Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Spiritual Growth is Not Self-Help

By Allen White

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16

It’s fun to discover something new about yourself. If you’ve ever taken a spiritual gifts test or a personality test, you get jazzed from the insight into what it is that God created for you to do. The Bible tells us that there are many parts of the body (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12: Ephesians 4). The parts are not identical, that’s for sure.

Every one of us is gifted and called to do a work (1 Corinthians 12:7). It’s great to find out how we can make our individual contribution to the Kingdom. But, this verse touches on something else related to our gifts.

Gift discovery is not just a means of feeling good about ourselves and our purpose in life. This verse adds some context to the use of our gifts: we are a part of a whole. Our growth is contingent on the growth of those around us. Spiritual growth is not merely a self-pace, self-help program. In fact, spiritual growth leads us to become more focused on others and less focused on self.

The key to our spiritual growth is connection. Not just connection to God, but connection to each other. Paul gets anatomical on us here, by evoking the image of ligaments that join and hold us together. “Ligaments are fibrous bands or sheets of connective tissue linking two or more bones, cartilages, or structures together” according to Dr. Keith Bridwell of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. Without ligaments, the body of Christ would be just a bag of bones.

We would have all of the parts. All of the parts would be together, but the parts would like coordination. I would do my spiritual thing. You would do your spiritual thing. We would live in harmony as long as our spiritual things didn’t collide. But, sometimes the collision produces the growth.

Study, prayer and meditation on God’s Word are all wonderful things to help us grow. We certainly need to seek quiet and solitude at times to hear God above the din of this world. But, this type of spiritual growth is only one dimensional. Our spiritual growth must be integrated into our whole lives.

Yes, growth takes place in solitude. But, growth also takes place serving side by side and connecting in a small group. We gain much from the experience and insights of others.

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