What is Spiritual Growth? with Brian Hardin

What is Spiritual Growth? With Brian Hardin

We’re talking about what is spiritual growth today. Most of us have heard about spiritual growth, but how many of us actually know what it means or how to do it? Some of us don't even know where to start. Most of us think it's about changing our behavior. We try not to drink too much. We try to follow all the rules, and yet we can feel stagnant and numb inside. 

Here today to help us understand more about spiritual growth is Brian Hardin. He’s an accomplished recording producer, the founder of Daily Audio Bible, a bestselling author, and an ordained minister. He’s also our friend and we’d like to note he had a season of solo parenting.

What is spiritual growth and how do we measure it?

Spiritual growth refers to the knowledge of God and your relationship with God. He's far beyond anything we can ever comprehend or put in a sound bite. We have to understand that God is desiring a relationship with us and intimacy with us over any other measurable growth.

Often, we try to measure spiritual growth by performance, which is a byproduct of the culture we live in. In particular, we're always pushing for growth. Our business models are always about growth. We're indoctrinated into thinking we've always got to be taking the next step forward and that next step forward's got to be a bigger step than the last step. How do we measure our growth? We can’t see it without reflecting back.

Does a performance-based mindset hinder your spiritual growth?

A performance-based growth model isn’t necessarily bad. It’s really the only thing we have in our lives to measure. For example, memory verses. You still know those verses and they have aided in your growth. They ultimately serve your life once you do have a revelation of this is who Jesus is. It doesn't negate the things that you may have done in a performance way. Any growth that puts you in control and allows you to manipulate your relationship with God is probably not the growth He’s looking for; God wants us to return to Him.

Practicing returning to God. That’s really what spiritual growth is about. The entire Old Testament says “Return to me.” When you find yourself in a place that gives you shame or that you feel like you've taken steps backward, the move isn't to sit in the shame and pray a prayer about how awful you are. The move is to return. And return again. You find yourself in a place where you've sinned against your fellow brother or sister, or you've sinned against God. You find yourself in that place and you say, “I can't believe I'm here again. I thought I had overcome this so long ago.” You can stay there and beat yourself up as if you’re going to pay for that sin or you can return to God over and over and over again.

Because how will we quantify that we have grown in what direction other than comparing ourselves to another human? We can achieve any of the things the Holy Spirit empowers us to do. Growing more intimately together, that's something that is an ongoing never-ending process. It's not something that we will arrive at spiritually in our relationship with God. We will be growing in our intimacy with God forever. It's an ongoing never-ending process.

How do we handle comparing our spiritual growth with someone else?

Comparison can really get us stuck. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to instantly transform and be a new creation like Paul on the road; he has this encounter and goes blind immediately. But then there’s the life of Peter. He walks with Jesus yet denies Him. And it seems like that’s more of a process.

God can certainly do amazing works in our hearts in a very short amount of time. God can do whatever God wants to do. Most of our growth requires some type of wilderness season. If we start in the Bible in the Old Testament, it's the season in the wilderness that shapes the children of Israel into chosen people instead of their identity as slaves. Our lives seem to mimic that. We spend all of our energy trying to stay away from the very things that shape us and cause us to grow.

We think that blessing is more the idea of growth. The more that we accomplish or the more that we achieve or the more that we can be perceived as blessed by God, the stronger, and more mature we must be when actually it's those wilderness journeys that shape who we are. When we talk about someone like the Apostle Paul, we could go, ah, he's just on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and he meets Jesus and then all of a sudden his life has changed. But I would say, Paul, according to his own testament, was as devout a person as any and had spent his entire life seeking God. When he met Jesus, he believed he was doing God's work. And so, what he had was a revelation, a complete awareness of the ways that he had grown in the wrong direction. The theological underpinning of our faith comes a lot from the Apostle Paul. And he got that because he was a trained Pharisee, not because he had a road to Damascus experience. It was the road to Damascus experience that changed his entire interpretation of life.

Paul didn't have a process of growing. If we read the New Testament, we'll see that from that point on, things only went bad for Paul. He has people pledging to kill him and not to eat or drink until he's dead.  From that point on, Paul is overjoyed in his love for Jesus, but on the run for his life. Most of the New Testament that we read is a document that was produced under pressure and the wilderness.

