What Does it Take to Grow Spiritually?
- Allen Jackson Pastor
- 2020 31 Jul
My dad was a veterinarian, the kind who had a soft spot for even the most overlooked animals. Our home was a sort of rescue mission for the odd ducks, the castaways.
He once brought home a blind lamb because the owner had no use for it. For a short season, he brought a de-scented skunk into our family, and when guests came to visit, we’d turn it loose and let it wander down the hall into the living room. It was a go-to prank that was always good for a shock and a laugh.
My dad’s compassion was only outdone by his skill in treating those animals. There were afternoons he made house calls to help a family pet or we'd go to the racetrack to treat a lame thoroughbred. There were times he was called to check on a litter of pups.
And on occasion, he was called to a more complicated job. He would often take me along with him.
When I was thirteen years old, my dad took a call just before sunset. We then headed to a neighbor’s farm, where a cow had been in labor for two days. She needed help, or the farmer could lose his cow and the calf.
My dad first helped the cow relax, then he manipulated the calf in the womb to get it into position, and, over the span of an hour or more, he delivered a stillborn calf. A heaviness hung over that field, but a relief too; the cow would make it.
She’d live to bear another calf another day.
Sincerity Isn’t Enough without a Plan
When outcomes matter, being sincere about achieving them is not sufficient. Too often Christians confuse enthusiasm with preparation.
My dad sincerely loved animals, but that wasn’t what saved the cow’s life that day. Without knowledge and expertise, he likely wouldn’t have achieved it.
What if my dad had never read his textbooks, attended his classes, or studied for his exams? What if he hadn’t spent time talking with his professors or learning from skilled veterinarians? What if he hadn’t put his desire and passion into action?
Would he have been able to help the animals he loved? Probably not. My dad’s desire to save animals formed his intent, and authentic intent is expressed with action.
He did whatever it took to become the best veterinarian. By expressing his intent through action, he was able to achieve the outcomes he wanted: helping the animals he loved so much.
We all want better life outcomes—better jobs, improved relationships, healthier bodies, greater emotional and spiritual health, and so on.
We want richer, fuller lives. But just like most good things in life, these outcomes have long lead times.
Well-adjusted children are not the result of a few casual moments of interaction. A beautiful garden of vegetables and fruits does not emerge from a quick response to a hunger pang. Good things take cultivation. Good things take intention.
Intent is a powerful thing. It comes from deep within our spirit and soul. It’s an expression of our will, our desires, and our emotions. Intent motivates us to action.
It moves us toward the things we want. Have you considered its power, especially as it relates to your spiritual life? So many of us want more from our relationship with God. So many of us want to see him actively working in our lives.
But to achieve that outcome, we have to take incremental steps toward creating a deeper connection with him.
It requires more than casually attending a few worship services or volunteering for the occasional service project. We must engage in certain intentional responses and cultivate God-oriented attitudes in order to experience the relationship God wants to have with us
The Good News from God’s Word
Here’s the good news: You can develop the real and vibrant connection with God that you may have begun to doubt is possible. You can achieve the spiritually significant and fulfilling life you so desperately need. The change begins with the right intent expressed in action.
What is that intent? In the first gospel of the Bible, Matthew recorded these words of Jesus:
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:31-33)
Jesus left no doubt. If we desire to know God, if we express that desire by seeking him above all else, we will find the full life.
God’s design has not changed from the very beginning, and neither have the practices for connecting with him.
He’s longed to connect with us through simple means. If you’ve been a follower of Christ for more than ten minutes, you probably know how important it is to read your Bible and pray.
Deep down, you also know you ought to honor God in your home, work with integrity, and teach the younger generations about God. Even unbelievers know the importance of forgiveness and generosity.
And could any follower of Christ argue that cooperation with the Holy Spirit isn’t an imperative?
Invest with a Plan and You Will See Growth
God is actively looking for people who seek him, and he will respond to your sincere efforts. As you begin to have meaningful dialogue with God, you will see him more frequently in the world around you.
You’ll be less influenced by the circumstances of your everyday life, and instead, you’ll be filled with more joy than you could have imagined. You’ll experience a new perspective in your relationships—with your spouse, children, friends, and coworkers.
You’ll find yourself growing in wisdom, too, and that wisdom will lead to better life outcomes. How do I know? I’ve seen it time and time again, both in my own life and in the lives of those I serve at my church.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Nastco
Allen Jackson is senior pastor of World Outreach Church, a congregation of fifteen thousand; and he is founder of Allen Jackson Ministries, though which his biblical messages have been broadcast nationally and internationally on multiple platforms. His latest book, Intentional Faith from Thomas Nelson, from which this was excerpted, released earlier this year.