I lift weights. I don’t do crossfit, I don’t bodybuild, I don’t run marathons. I get funny looks in the gym because plates clang together and chains are loud. I like to lift heavy weights and I like getting stronger. As a result, I am a student of weight-lifting and power-lifting. I read and study the technique and science of lifting and I try to be stronger every week.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that much of what I learn about strength-training is applicable to spiritual matters. Recently, I read an article about the four habits of weak people (I won’t link to it because of some language in it) and was really convinced that the same habits can apply to those who are chronically spiritually immature:
- Weak people justify their weakness. Many who are chronically immature are satisfied in their state and spend time justifying their immaturity. The excuses come across in phrases like, “I’m just not a reader,” or “Praying is hard,” or even, “I’m just not like you…I guess I’m just made different.”
- Weak people know too much and practice too little. There are three ingredients to gaining physical strength: time under tension, proper rest, and proper nutrition. Spiritual growth is not a secret science. Basically you need three things, you need time with the Lord and in his Word in private, you need to live out your faith publicly putting into practice what God has commanded of you, and you need to be involved in a local church with other believers for regular worship and accountability. Spiritually immature people often focus on how much they know without taking into account just how much they are applying that knowledge. Are you applying the Word of God to your own life or spending your time critiquing the spiritual journey of others? At some point God says get to work.
- Weak people love circuits, conditioning, and stupid human tricks. Remember, this was an article that was geared toward power-lifting and strength-training. Strong people lift heavy weights. They have a clear goal and vision and they focus their time on achieving their goal of growing stronger. For all the good that may be accomplished through other forms of exercise, they are not geared primarily for increasing strength. Spiritually immature people also love all sorts of new things within the church, they love fancy worship and they love to be catered to, but they do not love doing the hard work of discipleship and accountability. Reality check: growing as a believer will challenge you. It is hard work. There are no short-cuts. Is your goal to be current on all the newest technological trends in evangelism and discipleship or is your goal to be a disciple of Christ who actively shares his faith. These are not the same things.
- Weak people hang around other weak people. Paul warned us that bad company corrupts good character. With whom are you spending your time? The chronically spiritually immature tend to surround themselves with people who are also immature. You will be like the company you keep. There need to be people in your life who are further along in their spiritual walk than you so that you can learn from them and so that they can call you up to a higher standard. As long as you surround yourself exclusively with weaker people, you will not grow.
Obviously, these four characteristics were not originally intended to be applied spiritually, but similar principles apply. We tend to perform according to our goals. Believe it or not, we get what we want out of our Christian walk. If we truly desire to grow in Christ, we will rid ourselves of excuses, we will practice what we preach, we will avoid the short-cuts, and we will find people who can help us along in the process of spiritual growth.
At the outset of this article, I said that I try to be stronger in the gym from one week to the next. Strong people get stronger. The same is true for Christians, our goal should be to grow in maturity from one week to the next. I should be more sanctified this time next year than I am today. Are you growing? Perhaps the reasons you are not growing have to do with the habits listed above. Change your attitude, change your response, and change your environment. Christ has called you to more than weakness, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”