R.C. Sproul’s book Now, That’s a Good Question has always been a favorite of mine. When I’ve got a basic question about the Christian life, it’s often the book I turn to first. Here is his answer to this question: How can I prevent my personal Christian growth from becoming stagnant?
There’s only one absolute way I know of to keep your Christian growth from becoming stagnant, and that is to die. The only time Christian growth stops altogether is at death. That’s because we don’t need to grow any further; we’re ushered into the state of glorification. If a person is in Christ and Christ is in that person, it is impossible for the Christian not to move, to grow. It may seem at times as if our Christian growth has been totally arrested and is in a stagnant state, but I think that’s merely an outward appearance.
Obviously our Christian growth can move at various speeds, and we tend to have a kind of ebb and flow. Sometimes we’re moving ahead in leaps and bounds and other times at a snail’s pace. When it’s moving in such a laboriously slow fashion, we may think that it has become utterly stagnant. Again, if there is no evidence of growth whatsoever then I would say it’s time to examine our souls and our hearts to see if we’re in Christ at all because where the spirit of Christ indwells a person, he will not permit total stagnation.
If we want to increase the pace of Christian growth, I think there are some important practical keys we need to plug in. Christian growth, biblically, is usually described in terms of discipleship. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be a learner in the school of Christ. That doesn’t mean simply heaping up intellectual data or head knowledge, so to speak, but coming to an understanding of what it is that pleases God and what it is that pleases Christ. It means learning how to imitate him in our different ways of walking before him.
The word discipleship is very close to the English word discipline. To grow requires the achievement of spiritual discipline. How do you get it? When we are trying to progress in any area, so many times that involves discipline— whether it’s mastery of piano technique, an athletic endeavor, or learning in a public school or college. We have to understand that discipline doesn’t happen by magic. The best way I know of becoming disciplined is by first learning patterns of discipline under somebody else’s tutelage. If you’re having trouble growing, get yourself as fast as you can into a Christian growth group where you are under the discipline of a pastor or a spiritual leader, where as part of a team, you are learning the skills of personal growth together.