by A. W. Tozer
PROBABLY THE MOST WIDESPREAD and persistent problem to be found among Christians is the problem of retarded spiritual progress. Why, after years of Christian profession, do so many persons find themselves no farther along than when they first believed?
Some would try to resolve the difficulty by asserting flatly that such persons were never saved, that they had never been truly regenerated. They are simply deceived professors who have stopped short of true conversion.
With a few this may be the answer, and we would accept this explanation as final did we not know that it is never the deceived professor who laments his lack of spiritual growth, but the true Christian who has had a real experience of conversion and who is sure that he is this very moment trusting in Christ for salvation. Uncounted numbers of such believers are among the disappointed ones who deplore their failure to make progress in the spiritual life.
The causes of retarded growth are many. It would not be accurate to ascribe the trouble to one single fault. One there is, however, which is so universal that it may easily be the main cause: failure to give time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God.
The temptation to make our relation to God judicial instead of personal is very strong. Believing for salvation has these days been reduced to a once-done act that requires no further attention. The young believer becomes aware of an act performed rather than of a living Saviour to be followed and adored.
The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God. Paul was anything but an advocate of the once-done, automatic school of Christianity. He devoted his whole life to the art of knowing Christ. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.... That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death... I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 5:8,10,14).
Progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we gain of the Triune God in personal experience. And such experience requires a whole life devoted to it and plenty of time spent at the holy task of cultivating God. God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him. Without meaning to do it we have written our serious fault into our book titles and gospel songs. "A little talk with Jesus," we sing, and we call our books "God's Minute," or something else as revealing. The Christian who is satisfied to give God His "minute" and to have "a little talk with Jesus" is the same one who shows up at the evangelistic service weeping over his retarded spiritual growth and begging the evangelist to show him the way out of his difficulty.
We may as well accept it: there is no short cut to sanctity. Even the crises that come in the spiritual life are usually the result of long periods of thought and prayerful meditation. As the wonder grows more and more dazzling there is likely to occur a crisis of revolutionizing proportions. But that crisis is related to what has gone before. It is a sudden sweet explosion, an uprushing of the water that has been increasing its pressure within until we can no longer contain it. Back of it all is the slow buildup and preparation that comes from waiting upon God.
A thousand distractions would woo us away from thoughts of God, but if we are wise we will sternly put them from us and make room for the King and take time to entertain Him. Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it. God will respond to our efforts to know Him. The Bible tells us how; it is altogether a matter of how much determination we bring to the holy task.
( Article taken from The Root of the Righteous, Chapter 2 )
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