Habits for Spiritual Growth - Part 1

Habits for Spiritual Growth
Part 1
Pastor Stephen "Red" Shumate
September 18th, 2016
Image courtesy of Rawich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Habits for Spiritual Growth
Today we are going to start talking about Habits for Spiritual Growth.  We are in a series where we are talking about getting serious about our faith, and if we want to get serious about our faith, we need to develop some habits that will promote spiritual growth.

But before we get started talking about those spiritual habits, the first thing we want to do is go over a few things to keep in mind as we start trying to create new habits.

1. 6 Things to remember about spiritual Growth
*Adapted from a ministry Outreach Magazine article -

 6 Misunderstood truths about spiritual growth by Matt Brown 

I think anytime we get ready to start new habits, we often have misconceptions or unrealistic expectations for those new habits.  For instance, with a new diet, we might have misconception or unrealistic expectation about how quickly we will see results and how quickly we will begin to lose weight.  If we are not careful, these misconceptions will cause us to very quickly abandon our new habits, because they don’t meet our expectations.

So the first thing we want to do, is go over some things to keep in mind about spiritual growth, so that we don’t end up with the wrong expectations or have misconceptions about what is going to happen.

So, here are 6 things to remember…

A. We will never be perfect in our spiritual growth.
James 3:2
for we all stumble in many ways”

Typically, when we decide to start a new habit, we get fired up and excited about the future.  So we plan it all out.  We figure out the right time of day, we find the plan and we get started.

The first few weeks go great, but then, around the 3rd week (or sometimes the 3rd day) we start to fall behind.  Life gets in the way, or we just can’t find the energy.  The next thing you know, we find that we are off track and our plan didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.

But here is what we need to remember, we will stumble and we will never be perfect in our spiritual growth.  But that doesn’t mean we give up or we stop trying.  Instead, we get back up and we try again.

B. Growth is often hard to see up close.
I became a pastor two and a half years ago and since that time I have gained 15lbs thanks to some good Southern Baptist Cooking.  But the thing is, I didn’t realize just how much I had grown until I stepped onto a scale the other day.

You see when we moved 2 years ago, I put the scale up and didn’t get it out until last week and it wasn’t until I stepped on it, that I realize just how much I had gained.  It’s hard sometimes to see how much we have grown, when we are growing every day.

Romans 7:21-22
So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. 22 For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. 23 But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.

Here Paul says, that even though he is a follower of Christ, there is still a war waging between what he wants to do (follow God) and what his body wants to do (things of the flesh).  No doubt we have all felt this war raging in our own self.  We don’t want to sin, but we find ourselves giving in.  And when this war rages in our body and minds, it is sometimes hard to see just how far we’ve come.  We see the war not the success.

C. We don’t put our faith in our growth, we put it in Jesus. 
Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.

In other words, fortunately for us, our hope for salvation, and our hope in God’s love, does not rest in whether we succeed or fail in our Spiritual Growth.  We are not more saved if we grow a lot and we are not less saved if we grow a little.  And someone else is not more saved because they are more spiritually mature, and I am not just barely saved because I’m having trouble getting started in my spiritual habits.  

D. God is continuing his work in us.
Philippians 1:6
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

We may not feel it, we may not realize it, but God is working in our lives.

This is what I call the Mr. Miyagi effect…
In the movie the Karate kid, Mr. Miyagi is supposed to be teaching Daniel karate.  So, he has him sand his floors, paint his fence and many other things. Daniel, the Karate Kid, doesn’t understand.  Mr. Miyagi is supposed to be teaching him karate, but instead he has him doing his chores.

The reality is, Mr. Miyagi WAS teaching him karate.  Every chore he made him do, was a karate move.  But Daniel couldn’t see that until Mr. Miyagi brought it all together for him at just the right time.

And truthfully we may not always understand why God has us doing what we are doing…but the thing is, He is always working in us, to grow us spiritually.  This is why we must continue to be faithful in our habits.  And in the right time, HIS timing, He WILL bring it all together for us.

E. Growing spiritually, is a lifelong process. 
Philippians 1:6
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Our day of completion is not until the day of Christ, when He returns and executes judgment.  Until then, He will continue to work in us, so this is not a one-time thing.  It is a lifelong thing.

Pastors and Preachers who go to seminary and who lead huge mega churches, are not done and they are not complete.  The truth is we will all be complete at the same time, and not before then.  We are not perfected until Christ comes again.

F. Growing spiritually, is a continual struggle
Matthew 26:41
“the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak…”

No matter how badly we want to do these things, there will always be a struggle.  But in the end…it will be worth it…there is a quote that I believe says it best, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

The reason that starting new spiritual habits is because these habits are going to help us draw near to God.

2. Draw Near
James 4:8
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

God calls us to draw near to Him and when we do, He will then draw near to us. Have you ever wondered why this is?  Have you ever wondered why He doesn’t draw near to us first?

I believe it is because if He drew near to us first, it would push us away.

Have you ever tried to get a squirrel or a bird to come eat something out of your hand?  What happens if you try to get close to them?  They run away…right?  However, if you put your hand out (and offering of food) and let them come to you, you have a chance that they might learn to trust you enough to come take the food.

And this is how I believe we would react if God drew near to us first…God is so big and so powerful and we have enough trouble trusting him as it is…that if he made move toward us, it would likely send us running…. So, He calls to us, to draw near to Him.  This way, our hearts are in a position to receive what He has for us.

And so every step we take towards him, we trust him a little more.  And the more we trust Him, the more he can draw near to us.
God has made the offer of love and salvation to us.  He puts that out there for us to come and take.  It is now up to us to draw close to Him, so that He can draw close to us…His desire is for us to completely love and trust Him and for us to have a closer relationship.

This is what these habits are all about…drawing close to God, strengthening our trust and our relationship with Him, and the more we do, the more we can enjoy His love and His goodness…

This is where we will stop for the day…
And in two weeks we will start talking about what those habits are that we need to start AND we will spend some time learning how to get started in those habits, and how to make them stick.

Until then,

Is it time for you to begin to draw close to God?

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