What do you say to someone that feels alienated by the church? 

There does come a point where our culture throws shade on certain kinds of people going through certain kinds of things. And then we expect them to be moving forward in a certain way.  Grace is contingent on them moving forward in such a way that we can see that they're growing. And that's not how life works. The single parents in this community all have different stories. Trying to make a one size fits all that measures growth is a bit of a disservice. What Solo is doing in creating an authentic community within that sphere, to truly have check-ins with how you're really doing is so vitally important because the truth is we're pulled into wearing masks all of the time. We’re pulled into trying to fake things all of the time. 

Many times, when someone looks the most off the rails in the hardest pain of their life, could be when they are growing the most. But from the outside, because they aren’t leading a Bible study or the like, it doesn’t look that way. They may be experiencing their absolute need and dependence on God and outside measures could never have picked that up.

There’s no way to quantify that or to be measured by someone else. It's your story. And it's important that we don't let anybody take that away from us. There's a lot of faith and a lot of belief that happens when you hear someone else's testimony. Sharing it and being able to encourage one another in these stories, is incredible.

What spiritual disciplines have you put in place personally that help you?

Spiritual disciplines and practices are important. Even though they're programmatic things, they are habits that we insert into our lives that are productive things. It’s different for everybody. One practice that’s helpful is to begin almost every day in the car with silent meditation and prayer. I've realized that I can fill a car or a room with words so quickly that I've forgotten even what I'm talking about, even though I'm talking to God. Then my time's up and I'm not listening to anything and all I've done is verbally process out loud in a room hoping God would hear me when I've found that practicing silence is an invitation for God to come.

Spending time in the Scriptures with open hands and an open heart every day. Just go to the Scriptures and don’t try to put pressure on yourself to figure anything out. Be open and allow any portion of the Scripture to capture you and spend a little bit of time trying to process through and rethink the way you’ve heard that story before.

One person’s practice doesn't mean it needs to be your practice because they're things that we not only create as a habit, but they're things that we turn to. If you look forward to the specific time of orienting yourself to God before you start your day then it's a good and calming productive thing, but find what fits your own life.

Do you ever wonder if you’re getting it wrong?

I think that all the time, but then my orientation is to go back and say, the one thing that I have to show me what God is like as a human being, as an example, is the gospels. And when I go back to the gospels and I watch Jesus navigating, I don't see Him ever freaking out. It’s not as if He's running any race or that He's running behind or His schedule's about to go sideways. He is intentional about where He is in the moment. He seems to be fully present wherever He is. That’s hard to step away from. 
Growth in and of itself requires a bit of being uncomfortable. The willingness to face it and the willingness to change are uncomfortable. The word repent, which is throughout the Bible and is a part of our spiritual process, means to change your mind and go in a different direction. You have to doubt the direction that you're going in and make a determination that you're going to repent and go in a different direction. And that ends up equating to growth. 

How do we know if we're growing spiritually?

If we could put it on the spreadsheet, then we could know, right? But sometimes growth requires the dismantling of things that had run their course in our lives. I don't think we can quantify it. It’s something that we know. How will I know when I'm a man because I'm 18? How will I know that I have become a man because now my country says I'm a man and my country says I can take a gun and go into war and battle, but I don't feel like I've even graduated from high school yet. It’s wise but sounds trite, but it's true. You'll know. That's how spiritual growth is. When we reflect back on where we've been and where we are, we'll know. That's the beauty and the mystery of a relationship with God. We want it all quantified and made into some kind of systematic theology, but our lives don't work like that.

It’s God who makes us grow. We can't white-knuckle our spirituality. Daily you surrender your heart. The idea of giving growth over to Him and then seeing how it goes. See where it happens. Let the beautiful dance of life of your relationship with God flow and then know that growth happens.

We can discipline ourselves to achieve as much knowledge as we can. That's the tip of the iceberg though when we're talking about relationships. It’s God who invites us into the dance. And it's God who woos us. It's God who loved us, and all we have to do is love Him back. Whatever that looks like from the purest, authentic place in your soul, from the place where you don't have to wear a mask from the place where you can be naked and unashamed. 

