Measuring Spiritual Growth - by PASTOR BRIAN MERZ
I have a variety of devices at home whose purpose is measuring. We have measuring cups. I have a 12” ruler, a 25’ tape measure and a 100’ tape measure. I have a scale in the kitchen to measure the weight of our food and one in the bathroom to measure the weight of my body. I have a gauge on my car to measure how much gas is left in the tank and an icon on my phone to measure how much battery life is left. Each of these items helps me measure and evaluate.
But how do we measure spiritual growth? How do I tell if I’m actually maturing in the way God wants me to? Here’s how I see it.
It seems to me there are two parts to answering this question. The first part is defining the goal. We must know what spiritual maturity looks like if we want to measure how well we are doing. There are whole books on this topic so let me be really brief. The goal is to look like Jesus. The Apostle Paul says that God saved us so we would be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29.) Jesus is the standard against which we are to measure ourselves.
The second part of this question is the evaluation itself. Am I actually becoming more like Jesus? This is where most of us struggle and I have a suggestion. I think our struggle with this question stems in part from the fact that I don’t feel very different from day to day. I got up this morning and I’m not noticeably any different than I was when I went to bed. And this is where my suggestion comes in. I believe we need to take larger swaths of time in measuring our spiritual growth.
For example, those of you with kids at home know that your kids didn’t look very different this morning than they did when you put them to bad last night. But if you look at a picture of them from 5 years ago, it’s clear that dramatic changes have taken place. I believe we should take a similar approach to measuring our spiritual growth. Instead of comparing myself with yesterday, I should look back over several years.
In my own life, a number of radical changes and huge events have taken place in the last 5 years. My wife was diagnosed with cancer and went through treatment. We went from having both of our kids at home to becoming empty-nesters. The Sr. Pastor with whom I’ve worked for 27 years retired. And God has used each of these large events (and some small ones too) to mold me further into the image of Jesus. He has taught me things about being a good husband and father and pastor through these experiences.
I said earlier that I don’t feel any different today than I did yesterday. And while that’s true, it’s also true that I can point to specific ways that I am more like Jesus today than I was 5 years ago. And that’s the lesson about how to measure our spiritual growth. The question is whether we are more like Jesus. And we should use larger swaths of time to evaluate how we are doing.
Pastor Brian Merz