The Battle for Spiritual Growth….is Not What it Seems…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)
223 Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.
For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.
King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer. St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! ) We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression. We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.
That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.
Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.
St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better. I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.
Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?
Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.
The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin. It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.
Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us. Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.
This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful. As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.
May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.
For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on March 27, 2017, in Devotions, Poiema, st josemaria escriva, The Forge and tagged backsliding, dependence on God, evil, faith, sin, Spiritual growth, Spiritual Warfare, trust. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.