Deconstruction is necessary for growth. It doesn't mean abandoning. It means being curious and wondering. We have this either or mentality sometimes. Either I'm an evangelical Christian or I'm deconstructing my religion. In the deconstructionist movement, some people are deconstructing so that they can disprove their faith and walk away from it and have permission to walk away from it. Other people are simply asking questions about some of the things they grew up with. Some of those definitions or those terms, or those methods aren't doing anything. To ask why or to seek, that's how we grow in any other way of our lives. We don’t necessarily need to fear that if our goal is to seek intimacy with Jesus, then we're on the right road.

It’s okay to say, I'm going to be on this journey with God for the rest of my life, of being able to ask questions, being able to doubt, being able to wonder, being able to be in the dance. It's a beautiful thing and there's contentment and peace that comes with it if you're able to just sit in it and be okay with it. I feel like the people who say they have it all figured out:  are the ones I don't want to be around anyway.

It’s our dependency, our trust in God, that is what is sustains us. It’s that dependency and that curiosity and that wonder that keeps you moving forward.

Listener Question

I still have a lot of married friends and I love them all. However, I find in our conversations, they often refer to my home as a broken home. While I understand what they mean and know they mean well, it's extremely difficult to hear over and over. What language can I use to explain my situation when asking them to be careful with their words and let them know how much it hurts when they say it? 

The answer is less about the people calling it a broken home and more about searching yourself first and figuring out why it hurts you. What's underneath the hurt? 

We know there is deep pain and rawness in the question. However, sitting with the pain is where the healing with is going to come. Be in the grief of it and feel why it is. Pray about that and be in it. Don't rush to fix it because you're being invited into something more to heal.

It’s true there are a lot of stigmas that we put on ourselves as single parents in broken homes. People are looking down on us and they pity us and our failures. 

When you can accept and see the value in your brokenness this will be a pathway to healing. Throughout the Bible people were flawed and God met them, and it superseded what they could expect or imagine. Your brokenness is not bad. It's really an opportunity. God uses our brokenness and our struggle. There's hope.

No Comments






AFRAID ARMY BRAVE Chip Dodd Chris Hogan Control Core Community Financial peace Forgiveness God in our struggles God with us Grief Hope during holidays John Delony John Eldredge Kristi McClelland Lament Letting go Parenting with heart SUICIDE V.I.P. Voice of The Heart acceptance alone anger annvoskamp anxiety apathy backpack belong benefits to forgiveness bitterness boundaries broken trust broke budgeting budget chaos children community children church co-parent codpendency community confession confidence conflict contentment coparenting courageous courage createafamilymissionstatement creating space custody dating debt depression desire destress detachment different but better disciplingourkids discovering purpose divorce dream again emmanuel emotionalhealth emotions family community familymanifesto familymissionstatement family fear feelings finances financial stability financial freedom friendships for our kids friends generosity giving glad goalsetting goals godourprovider gratitude grief as normal growth guilt healing healthy community healthycoparenting healthyparenting holiday grief holiday loneliness home hook-up hope howtobeconfident hurting hurt identity intentionalparenting intimacy isolation joy in parenting joy kid's community kids forgiveness kids self-worth kids lacking courage lacking trust lacking limits lingering loneliness lonely loved matter mental healthdatingtips mind mistrust modeling money needing courage new normal newness newyearsmotivation no courage no money no peace not be a codependent numb optimal our past parenting alone parenting peace in forgiveness peaceful peace perfection perspective physical pleasure purity purpose rage rebuilding recovery from codependency redefining family community redefining redemption reframing rejection relationships relyingonGod replace resentment restore sad safe environment self care self-care self-love self-worth serve serving community serving sexting sex shame sharing showing affection single moms singleparentfamilymissionstatement singleparenting soloparentfamilymanifesto soloparenting sound speaking affirmation spiritual abuse spiritual community spiritualformation stability steps to forgiveness stress stretching struggles teaching our kids teachingourkidsaboutGod teching our kids toxic shame trauma trusting God trust unacceptance uncovering identity unhealthy connections unloved unworthy value vengenance vision volunteer vulnerabiltiy walking wisdom worry worthy worth