The overlooked key to spiritual growth

5 min. to read.

Learning to ride a motorcycle taught me about the commonly overlooked key to spiritual growth.

In Oregon now you can no longer just go to the DMV, take a test and be on your way. Now you have to take the Team Oregon Basic Rider Training course. (I learned a lot about myself in the process and wrote about that here and here.)

The course is split into two parts: first, classroom teaching followed by coaching on the motorcycle range. It’s a smart way of doing things.

Learning the principles of safe and responsible riding matters. You need to understand things like traction, momentum, and the basic operation of the machine. A novice needs to learn strategies for handling dangerous situations. All of that can happen in a classroom.

Until you’ve actually spent time on a motorcycle, however, that knowledge remains just a collection of facts about stuff.

On the bike trying things out—sometimes being successful, sometime failing and having to try again—is where you really learn what it means to ride. All those facts you collected become the ingredients of wisdom and a lifetime of safe riding.

What does this have to do with spiritual growth?

Anybody can want something.

Taking steps. That's what moves you forward.  Left foot.  Right foot. Go.  Photo Credit:  John Williams
Taking steps. That’s what moves you forward. Left foot. Right foot. Go. Photo Credit: John Williams

It’s the people who do something who get there.  See, modern Christianity has perfected the classroom teaching aspect of learning. We know how to convey information.

We have books and classes. We preach and teach and motivate. But we don’t always challenge people to get on the range, to actually ride the bike.

This is the 4th commitment of an apprentice of Jesus. Practicing. Actually trying out the things that we’re learning from Jesus about life. If you’ve decided to learn how to do life from Jesus (commitment 1), if you’re immersing yourself in Jesus’ life and teaching (commitment 2), and giving Him access to shape every part of your life (commitment 3), something’s going to happen. I promise.

You will get promptings to do things. An internal sense of “ought” will come over you.

  • To serve someone.
  • To stand up for someone.
  • To share something you have.
  • To say something in one situation,
  • Or to refrain from saying something in another situation.

Believing Jesus’ teaching will never change your life if you are not actually, literally, practically attempting to do what He says.

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You will read Jesus’ words in scripture that have direct application in your circumstances, things like turning the other cheek, praying for your enemies, or not letting worry consume you. And then, you can do something incredible.

You actually do the thing. You follow the prompting. You act on the scripture. You give your best shot at doing what Jesus is teaching you.

Be very clear about this: Believing Jesus’ teaching will never change your life if you are not actually, literally, practically attempting to do what He says.

This is not about behaving so that God will bless you or accept you. Because of God’s grace there is nothing to earn. This is about growing up.

Seriously.  At some point stop hiding behind books and sermons and information. It's time to obey!  Word Art by Marc Alan Schelske. Photo Credit:  Laughing Monk
Seriously. At some point stop hiding behind books and sermons and information. It’s time to obey! Word Art by Marc Alan Schelske. Photo Credit: Laughing Monk

It’s the practice that changes us.

Riding my motorcycle is a catalyst for an important reaction. The facts I’ve learned about safe riding and the experience I’m having on the road come together and create wisdom. With each mile under my belt my wisdom grows and I begin to mature as a rider.

The knowledge alone is not the end. It’s a means to an end, a means through which God shapes and grow you. This is God’s project in your life: to grow you up in the image of Christ (See Ephesians 4).

Beliefs only matter when they prompt action. Action becomes the building block of growth. We learn from Jesus. We act on what Jesus teaches us. The learning and the experience create wisdom and we mature in our faith. That’s how spiritual growth happens. This element — riding the motorcycle, getting out and doing your faith — is how we learn, grow, and connect more deeply with God and God’s purpose in our lives.

How does practicing do this?

  • Creating Access. Practicing gives God access to work in your life. God, whose character is defined by love, will not transform you against your will. When we align ourselves with His heart, when we obey trusting God’s direction, we give God access to work in us.
  • Improving our Spiritual Hearing. When we practice, we’re attempting to obey. It’s a Biblical principle that when we disobey God our hearts become numb and we limit our ability to recognize God’s voice. (See Romans 1:21-25) The opposite is also true. The more we practice, the more we come to recognize God’s guidance in our lives. We become familiar with the “tone of his voice.”
  • Deepening Relationship. When we practice Jesus’ teaching, we find ourselves walking in Jesus’ steps. This is the basis of how we come to understand and know anyone. When we follow Jesus teaching or example, we are living in solidarity with Him. This intensified our relationship with Him.
  • Participating in God’s work. When we practice what Jesus taught, we are participating with Him in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into our world. People get blessed. People get served. People get a glimpse of Jesus.

So every day put into practice something you are learning from Jesus. Don’t stress about getting it right. Don’t fixate on your motives. Don’t give legalism a second thought.

But do this: Give your self actual, literal, concrete goals. Actively look for Jesus’ guidance for your attitude, your actions, and your relationships, and then act on it. This is the key to your spiritual growth.

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