Q: What Is the Key to Spiritual Growth in a New Year

Your spiritual growth would be much easier if there was just one thing that could help you grow, unlock your spiritual life, or relieve the burden of daily struggle. Just one thing – a magic cure, a one-step process for sanctification, a fail-proof method. Many one things have been suggested like: remember God’s control works all things for your bene t, remind yourself of your identity in Christ, make sure you are accountable to someone, wage spiritual warfare, serve others daily, rehearse the gospel to yourself, walk in the Spirit, consider eternity, listen to good preaching, read your Bible daily, pray regularly, and the list could go on. These things are good things in and of themselves, but none of these things are the one thing to unlock your growth in Christ. To make progress along your spiritual journey requires hard work; there is no magic formula for growth.


Instead of asking yourself, “What is the one thing that holds the key to my spiritual growth?” – ask yourself, “What is the next thing I need to do to grow spiritually?”

Consider this new year as a 365-day journey. The path ahead promises moments of joy, delight, blessing, and victory, alongside moments of sadness, challenge, adversity, and failure. As you travel along the path of this 365-day journey, you will at times run, walk, stand, sit, and rest. To get to the end, you will not do just one thing; instead, you will do many things. What gets you down the path is choosing to do the next thing.


God wants us to pursue growth in godliness. In Philippians, Paul challenges us in two ways: 1) “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27), and 2) “…But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). In both instances, Paul challenges the Christian to press toward living Christ-like or striving to live consistent with the Bible. Only worthy and one thing we do.

Notice this important distinction though. The one thing we do is not a magic formula. It is a lifestyle. It includes all kinds of good things which fall under the general category of pursuing growth, living worthy, and becoming Christ-like. The question for the Christian then becomes, “What is the next thing in my e ort to pursue the one thing … Christlikeness?”

As you think about and ponder your speci c circumstance or pressure (regardless of whether it is something that happened to you, an opportunity facing you, or working through your own past sin), there are two categories to consider as you determine the next thing.

What is the right next thing? As you re ect on what to do next, determine to do the next right thing. There are many options as to what you may want to do. If you are responding to sin against you, you may want to return evil for evil. Possibly you are fighting bitterness and malice toward another person. You may be considering getting your pound of flesh. Hopefully though, Paul’s words encourage you to not just respond but to do the right thing, that choice that honors the Lord. Paul wrote, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). James reminds us, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). So, do the right next thing.

What is the best next thing? Once you determine what is right, there may be multiple good options available to you. You now want to decide what is the best choice. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was that their “love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve
the things that are excellent…” (Phil. 1:9-11). To approve what is excellent means to test the available options to conclude which one is best. As you do, also re ect on everyone else e ected by your decision.

On your spiritual growth path this year, make this question a part of your daily self-re ection: “What is the right and best next thing as I pursue the one thing … Christlikeness?”

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