How do you envision spiritual growth? Most of us think of it visually like a linear time line. On the left side of the line we make a step of progress and the temptation seems to be behind us and we won’t address it again. We have moved along that line to the right and we’ll only encounter new challenges—not old ones.
But that’s not an accurate visual of change. Change is more like a spiral. Let’s call it a whirlpool. We’re going around and around in life and every time we reach a certain situation or person, there’s a rock, representing a sinful strategy that hits us, tempting us to behave badly. If we think there are no rocks (as if they are behind us in a time line), we’ll be surprised and unaware of their approach.
But knowing that we have the tendencies of a particular sinful strategy, we can see that rock in the whirlpool coming. Instead of being knocked around by it, we can actually chip off a piece by laying hold of God’s power and resisting the temptation. Little by little, chip by chip comes off that rock; it becomes smaller and smaller until it disappears—or grows so little that the temptation is easily resisted.
Unfortunately, the whirlpool of life reveals new rocks in different places. And so, as we identify the reasons for the rock, we can more easily see the rock (the temptation) approaching.
But we’ll also be more aware of deeper levels of sin. We think growth should eliminate our awareness of sin but it only makes it more glaring and noticeable. Pastor John MacArthur, Jr, says, “But let me warn you that the more victory you experience as you mature in Christ, the more you will recognize sin in your life.”
So here’s the bad and good news. The bad? Challenges to change and grow in holiness are never-ending. God will work on our sanctification until the day we die.
The good news? Growth is possible. We can be strengthened in God’s power to resist temptations more and more. But that growth will occur most effectively when we believe it’s not a time line but a whirlpool.
(This article is excerpted from Never Ever Be the Same (Leafwood Publishers) http://amzn.to/1ITmLfy which offers Christians hope that they can change their ungodly reactions through identifying their self-protective strategies and trusting God instead.)