Are You Growing Spiritually? How Do You Know?
|1 Peter 2:5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.|
I see my doctor every couple months as there are issues that we are trying to manage related to certain bloodwork results. We have a basic chart that shows us a history of where we started, when we tried certain medications and got off them, where we changed diet and exercise, etc. I can map my progress or lack of it. I have markers -- points and times where I checked and noted my progress. But it wasn't just me that checked. Somebody else, namely a laboratory, had to check for me. I needed help to identify the problem, manage the problem and track the problem.
At our church Bible study recently we studied the above passage and I was struck by the words "are yours and are increasing". How do you know if they are increasing? Have you checked? Has anyone else? Do you have any evidence other than a subjective feeling that says, my faith is growing, I am becoming more virtuous, my affection for the saints is growing, etc.?
I remember in seminary, John Weborg used to say, "Memory is half imagination." We don't have perfect memories. An so consequently, we do not have perfect views of ourselves. We need help to know ourselves.
I often say to people, "Tell me what your back looks like. In detail. Where are the freckles, birthmarks, blemishes or hair? What's your skin look like back there?" They don't know. And none of us find out without the help of another person or object (mirror) to show us. There are parts of us that are very public that we don't know what they look like, we can't see and need help for us to know know.
We need something similar to a physician or soul friend for our spiritual lives as well. We need a long term friend to walk with us and help us see ourselves, even the parts that we can't see alone.
At our Bible study I suggested journaling as a possible helpful tool. Long term work with a journal where we pour out our souls to God in prayer, record significant and sometimes insignificant events in our lives, and elaborate on our heart's condition could help us know if "these qualities are [y]ours and increasing" as the text above says.
But we're not meant to live the Christian life alone. We need someone to have our back and to journey with us to help us to see ourselves.