Source: Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles" (Acts 2:42-43).
Many times we hope to be growing and progressing in our spiritual relationship with God. But then suddenly, this hope is demolished and we end up disappointed and discouraged.
- Are we following the right path?
- Are we trying to overcome the past?
- Are we giving it all we have?
There is a lesson to be learned from watching babies grow from being dependent on their mother and father to becoming independent. By looking at their eyes as they wonder about an unknown object and reach to touch it for the first time, we get a glimpse of what it means to learn. We get to see the miracle of life just happening in front of our own eyes. The point is that maturity, which affects the way we see things, becomes clear to us as we strive for everything we do in order to learn, prosper, and reach our goal.
When we see people failing time after time to reach their goal of spiritual maturity, we get discouraged. We also become afraid of trying because our mind tells us it is not possible to reach God. We tell ourselves we are sinners, but we fail to recognize that through the Holy Bible God has given us many examples of how He loves sinners like us.
- Matthew 8:1-4: The leper is cleansed because of his faith in Christ "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2)
- Luke 13:10-17: Christ heals the crippled women who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years.
- Luke 7:36-39: A woman anoints Jesus' feet. She was a sinner but she stood at Jesus Christ's feet in front of everyone and washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
- John 5:1-9: Christ healed the Paralytic man who had been with this infirmity for thirty-eight years.
- John 8:1-11: A woman caught in the very act of adultery; Jesus Christ had compassion on her and told her to go and sin no more.
- John 4:1-26: The Samaritan woman at the well: Jesus Christ treated her with love and compassion. She too was a sinner.
Our motivation to grow spiritually will come from understanding that we must rely on God's grace to overcome our fear of failure. Instead of fear, we must realize that trusting and having faith in God will be our driving force in getting close to Him.
"Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the way of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment" (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
There are many types of excuses that prevent the Holy Spirit from working in us and guiding our steps to spiritual maturity.
There are people who, in their comfort zone, know some basic things about Christianity and enjoy listening to or attending some sermons. But they never want grow up because they have no desire to put in the effort, commitment, or to serve others. Others will lack faith and quickly feel defeated before they even begin to try.
When people live with a short sighted vision, such as living for their job or for their loved ones or for a certain amount of wealth, they may achieve their goals but will have no fulfillment. Sooner or later, they grow older and retire. There children leave the home and they are left just surviving in life without the joy or peace of the Lord.
When we try to work out our own salvation and count on our own understanding and knowledge, we will definitely fail. Some people will try hard to do the right thing, to be good, and fulfill what is expected of them. But they will find that they still come up spiritually empty, lacking, and disappointed.
Spiritual growth needs to start with the understanding that we will never accomplish anything without the Holy spirit dwelling in us, without a desire to commit our lives to God's purpose in us, without separating ourselves from the worldly temptations, and without submitting to God's unique plan for each one of us. We must follow Him and allow Him to work in us, that He may change our attitude and strengthen us to conquer any obstacles in our way and convert our heart.
"I delight to do your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8).
In the Old Testament only the High priest went alone to the Holiest of all once a year, on the day of the Atonement, not without blood to be in the presence of God (Hebrews 9:7).
But now after our Lord and savior Jesus Christ has given us Salvation over death, we have an open invitation every single day to come and visit with the King of Kings and the Lord of the Highest and spend as much time as we please and have wonderful fellowship with Him. Sadly, many people will turn down His invitation for a football game, reading the newspaper, going out with a friend…etc.
For the main ingredient to our spiritual growth is:
"So he answered and said, ''You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.''" (Luke 10:27).
How to allow God to work in us?
- Make it a daily habit to read, study, and love the word of God
- Practice daily Christ-like qualities
- Daily prayer will help us and strength us through the day
- Constantly changing our attitude and allowing ourselves to be teachable, rebuked, and corrected by the word of God
- Forgive others... resolve any issues that may be troubling us and hindering our relationship with God
- Confess our sins in order to move our spiritual life forward
- Partake of the communion in order to gain strength and blessings from the Lord
- Recognize our talents, and determine where and how to use them for the glory of God
- Trust that God is working in you for your benefit and others
"Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar" (Psalm 138:6).
Finally, God does not want us to become righteous, full of wisdom, and equipped with our own power in order to come to Him. On the contrary, He loves the weak, the sinner, and the one who lacks and is in need of His help.
Therefore let it be our goal and passion to know God more and more each and every day, until we become one in Him and gain His blessing in our lives. Only then will His grace allow us to overcome any obstacle we may encounter on our way to Him.