Is there scriptural basis for spiritual “growth”.
Many would believe so.
Growing spiritually means nothing more, but also nothing less, than being animated and guided by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus which is received at baptism. This is what St. Paul means by “living according to the Spirit” or being “spiritual.” It does not necessarily mean some intense, extraordinary experience or idiosyncratic interiority.
Being spiritual requires that we read the Scriptures, pray, practice the virtues required of our state (married or celebrate); thus living and fostering a Christian-like atmosphere around you.
We see the Scriptures in the Gospel of St. Luke that Jesus himself grew when he was young grew in wisdom before man and God.
52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. - Luke 2:52
Growing in wisdom before the Almighty is a natural process for man to grow in a like of grace and wisdom in the spiritual life.
St. Paul also has words encouraging us to grow spiritually.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. - 1 Corinthians 13
When we become Christians, we enter into a relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that will cause us to grow. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to become more like Jesus and to become more holy. It is this spiritual growth that becomes a foundation of our faith!
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. - 2 Peter 3:18
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8
The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. - Proverbs 15:33
As the Apostles did, so should we:Pray for a increase of faith!
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. - Luke 17:5-6
Being Catholic, I feel more comfortable bringing my own perspective. Fr. Basil Cole has some Catholic unique points for our spiritual growth. Although Catholic, others can adapt it to their own personal walk of their spiritual journey with God.
In the latest issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Fr. Basil Cole has an article entitled “Formation of novices and seminarians: Nine signs of steady growth”. Fr. Cole, a Dominican scholar and prior whose writings I have found both interesting and helpful, is attempting to set forth a series of indicators of spiritual growth by which someone preparing for the priesthood can be evaluated. But it turns out that his list is a pretty good tool for evaluating all growth in holiness, making suitable adjustments for each person’s situation.
Here are Fr. Cole’s indicators, simplified in the form of nine questions, which suggest the key areas in which we should honestly look for continual growth:
Am I God-centered? This addresses the question of whether we think ourselves the center of the universe, in which case we are likely to be tense, negative and critical. We discern progress here if we come more easily to see the good in others, to accept the dispositions of Providence cheerfully, and to trust in God even in the midst of trials and temptations.
Do I take joy in serving others? There may be times when either our normal duties or interruptions in our routine demand that we occupy ourselves with tasks we do not particularly enjoy, primarily for the benefit of others. We are growing in charity if we find such services easier to perform over time, especially with a sincere desire to be of benefit, and if we gain the ability to remain recollected and prayerful even when doing something we do not naturally enjoy.
Do I hate sin? As time goes on, if we are growing spiritually, we should be increasingly averse not only to great sins but to lesser ones. We should be developing a progressively stronger resolve to avoid anything—including objectively innocent pursuits—which can be an obstacle to our union with God. And of course we should be actively seeking the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the opposite of the disposition to sin.
Is my conscience delicate? This is closely related, and refers to the need to become ever more sensitive in discerning what is displeasing to God. In the beginning, for example, we may wish to avoid adultery but think nothing of flirting or stealing the odd kiss or two. In time, true growth demands that we more clearly perceive the sinful attitudes at work across the board. Then we will become more watchful over our virtue, even in our thoughts, and we’ll also more easily distinguish among degrees of sin, and between temptation and sin.
Am I humble? To use Fr. Basil’s own words, a sense of humility “means a submission to whatever God desires in the moment, even if it means being unknown or unrecognized.” Pride and vainglory lead us to be calculating in all that we do, in order to increase in stature before the world. But God wants our personal surrender to Himself and to those who, in each moment, represent His will.
Am I faithful in prayer? If we prefer to lose ourselves in a constant whirl of activity, and find that we are uncomfortable being alone with God in the silence of our hearts, we’ll go backwards. Spiritual growth is marked by a growing willingness to put ourselves in the presence of God, even if we suffer from dryness or distractions in prayer.
Do my decisions reflect truth and prudence? As we grow spiritually, we should become more adept at knowing when to seek counsel, yet we should also be increasingly able to advise others, or act quickly and decisively ourselves, in ways that will still seem spiritually right after the fact. We should grow in our capacity to size up each situation properly and apply the right virtue and the right solution to each challenge.
Is my heart undivided? Simply put, this question asks whether we allow various interests and attachments to conflict with our thirst for God or whether we are gradually developing a more ordered appreciation of all good things in, through and for God, in proper relationship to Him. Especially with things we particularly enjoy, we should be praying and working to see them in the light of Christ.
Do I love the Church? To again quote Fr. Basil, “the institutional Church is the unsullied Bride of Christ through which He gives Himself and His graces to a flawed people in need of enlightenment and purification from sin.” Each day, each moment, we should find ourselves loving the Church more and more wholeheartedly, despite her all too evident human flaws. If that is not happening, it is a sure sign we are backsliding.
To me, this seems like an excellent set of indicators for self-evaluation. Each item is a tool for spiritual growth in its own right. And in the end, progress in every area is essential if we are to maximize the potential God has given us for union with Him. - Are You Growing Holier?