Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Allen Ratta’s new book Making Spiritual Progress: Building Your Life with Faith, Hope, and Love (IVP Books, 2014).
The challenges of trying to make spiritual progress while living in a fallen world that’s full of sin can be daunting when spiritual growth seems too complicated to achieve. But if you simplify your approach to spiritual progress by focusing mainly on the virtues of faith, hope, and love, you’ll successfully grow to become more like Jesus Christ every day. Why? Because God has designed these three virtues to motivate you – and when you’re energized by the right motivations, you automatically change for the better.
Here’s how you can make spiritual progress by developing greater faith, hope, and love in your life:
Listen and respond to the Holy Spirit’s guidance regularly. The key to making any kind of spiritual progress is developing a habit of hearing and responding to the Holy Spirit. When you don’t stay in touch with the Spirit, your life tends by default to be moving in a selfish direction, away from God. But when you regularly connect with the Holy Spirit through prayer, the Spirit empowers you to grow closer to God, increasing faith, hope, and love in your life.
Motivate every aspect of your life through faith, hope, and love. Faith can motivate you to bloom where you’re planted and start being productive in your quest to fulfill God’s purposes for your life. Hope can give you the inspiration you need to motivate you to serve God. Love can give you the compassion you need to motivate you to take action whenever you sense God calling you to do so.
Improve every aspect of your life through faith, hope, and love. Faith improves the quality of your inner spiritual connection by engendering trust in God’s goodness and helping you overcome fear that holds you back spiritually. Hope improves your heavenly vision by giving you an eternal perspective on your life. Love improves your relationships with other people by motivating you to engage with others and help meet their needs in ways that bless you all.
Protect every aspect of your life through faith, hope, and love. Faith can protect your heart from hatred. Hope can protect your soul from fear. Love can protect your mind from despair.
Fulfill every aspect of your life through faith, hope, and love. You can enjoy a much more fulfilling life if you have well-developed faith, hope, and love in your soul than you can if you lack enough of those virtues.
Purify every aspect of your life through faith, hope, and love. If you stay in touch with the Holy Spirit regularly to get fresh doses of faith, hope, and love, you can purify your life to avoid the counterfeit versions of those virtues: presumption (rather than faith), self-aggrandizement (instead of hope), and lust (rather than love).
Grow every aspect of your life through faith, hope, and love. These God-given virtues will expand your soul. They’ll grow your character larger and stronger so you can become more like Jesus Christ every day.
Stabilize every aspect of your life through faith, hope, and love. Keeping your focus on these virtues will stabilize your priorities in every situation so you can invest your time and energy in what truly matters most.
Watch out for evil attitudes that can draw you away from faith, hope, and love. Materialism (lust of the eyes), hedonism (lust of the flesh), and egotism (the pride of life) can draw you into sin if you’re not careful. So pray regularly for the Holy Spirit’s help to avoid those attitudes.
Keep faith, hope, and love properly balanced in your life. Avoid unhealthy extremes in the pursuit of these virtues. Diminished faith can lead to fear, anxiety, and insecurity, while too much religious zeal for faith can lead to arrogance when you shift your focus away from God and toward your own striving. If you don’t have enough hope, you can lose an accurate perspective on your life and sink into despair, while hyped-up hope can cause you to feel entitled to things that don’t necessarily represent God’s will for you. A diminished sense of love can alienate you from God and other people, but a hyped-up religious approach to love can lead you to give to others only with conditions attached, expecting them to give something to you rather than loving unconditionally as God calls you to do.
Practice spiritual disciplines to grow in faith. Solitude will help you develop faith by stripping you of false dependencies that distract you, so you can trust God’s sufficiency more. Silence will strengthen your faith as you learn to recognize and trust God’s voice. Study will deepen your faith as you get to know God through the Bible. Prayer will strengthen your faith as you communicate with God and notice more of his work in your life. Submission will increase your faith as you trust God to guide you through the challenges of relationships with other people.
Practice spiritual disciplines to grow in hope. Fasting will strengthen your sense of hope as you delay gratifying your body so you can focus more on your spirit and sense God speaking to you. Frugality will help you grow more hopeful as you focus beyond temporary earthly pleasures to what has eternal value. Secrecy will help you clear away self-promoting motives for service, which will decrease pride and increase hope in your soul. Sacrifice will build a stronger sense of hope within you as you trade lesser pursuits for pursuing holiness. Service will help you become more aware of the rewards God promises those who faithfully serve him, which will give you more hope.
Practice spiritual disciplines to grow in love. Chastity will strengthen love within you as you make the loving choice to put the best interests of other people ahead of selfish desires. Worship will align your heart with God, the source of all love in the universe. Celebration will deepen the love in your soul by bringing you together with other believers to celebrate the love that you all share with God and each other. Fellowship will increase your love as God uses your friendships with others to sharpen and strengthen your character. Confession will release God’s healing power into your life, ushering in love as you humbly admit your sins and seek his forgiveness and help to overcome them.
Adapted from Making Spiritual Progress: Building Your Life with Faith, Hope, and Love, copyright 2014 by Allen Ratta. Published by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: April 14, 2014