How To Make Spiritual Progress
Often when we hear spiritual leaders talk about how to make spiritual progress, it sounds really fuzzy and undefined. While it may not be easy, I don't think making progress is really that complicated.
Spiritual progress is a lot like navigating through the woods with a map and compass. (I am an Eagle Scout, and I have done this many times). To arrive at our destination, we need three things.
1. We need to be honest about where we are now.
We cannot make progress towards our goal if we do not know where we are now. If we are north of our destination, then we need to head south. However, if we think that we are south of our destination (when we’re really not), then when we head further south, we are going to end up in the wrong place. We need to know where we are now, so we can head in the right direction.
The difficulty in knowing where we are now is that we have to take an honest look at our lives, and it is really tempting to think that we are in a better place than we actually are. Sometimes, the people who think they are in the best place are the ones who need the most help.
It is the amateur who thinks he is good - not the professional. The amateur is untrained and simply cannot see his (many) mistakes. The professional, on the other hand, sees his mistakes even though he makes less of them than the amateur. Similarly, the only person who thinks he is pretty good morally is the one who has never tried his hardest to be good.
2. We need to know which direction to go.
Knowledge about God is knowing the right direction (since the end goal is renewal in the image of our creator). At this point, we should remember that honesty is required for spiritual progress. Most of us think we know more about God than we actually do.
When we are talking about knowing God, we should remember that we are talking about an infinite being who would be beyond our powers of comprehension had He not chosen to reveal Himself to us. This should be obvious, but I think it is not. Given the lack of interest in most Christians in learning about God, I can only assume that they either think they already know a lot about God or that it is unimportant to do so. The former is foolishness and the latter is stupidity.
3. We need to make progress in the right direction.
Living out our beliefs is making progress in whichever direction we are pointing. It is taking action on what we believe to be true.
If we only focus on the study of God and don’t practice living out what we have learned, we will be pointed in the right direction, but we will not actually get anywhere. If we work hard at living out our beliefs but our beliefs are wrong, we will get somewhere, but it won’t be anywhere good.
We must know where we are going and make progress in moving towards our goal if we hope to reach it. And before we can know which way we should go, we need to be honest about where we currently are.