Except for the rapid adolescent years, which involve a lot of acne, vocal squeals, and disproportionate appendages, growth is most often a slow, quiet process that is only noticed after a examining a start and end point separated by a long period of time.
Even harder than noticing physical growth is mental or spiritual growth. And I’ve found that measuring it can be a challenge.
Still, just as important as it was to measure your height against the family door frame with a ruler and pencil when you were 7, it’s important to be able to measure and track your growth spiritually, relationally, and mentally.
Here are a few of the reoccurring self-measuring standards I use when taking stock of my own growth:
•What is my power-to-knowledge ratio of God?
Exodus 33:11 tells of Moses’ relationship with God in the days of the Tent of Meeting like this: “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”
Even if my wife had an autobiography and I read it everyday – though beneficial – it would not even come within the same paradigm as actually knowing her for 10 seconds in person. Likewise, while the Bible and countless books speak to the awesomeness of God, is my relationship with him “logos” knowledge only?
When was the last time I sensed his presence strongly within me? The breath of God breathing a “rhema” word on me? How long has it been since I’ve had a face-to-face? When did I last allow his heart for people to break me, his joy in creating life to excite me, his passion for the Kingdom to consume me? I’ve had encounters in past years where I was physically immobile from his overwhelming presence; is that now just a part of my history with him, or am I helping cultivate my availability to him today? It’s not about what I get, it’s what he gets out of the deal.
If I push myself in physical exercise, do I push myself when I’m in Sunday morning worship to be more than just an exercise?
•Who is actually benefitting from the knowledge and power I’ve amassed in God?
If a dying man’s last words carry any weight, the combination of Jesus’ parting commands in Matthew 28 and Mark 16 need to ring in me daily. And do they?
How many people can I name individually who are receiving the Christ-in-me on a consistent, regular basis?
Likewise, is the power and presence of God being coupled with genuine boldness and compassion in such a way that people are healed, convicted, and moved when they’re around me in Wal-Mart?
•How am I at loving my wife? (For those not married, I would refer you to Eph. 6:2).
If I’m commanded as a husband to love my wife like Jesus loves the Church (Eph. 5:25), and that his model of loving was serving her in the epitome of selflessness (Matt. 20:28), how selfless am I being with regard to my wife’s wellbeing? Am I helping her through life, modeling Christ-likeness in my treatment of her? Do I actively help her pursue her dreams, ease her burdens, and secure her future?
It’s interesting, because much of this I learned in first serving my parents.
Similarly, am I a walking, living, breathing model of Jesus for my kids? (Prov. 22:6). Far more important than evening Bible stories or if they learned the new Sunday school song, is how am I treating them? Am I responding or reacting to their needs, errors, and achievements? Is my discipline appropriate for the moment? Is my praise and encouragement hard to acquire or easily entreated?
•How do I respond to bad news?
Psalm 112:7 says, “[A righteous man] is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
Do I fuel drama with more drama? Or does my unfazed response to crisis bring the stabilizing anecdote of God’s peace?
Similarly, how do I handle reactionary people? Do I exude patience? Or am I quick to judge and speak more than I am quick to listen? (James 1:19)
•Are physical environments getting better or worse after I spend prolonged amounts of time in them?
I learned long ago that how I treat things, how I treat people, and how I treat God all share the same 2 roots: my heart and my habits. Sometimes I can see my unspoken treatment of people in how I treat my car, my office, or my lawn.
•Am I an asset or liability to my local church?
Long before I had a “paid position” as a pastor, I was and still am a member of my local church. So the question begs to be asked, am I someone I’d have to pastor if I wasn’t a pastor?
Do I show up to help? Do I tithe? Do I complain about what’s wrong or do fill the need of what’s missing?
One of the greatest life lessons my parents could have ever taught me was learning the gift of serving over receiving (Acts 20:35). We never went to church to “get” anything growing up: we went to give. As a result, there was never a bad Sunday, a bad message, a bad worship set, or a bad carpet color.
Because we were there to serve people.
This list is far from exhaustive; so what are some of your personal measuring marks? ch: