“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners.” 
                                                                                                                                                                                                   – Isaiah 51:1

In 2007, I was on the brink of ending my life.

I experienced sexual abuse and I was suffering from depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, and sex addiction. But God called me for a mission. He showed me a vision where I was standing in front of hundreds of young people sharing my testimony of God’s faithfulness and how He took me out of my dire situation. The culmination of this vision happened in 2017 – a decade after my suicide attempt.

It was a year of breakthroughs as I started giving talks in different schools around Metro Manila in the Philippines. It was also the same year that God led me to Worldwide Discipleship Association. After one event, I met Rich Smith, a WDA missionary to the Philippines. We talked about our ministries and he introduced me to Restoring Your Heart. That was when the Lord gave me another vision – reaching the brokenhearted, lost, and captive women in society, not only in the Philippines but around the world. 

Then came 2020: Pandemic Year. After going through Restoring Your Heart lessons, Lee asked me to be part of WDA as their Associate Staff in the Philippines. When I said yes to WDA, I said yes to God’s calling. In February 2020, I became a part of WDA, then in March 2020, the pandemic spread all over the world. At the moment when we thought our ministries would fail, the Lord surfaced above us. WDA Leadership Institute started its online classes and I participated both as a student and a facilitator. The opportunity to lead RYH online brought me delight. At first, people were hesitant since everyone was adjusting to the situation, but eventually, we were able to form groups online and finish Processing Pain and Understanding Emotions during the pandemic.

Currently, I have four groups and three of them are online. Two groups are currently waiting for their leadership training, while the other two are in Understanding Emotions. God appointed me to lead groups for the women leaders of Open Door Baptist Church, the staff of Fresh Hope for Families, WDA women leaders in India, and college students supported by St. Mark Foundation. The Lord turned this pandemic around for me because of these women.

I ended up choosing Understanding Emotions: Lesson 4 – Feeling, Thinking, and Acting. I have a soft spot for this lesson because I can relate so much to it. We all want to process old pain so that we can have better actions. 

While we were going through Lesson 4, one member shared:

“When I was a child, I let my brothers and their friends sexually abuse me even if I didn’t like it. Now that I have a boyfriend, I easily give in to sexual pleasure because my body is seeking it. I know that it’s wrong to have sexual relationships before marriage, but I justify it by saying that at least I am experiencing from someone that I trust and not from someone who is abusing me. I feel loved when I have sexual contact with my boyfriend. I know it’s wrong, I confessed it to God and I’m ready to face the consequences of my actions. Because of this lesson, I now understand where my actions are coming from, and I will do my best to reframe my thoughts and feelings. I want to be fully committed to God and be busy with the ministries in the church so that I won’t be tempted. I might have been abused by my brothers, but I don’t want my behavior pattern to be based on my childhood pains.”

As I recall this recording, I shed tears for these ladies. The Lord knows where my foot is treading, He is leading me to these women – women with the same experiences as mine. The Lord has orchestrated these ladies to be part of the groups that He appointed me. Exactly as He cast in His vision for me, “reaching the brokenhearted, lost and captive women in the society, not only in the Philippines but around the world.” Every time we have RYH, I know that the room (even online) is filled with the Holy Spirit. I cannot speak and encourage without Him. The Lord has reassured these ladies, that no matter how sinful, dirty or unworthy they think they are, the Lord still sees them as His precious daughters. 

Dear reader, as you browse through this RYH Moment, I want you to hear God’s message for you right now. You are who you are for a reason. No matter what pains, losses, or mistakes you have gone through in this life, God has a purpose for you. You may not like what happened to you, but please know that the Lord is with you all the way. Even during times that you feel so far from Him, never once did he leave you nor forsake you. Now, let Him reign in your life. 

 

 

About The Author

Mabuhay! My name is Reign Astorga Bucsit, a Filipina, residing in Bulacan, the Philippines with my daughter and mother. I am a licensed Social Worker, public speaker, and children’s rights advocate. My scope of work is in Metro Manila and provinces in the northern part of the Philippines. 

 

Blog_Banner_Ebooks2.2I have wondered over the last few years if WDA should publish our Guided Discussions as a ebook. Could we actually deliver a meaningful experience for our customers who might not want to carry a book to their group.

One younger leader mentioned that he was excited about the new workbooks we publish for Cornerstone but after looking at the format said, “when are you going to create a ebook version. None of the people I work with will bring a book to small group but all of them have their iPhone®.”

I was also talking to a friend who is creating curriculum for church leaders in Africa, and as we talked he mentioned that there are many challenges to creating and publishing materials for their ministry partners. Our International staff has taken digital pdf books or even hard copies of materials to people by hand.

As you can see printing materials in many countries is very challenging. Not only is it a challenge it can be costly.

Because WDA’s mission is to serve the church worldwide, we are always looking for new ways to deliver our materials and training to as many people as possible. I think ebooks is a good option for some people! So what do you think?

cornerstoneJust this week we published all the books that are part of “Cornerstone” in a Kindle format. You can now get Getting Started, Knowing God, Understanding People and Growing Spiritually to use on  your device.

At this point we are offering them for Kindle, which can be also used on other devices that use the Kindle app as well.

They are available now on Smile.Amazon.com.  There are both student and leaders editions available for you and your church to use.

If you want to know more about these books, please visit our WDA store, and read about them.

You can then follow the link to the smile.amazon.com website, where by buying with Smile.amazon, Amazon will give a portion of your ebook purchase to WDA as a charitable gift at no cost to you!

We hope you like the Cornerstone books in the Kindle format.  We are also working on versions for epub/ibooks.  Please contact us if you desire those formats as well.

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amazon-smileWhat is Amazon Smile? By logging into smile.amazon.com rather than the regular Amazon.com site you can choose Worldwide Discipleship Association as a charity and Amazon makes donation to WDA with each purchase!

Learn more about the program and how to choose WDA by following this link. WDA Amazon Smile

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Buddy, David, Jeff, Dan and Woody

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier faced off in the 3rd matchup of their boxing careers. The previous meetings had them tied one win each. In what was an amazing fight, Ali won by technical knockout in the 15th round. The bout is ranked in the sport as one of the best in the sports history.

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Philippine Bible Society Staff

WDA sent a team of five men to the Philippines this April, and it was a “Thrilla” as well. For over the last nine months WDA has been establishing a relationship with a ministry partner, James Tioco (pron ch-eo-ko), who leads a ministry called Sowers of the Word (S.O.W). James had contacted WDA after reading many of our books and looking at our website. He believed that WDA had the comprehensive approach that would serve the church in the Philippines. Our Exec VP and C.O.O., David Partfitt, began a dialogue over the phone and by Skype which allowed us to learn about them and them about us. It was clear that James wanted to see WDA help him roll out a discipleship ministry. So this brought us nine months later to our trip to Manila.

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James Tioco: Sowers of the Word

David Parfitt, Dan Horne (WDA Board Chairman), Woody Johnson (WDA Board Member), Jeff Pritchett (Chick-fil-A), and I (WDA Church Staff, Atlanta Arts Coordinator, Publishing Leader) began to develop a series of presentations for church and ministry leaders, denomination leaders and ministry partners. We flew to Manila April 27-May 7, and over a week introduce the ministry of WDA to a limited number of people who we hoped would pray, lead and/or volunteer to be WDA trainer of churches. From the beginning, we realized that James could have gathered hundreds of leaders to a one day “training” but we wanted to be strategic in our launch. Limiting the numbers would allow James and Sowers to have a manageable number of people to train.

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Monday Group of 80

On Monday and Tuesday we did full-day “orientation” meetings in which we discussed the need for discipleship, the priority of the local church as the vehicle for disciple building, the process, biblical foundation, and our Biblical Framework and the Five Initiatives of Disciple Building, R-CAPS®. Each day closed with a challenge for them to pray, lead a new or existing group using our approach, and/or also be willing to become a WDA Trainer to train churches and ministries to use our approach in their context.

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Wednesday Vision Lunch

Wednesday we met with potential ministry partners who would commit to pray and fund the ministry of WDA Philippines (Sowers). Our team also spent Wednesday morning meeting with the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) who will be our in-country publishing partner. They will be printing and translating our materials for use beginning in Manila, then to other areas as God provides people and opportunity.

Our last day was a full day with the Sower’s ministry, discussing next steps, strategy and reporting on the results of the earlier meetings. We left the meeting with lots of energy and ideas for how we could move forward.

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Thursday Planning with Sowers

We were a bit overwhelmed by the many churches and pastors who already were committing to train other trainers. Many were already making plans to begin new groups or multiply existing groups and use our WDA approach and materials. They desired training as soon as possible and wanted to know what materials were ready now! We had financial backers who wanted to know more details and what would be needed to fund this initiative. James said that his phone was full of text messages each night following the meetings as people were responding very positively towards our orientations and vision.

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Tuesday Orientation

It is by the grace of God that our work in Manila is happening now. Even a few years ago WDA would not have had the ability to move forward with this type of initiative in the way we are able to do today. Over the last two years we have redesigned and printed books for our country and have the ability to take the exact same English materials and have the Philippine Bible Society adapt our format to one which is more suitable in size and affordability for the church there. After being on the ground and talking to leaders, hearing from James and his team, we are positioned to provide materials and training to over 700 people in just this first stage.

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Dan teaching on the Great Commission and Importance of the Church

We begin by providing leadership training and materials using WDA’s Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework and A Small Groups Manual. PBS will also print all of our Cornerstone (Phase 1 and 2) materials. Leaders will be using Pocket Principles® and Guided Discussions, and the students will get a version that has just the Pocket Principles®. The partners at PBS were very helpful as was the Sowers team in helping us decide how to configure our materials specifically for them.

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Jeff teaching on the process of growth

The churches want to launch their new groups as soon as possible, so we have a goal of 30 days to get new materials in their hands. Our publishing team and the PBS will be working hard in the next few weeks to get books reconfigured and to their printing press. We will also spend these weeks providing short video training segments that Sowers will use to begin to follow up from our orientation and prepare leaders to launch discipleship groups using Getting Started.  Over the next 12-18 months, they will complete all of Cornerstone. WDA will continue to work with Sowers to provide training from the U.S. while planning for second trip to roll our Life Coaching Ministry and additional training.

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David tying up all the various points

There is the potential for us to see thousands of people building disciples in a relational approach which is able to be adapted for their churches. We have seen a hunger for discipleship as person after person who connected with our presentations also saw the need and understood how our approach to disciple building was progressive, biblical and flexible. We worked very hard to show that one size did not fit all, and that WDA could help them design and build specifically for their country and culture. One leader over hundreds of churches said to us, “You know you have started a fire here.”

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Buddy teaching R-CAPS and 5 Phases

We are overwhelmed by God’s providential work in bringing our team to the Philippines, creating a desire for Biblical discipleship, providing people and organizations in-country that are primed to move forward and provide the people and resources for this to go forward.

As of this date we have 81 prayer partners, 71 leaders of new Cornerstone groups, 59 new Cornerstone trainers, 125 new small groups beginning. 35 Youth Pastors trained by a participant using R-CAPS®. The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Board, approved our approach and ordered 50 copies of Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework Book.

We are humbled that God would use the five of us men to promote His work. This was not about us as individuals, but it was clear that God wanted to encourage these leaders that they and their church members can have a significant ministry to many people as they continue with us to fulfill Jesus’ commission to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching to do all that He commanded.

Our team, while still feeling the Jet Lag, returned with great joy and thankfulness for the opportunity to be part of a launch of Disciple Building ministry with a great partner in Manila.

This certainly was a “Thrilla.” There will be much more work but also much more fruit from our trip.

 

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Woody sharing the testimony of a lay leader disciple builder

 

 

  • Pray for James Tioco and Sowers of the Word and for us.
  • Pray for the hundreds of pastors who this very moment are beginning to share what they learned in our orientation.
  • Pray for the publication of materials, training of leaders and wisdom for next steps.

Thanks for those who pray for our ministry. God is at work all over the world bringing people to himself and raising up men and women in the church who are committed to helping others grow to Christ-like Maturity.

Praise be to God!

“God, make me good, but not yet.” – St. Augustine

The quote above attributed to one of the early church fathers, while perhaps tongue in cheek, contains a significant element of truth. Our goodness (growth in holiness) depends on God, but it also depends on us. God will not make us good until we are ready and willing to partner with Him in the process. We have focused previously on God’s role in our spiritual growth and meditated on the magnificent resources available to us. Now, we turn our attention to the flip side of the equation and focus on what is expected of us. The truth is that the believer plays a significant role in his own spiritual growth.

Consider, for example, the building of a garden shed. You may think about what you want the shed to look like, and you may draft plans for the structure. You may even secure all the necessary tools and materials to build the shed. However, at some point you have to actually get to work⎜to saw boards and hammer nails or the shed will never get built. Successful completion doesn’t depend on your grand dreams or your good intentions. It comes about only through hard work. So it is with the Christian life. God has placed everything we need for growth at our disposal but, until we actually start to use what we have been given, we will not make progress.

Paul wrote to his young charge Timothy that he should train himself to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7). Paul uses an athletic analogy to convey to Timothy that effort will be involved. The Olympic athlete dedicates himself to countless hours of rigorous training, all the while refraining from otherwise acceptable enjoyments to maintain discipline, all for the sake of achieving his goal. So, too, the follower of Christ must engage in certain activities and refrain from others in order to achieve the goal of increasing Christlikeness.

A word of caution as we delve into this topic. The Christian life is a marathon rather than a sprint. It takes time to develop the endurance necessary to run a marathon. It doesn’t happen overnight. Some believers hear of great Christian saints who read many chapters of the Bible or pray for several hours each day. Inspired by their example and determined to imitate their dedication, they try to maintain the same habits. Rare is the person who can immediately achieve that level of discipline. Most of us never do. And that’s okay. As we will see below, God does call us to study His Word and to pray. But it is far better to start slowly and develop consistent habits than it is to try to do too much too soon and give up discouraged and disillusioned.

Dallas Willard writes in The Divine Conspiracy that, “It is much harder [to learn to pray] if we succumb to the temptation to engage in heroic efforts in prayer. This is important. Heroism, generally, is totally out of place in the spiritual life, until we grow to the point at which it would never be thought of as heroism anyway.”

Having said this, the truth remains that the degree to which a believer follows God’s instructions determines the degree to which he grows. Following God’s instructions is not always easy, but the fruit is of great value. As the believer engages in the following activities, he will grow spiritually.

Understanding and Applying the Word of God

Believers grow spiritually as they get to know God⎜His nature, His purposes, and His ways. And the Bible is the primary source God uses to reveal Himself to us. In order to get to know God better, a believer must understand the meaning of Scripture by hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word. In His second letter to Timothy, Paul writes of the importance and value of Scripture in these words: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, New Living Translation)

The author of the first Psalm paints a vivid picture of the person who delights in God’s Word and meditates on it frequently. This person will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:2-3) What a beautiful picture of the outcome God desires to see in our lives!

It is important that our study of the Word never becomes an end in itself. The purpose of study is to learn and to grow, not just to gain more knowledge. There are people who know much about the Bible and have even memorized lengthy passages but who do not believe in the God of the Bible and have no interest in obeying Him.

James warned his readers against being hearers of the word only, saying that in so doing they were deceiving themselves (James 1:22). Jesus closed a lengthy address (commonly known as The Sermon on the Mount) to the crowd gathered on a hillside by giving the parable of the wise man who builds his house on the rock and the foolish man who builds his house on the sand. The wise man is the one who listens and obeys, while the foolish man listens but does not put into practice what he has heard (Matthew 7:24-27).

Praying

God has provided an open line of communication with believers through prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God, knowing that He is always available and expecting Him to respond to us in the way that best suits His purposes and is in our best interests.

However, prayer is not simply an option that we should resort to when we have exhausted our own resources. Rather it should be the natural response to any situation we find ourselves in. We should turn to God first, whether to ask for guidance, protection, provision, or whatever need we might have. Ephesians 6:18 tells us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Sometimes we may tend to make prayer harder than it needs to be. We don’t have to learn certain techniques, memorize complicated formulas, use just the right words, or adopt a particular posture. However, Scripture does provide a model for the kinds of things we should pray about.

Many of us are familiar with what is commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer. How often do we look upon this prayer as an actual example for us to follow rather than a fine piece of oratory to be recited or sung? We should remember that our Lord offered this model prayer in response to His disciples’ request for Him to teach them to pray.

This is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be your name,

Your Kingdom come,

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)

The prayer begins with recognition of the exalted position of God and ends with recognition of our position of dependence. It is composed of two primary parts. The first section focuses on God as we acknowledge that we are speaking to our loving heavenly Father, worshiping His holy name (which represents His nature and perfect character), and asking that His perfect will be accomplished here on earth. The second section focuses on our needs, as we ask for daily provision, for forgiveness, and for spiritual protection.

Fellowshipping with Believers

One of the greatest needs of our day is for people to develop healthy relationships. God knows this and has provided for this need through fellowship with other believers. The restoration of our vertical relationship with God paves the way for healthy, mutually beneficial horizontal relationships with others. However, these relationships must be nourished through spending time together and celebrating the life we share in Jesus.

This is why Scripture tells us that we should not neglect meeting together with other believers. We need each other. The Christian life was never designed to be an individual pursuit. Regular fellowship with other believers provides comfort, accountability, instruction, encouragement, support, and direction. If a believer is not involved in a local church, he may develop distorted thinking, lack emotional support, feel insecure, and flounder without accountability.

Serving Others

Not only are we to spend time with other believers, we are to serve one another. Again, Jesus is our example. He told His disciples that He came not to be served but rather to serve others. Later He challenged them to serve others as He had served them (Matthew 20:28 and John 13:15).

Serving others is not simply something God thought up to help build character. Rather, service benefits both the giver and the receiver. It benefits the receiver by meeting a need. It benefits the giver by allowing him to experience the joy of seeing a need met and by enabling him to impact others. Along the way, we all have the opportunity to be on the giving end and on the receiving end, and we can find equal joy in each.

Most service to others is nothing heroic but simply involves everyday expressions of love such as offering a kind word of encouragement, giving someone a ride, providing a listening ear, fixing a meal, having a good attitude, or sharing what God is doing in our lives. Scripture emphasizes the “everydayness” of service by saying, “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” (Galatians 6:10, New Living Translation)

Recognizing The Centrality of Relationships

There is a common theme that runs through the four activities discussed above, and that is the strong cord of relationship. This should not be surprising as relationship is at the heart of the Christian life. We have a new relationship with God and new relationships with His people. Our relationship with God and our worship of God are at the core of everything we do. Without worship, study becomes mechanical and lifeless, prayer becomes self-centered and demanding, fellowship becomes forced and empty, and service becomes an onerous burden.

Conclusion

A believer will grow spiritually as he consistently studies the Word, prays, fellowships with believers, and serves others with genuine humility and a desire to please God. The four topics covered in this lesson by no means exhaust the opportunities for growth; these are simply the primary or foundational means of growth. Other disciplines that may prove helpful to the believer include silence, solitude, fasting, and frugality among others.

However, these foundational activities must be engaged in by anyone who is serious about growth. Although Scripture emphasizes that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), there are no shortcuts to Christian maturity. Scripture and the experience of saints through the centuries prove otherwise. It would be the height of folly for any of us to think that we will be the first to achieve maturity without effort.

The good news is that the ball is in our court. The October 1997 issue of “Today in the Word” relates that the great Scottish Bible teacher Alexander MacLaren once wrote: “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” So we see, then, that the choice is ours. May each of us desire increasing godliness and use the keys we have been given.

Application Suggestions:

• Read Psalm 1. What happens to a believer who becomes isolated from other believers and/or God’s Word? List the benefits of meditating on God’s Word.

• Read Romans 12:9-16. List ways a believer should demonstrate love to others.

Get this Pocket Principle in Growing Spiritually, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Plant and Hands

Plant and HandsScientists marvel at the inter-connected nature of all living organisms. Though many stubbornly refuse to recognize the fingerprints of God in creation, they still speak in awe of the complex design of things they observe and refer to the delicate balance of nature. Because we are complex beings, understanding spiritual growth demands that we understand many components of our lives. To attain spiritual maturity the believer must grow in at least two dimensions of the Christian life— equipping and restoring. The equipping dimension prepares the believer to serve others on behalf of Jesus, in effect, to carry on His work, while the restoring dimension addresses a person’s emotional and relational health.

Historically, the church has focused primarily on the equipping dimension of the believer’s life and has not always recognized the need to minister to the whole person. This limited perspective of the church’s calling is a tragic misunderstanding that has hindered not only the growth of individual believers but also the ability of the church to impact the world for Christ. From our experience, we have concluded that healthy spiritual growth is most likely to occur when both dimensions (equipping and restoring) are addressed.

The Equipping Dimension Involves Growing In The Following Areas

Growth in knowledge of God, His ways, and His will

Knowledge of God, including His character, His ways, and His will is essential to spiritual growth. The Apostle Paul’s understanding of this principle led him to pray for the believers in Colossae as follows: “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you might live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Paul’s prayer for these believers provides insight into the dynamics of spiritual growth. The more we grow in spiritual wisdom, the more we will live pleasing to God, doing the good things He desires us to do. This action leads to a greater knowledge of God and more spiritual wisdom. And so the circle of growth continues.

The knowledge of God that Paul writes about is interactive and experiential, not just an accumulation of information. An example will help make this point. A person can study the sport of scuba diving, can watch others scuba dive, and can even speak intelligently about scuba diving, but until he actually puts on the equipment and dives into the water, he is not a scuba diver. Similarly, many people who know much about what the Bible teaches, have not embraced the teachings of Scripture as truth in their hearts and put it into action. They may know about God, but they do not know God.

In addition, to grow spiritually, a believer needs to interact with other believers in a local church body. Paul in I Corinthians 12 makes it clear that believers, as members of the Body of Christ, are inter-dependent on each other. They are to express this inter-dependence by showing love for each other, learning from each other and praying for one another. This interaction with other believers can significantly impact the spiritual growth as the young believer is encouraged and provided with real-life models of the Christian life.

Another area that influences spiritual growth is the specific content of a believer’s learning. The early focus of learning needs to be centered on such subjects as God’s character, who Jesus is, and how to walk with Jesus daily. These topics are necessary for a healthy relationship with God and a strong foundation for further growth. As we grasp a basic knowledge of who God is, we learn how to please Him, and follow His leading. We gain this knowledge through daily interaction with God in the circumstances of life.

Growth in ministry skills and abilities (Mark 10:45)

As mentioned above, the point of acquiring knowledge is so that it can be put into action. One of the ways we act on our knowledge of God is to minister to others or, as Paul puts it, “bearing fruit in every good work.” (Colossians 1:10) In the early phases of the Christian’s walk, his focus needs to be meeting the practical needs of others (e.g. arranging transportation, cooking meals, etc.). We see this principle in the way Jesus taught His followers how to minister. When His disciples were new believers, Jesus gave them practical responsibilities such as dispensing food, providing transportation, controlling the crowds, and bringing their friends to learn about Him.

As believers grow spiritually, God often increases their ministry abilities and opportunities. This pattern is clearly seen in how Jesus trained His disciples. Although He began with giving them simple acts of service to perform, He gradually increased their responsibilities. He sent them out on their own to minister and gave them positions of leadership within the larger band of followers.

Growth in faith and trust in Christ (Proverbs 3:5-6)

A further area of equipping is growth in our willingness and ability to exercise faith and trust in Christ. Growth in faith means growing in strength of conviction and quickness to obey. Simply put, it means putting into action what we believe to be true. In fact, the putting into action is the proof that we truly do believe something to be so.

The point of acquiring knowledge is so that it can be put into action.

