If you’ve ever been to Chincoteague Island in southeastern Virginia, you’ve probably seen these chairs – people down there seem mildly obsessed with them (in a good way!). They’re also a really good reminder for us as we evaluate our own spiritual growth.
Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.1 Timothy 1:5 (CSB)
Paul was pretty clear that the goal of his preaching, pastoring, and church planting was to help people grow into the image and likeness of the God who is love. In other words, spiritual maturity is not measured primarily in terms of biblical knowledge acquired, dollars given, or hours served. All of those are important components of our discipleship but anything in our lives that is not rooted in love is not from God.
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (CSB)
So, when you’re trying to figure out if you’re growing spiritually or not, make love the litmus test. If you’re becoming a more loving person (in ways defined by and motivated by the love of God as revealed in the gospel), you’re growing. If people aren’t experiencing you as a more loving person, you’re not growing. And we don’t need to figure out what love looks like. Paul’s got that one covered as well.
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (CSB)
If we want to get a handle on our level of spiritual growth, we need to start asking each other better questions. Wouldn’t it be great to sit down with a trusted friend and process some of these questions that help us assess if we’re becoming more loving people?
- Am I becoming more patient with_______ (spouse, kids, co-workers, hard to love people, parents?)
- Am I increasingly able to celebrate the success of others?
- Where am I unwilling to forgive? Why am I still holding that person’s sin against them?
- Am I tempted to give up on a friendship just because things have gotten hard?
- Am I finding enough joy in Christ to fight the fleeting pleasures of sin?