allowed to give an informed opinion in love. Many times we will not do this because we know too well what the answer may be, however, along with the answer may come some advice or encouragement that will greatly motivate your spiritual development.
We need to measure how we are doing spiritually for one very good reason: one day God will measure how we have done and reward or punish us for the results.
The first thing to determine is if we are pointing in the direction of God. We are if we have confessed our faith in Christ, repented of our sins and been baptized for forgiveness. The next thing to determine is if we are moving towards Him by growing in faith and love or sliding back because of unfaithfulness and impurity. If your direction has been wrong and your progress is nil, you can change that.