What comes to mind when you think of a truly godly Christian? A long-term, overseas missionary? A successful, inspirational speaker? The Pastor of a booming mega-church? For many Christians, these examples spring to mind.
And they may be. But often, these indicators are totally irrelevant. What does it really look like when Christians grow in their faith?
The Long Road:
A woman who worked many years for a retirement home explained that older adults often lose their inhibitions as they age. She described a bitter woman who regularly nagged at invisible family members who (for some reason) stopped visiting her. Likely, she didn’t use to be so bad. She might easily have been known as the friendly, level-headed one in her twenties.
Older men can throw tantrums rivaling any self-respecting three-year-old. But there are also sweethearts—those grateful for each day, each meal, and each smiling face.
How do people become this way? How does one person grow into a childish monster and another into a patient and forbearing saint?
Slowly… in small, daily acts.
The Christian faith works backwards.
When we imagine how to become a different person, have big breakthroughs, and see God moving powerfully in our lives, we tend to think big. Human nature—especially Americans—wants to pull out the big guns. We often define success with numbers, crowds, and bright lights.
“Big” is not necessarily bad. It may be an indicator of God’s rich blessings. At Dream City Church, we think big, dream big and make waves. But “big” is not necessarily good either. It can distract from God’s *real* work or even camouflage darkness.
God’s economy functions counterintuitively to human nature. Christian “success” works in opposites. It doesn’t look the same as the world’s definition of success.
What does that mean specifically? How can you pursue genuine growth in your walk with God daily? Let’s get practical with the following tips for Christian growth:
- SMALL VICTORIES MATTER MORE
God often cares much more about a small act of obedience in a difficult situation than a showy triumph. For example, God is often more pleased when you bite back an irritated retort than if you spent hours making sandwiches for the homeless.
Outward acts of service are a good thing. But many Christians hide behind them, failing to do the hard spiritual work that matters most and doesn’t grow their Instagram followers.
Real Christian growth always begins with the smallest circle in your life and flows from there. God cares more about how you treat your spouse, children, roommate, or co-workers than how you treat a starving child in Quebec.
*That is what Jesus meant by “love your neighbor”*
Most Christian success happens off-stage, unseen, in the prayer closet, in the hidden person of the heart (1 Peter 3.) Give your two-year-old a cup of cool water (or a juice box). Take care of the people around you, especially when you feel fried and irritated. Ask God for the grace to obey Him in the hard “small” times.
- DON’T STARVE
Christian growth involves making intentional decisions to focus on God and His Word. As the Bible says in Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
What does it mean to grow as a Christian? Seek God regularly through prayer, bible reading, and church attendance. Why? Because God does the real work of growing your faith. These acts are the vehicle by which He gets at your heart.
Again, this often means small acts of daily obedience—particularly when you don’t feel like it. C. S. Lewis put it like this: “It is during such trough periods (the dry times in our walk), much more than during the peak periods, that it (the Christian) is growing into the sort of creature He (God) wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.”
- BIG BREAKTHROUGHS ARE ACTUALLY SMALL BREAKTHROUGHS
Do you long to see God at work powerfully in your life? Do you hope that a big breakthrough is just around the corner? Sadly, Christians often woefully misunderstand how to seek big growth. As Pastor Luke mentioned in his sermon here: “Breakthroughs do not happen in the new; they happen in the same.”
This means when you do the same small, *good things* every day. A breakthrough is usually a small step at the end of a long line of small steps. It only looks big to outsiders who have not witnessed all those years of small obedience.
If you would like to learn more about Christian growth and what it looks like, join us at Dream City Church. Jump into one of our ministries or classes, join us Sunday mornings, and learn how to grow your faith one small step at a time.