Spiritual growth is a process that never ends

Spiritual growth should be a major concern for Christian singles. Each of us has a vague understanding that if we can only mature in our walk with God, then our life will be fulfilling.

Unfortunately, many people are swayed by books and web sites that say there's a shortcut to spiritual growth. If there is such a shortcut, this is it: Suffer several deep, personal tragedies in a short period of time and learn the complete lesson each tragedy has to teach you.

Yikes! Who wants to go that route? We'd just as soon avoid tragedies altogether, but that's not realistic either.

When tragedy does strike, we're usually too occupied with our grief to learn anything from it.

Later--sometimes years later--we may look back and think, "Yeah. Here's what I should have done. Too late now, but if something like that ever happens again, I'll know how to respond next time."

Spiritual growth through vicarious learning

At inspiration-for-singles.com, we want you to learn from our mistakes, so you don't have to go through all that suffering yourself. My pain, your gain, we say.

That's the real value of books, tapes, web sites, Christian TV and radio programs, and talks with more experienced believers.

This vicarious, or substitutionary, learning moves us along the path quicker, if we're willing to pay attention. But it still takes some concentration and work on our part. We have to make the connection, apply it to our own life, and be able to adapt it to future experiences.

Will you make the effort?

Spiritual growth doesn't just happen by itself. It requires conscious effort on our part. The goal is simple: Know more about God, learn how to obey and trust him, and develop an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

The best place to start is the Bible. If you find the Bible frustrating and hard to understand, you need to get a

study Bible. These Bibles have footnotes and articles that explain the text. If you've never used a study Bible before, you'll be surprised at how clear it makes the timeless concepts and truths.

Over the years, I've read hundreds of worthwhile books about Christian Living. You'll find a selection of worthwhile titles here. Amazingly, when you're serious about your spiritual growth, the Holy Spirit will gently guide you to specific books that will help.

An element many people don't like

Some people have the mistaken notion that they can grow spiritually without going to church. We need group worship. Even Jesus worshipped in the temple and in synagogues.

Group Bible study is valuable as well. I learned more in two years of a small group Bible study than I did in ten years on my own. It's in these friendly sessions that you pick up nuggets of wisdom and other believers' experiences that make life make sense.

Sincere Christians can always count on the Holy Spirit to guide such discussions and open our minds to what he wants us to learn.

One puzzle, many pieces

God is a mystery, but he wants us to know him. He reveals himself in so many ways, if we're open to him. Spiritual growth is a puzzle that takes a lifetime to build, but if you're serious about it, you'll find pieces that begin to fall into place, one after another.

Someone once said that God is willing to reveal as much of himself to us as we want to know. At times it can be a struggle, even frustrating, yet it's also the most exciting quest known to man.

Nothing beats knowing God. Wealth, fame, awards, and worldly accomplishments are like child's play compared to a true hunger for God. He is so big, so complex, so beautiful that knowing him well will take not only this lifetime, but the rest of eternity.

God challenges the most brilliant intellect. He satisfies the simplest soul. His love and friendship give a feeling of worth that exceeds anything else on earth. As you pursue him, he pursues you. If you haven't yet thrown your whole heart and self into this great adventure, I urge you to do so.

It is, without a doubt, the most fun you will ever have.

The inescapable problem of pain

Few things in the single life are as frustrating as the problem of pain. Why do we suffer? More specifically, why do Christians suffer?

For many people, life has never been better. We have enough to eat every day, a decent place to live, and we can go to a doctor and get minor problems stopped before they kill us. It wasn't always that way.

Even so, most of us continue to suffer emotionally. We can't get what we want. Sometimes that's maddening.

The older I get, the more I have come to expect suffering. I don't welcome it, of course, but I'm not as shocked when it comes. Spiritual growth means changing our expectations. I've come to accept that life is never going to be perfect.

That's not a cause for despair, though. When we're realistic, we're better prepared. And with experience in suffering, we know that if we got through hard times before, we will again.

God loves us, his children, but he doesn't put us in a bubble. We live in a sinful world where hurt is an everyday fact of life. No, we don't deserve pain, but the only place we're going to escape it is heaven.

The apostle Paul was a hardheaded realist. He knew plenty of pain in his lifetime, yet he placed his hope not in things of this world, but in Jesus Christ. We singles do well to study the epistles of Paul in the New Testament. They're a gold mine of truths on how to experience spiritual growth.

No, you can't avoid pain in this life, but you can rise above it. That's possible with the power of God. The strength of Jesus Christ, flowing through you, is the only solution to the problem of pain.

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