Some years ago, there was a tightrope walker who performed unbelievable feats high above the ground. A promoter offered him a substantial sum of money to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. The event drew large crowds of people, eager to see the daring (or folly) of this artist. When the moment came, the performer calmly walked above the rushing waters, to the wild cheers of the crowd. Then he walked across blindfolded. The cheers grew even louder. It appeared that the show was over, but the artist had one act left to perform. He had a wheelbarrow raised to the rope and, asked the crowd if they believed he could walk the wheelbarrow across the falls. The crowd responded enthusiastically. Then he asked for a volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow, and the crowd fell silent. All had said they believed, but none was willing to act on that belief. As Christians, we demonstrate our faith by a ready willingness to “get into the wheelbarrow.”

Growth in trust means applying our faith in more and more areas. It is one thing to recognize Christ as our only way of salvation and place our trust in Him as Savior. It is quite another to begin to trust Him in all areas of our lives. After all, we have grown up learning to be independent and to trust in ourselves—our knowledge, our abilities, and so on. However, as the writer of Proverbs reminds us, we need to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Admittedly, this is hard to do. But it is an important part of the maturing process. God, in His wisdom and providence, continues to bring circumstances into our lives that give us opportunities to trust Him and expand our faith. As we encounter these circumstances, God provides the resources to deal with them, as we take a risk and trust Him.

It seems that God sometimes gets us into tough situations just so we can learn to trust Him. The Bible certainly provides enough examples, whether it be Abraham standing over Isaac on the altar, the Israelites huddled on the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptians in fierce pursuit, Daniel and his friends in the fiery furnace, Jesus’ disciples fighting a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, or any number of other events. One of the most important things that every Christian must learn is that God can be trusted, regardless of circumstances that would make it appear otherwise.

To really know God in this personal, real way, a believer must interact daily with Him and His Word and put the Truth into action.

The Restoring Dimension Involves Developing Emotional And Relational Health

As was mentioned earlier, it is critical that we also give attention to the restoring dimension of a believer’s life as well as the equipping dimension. Spiritual growth will not occur in many areas unless there is maturity in the restorative areas discussed below.

We need to develop emotional health.

Developing emotional health begins with learning to think correctly because emotions are a natural response to our thinking about, or interpretation of, the things that happen around us or to us. Thinking correctly involves both what we think (content) and how we think (process). Incorrect thinking is often based on an incorrect or inadequate view of ourselves, of others, or of God. These viewpoints or perspectives are largely formed in childhood and are influenced by the people and events closest to us. It is critical that we learn to counter falsehood with truth.

Consider the following example: A student receives a “B” on a test instead of the expected “A” and feels worthless. The “worthless” feeling is the content of his thinking. He arrived at this content, or conclusion, by the following thought process (beliefs that led to the student’s conclusion). First, “I must always be perfect in order to be valuable.” Second, “I made a mistake, and therefore I am not perfect.” Third, “Therefore, I am not valuable. I am worthless.” Both the content and the process need to be corrected. The key is to be able to identify where one’s thinking goes wrong or, to put it another way, to identify which proposition is not true. In the example above, the second phrase is true (he did make mistakes; he is not perfect), while the first and third are not. The student’s thought process starts on a false premise and inevitably ends with a false conclusion.

Along with learning to develop right thinking, we need to develop certain emotional skills if we are to achieve emotional health. These skills include learning to process emotions in the present and learning to process emotions that have been buried.

…emotions are a natural response to our thinking about, or interpretations of, the things that happen around us or to us.

We learn to process emotions in the present by being able to identify how we feel and express those feelings, even if they are unpleasant. It is often helpful to talk about your emotions with a trusted friend. Use words that describe how you feel. Say, “I feel . . . angry, sad, anxious, confused, embarrassed, secure, happy, relieved, daring.” Be as specific as you can and don’t use a “weaker” or “safer” word when a “stronger” one is appropriate. If someone has offended you, you may need to talk about your emotions in a controlled way with that person. Once you have processed your emotions, you need to release those that are negative. This release may mean choosing to forgive, if someone has offended or wronged you.

We need to develop relational health.

Developing emotional health rightly precedes a discussion of developing relational health, because relational health is impossible for a person who has not achieved at least some measure of personal emotional health. In order to be able to relate to another person in a mature, healthy way, you must first understand and be able to manage your own emotions. Or, to put it another way, until you are comfortable in your own skin, you are unlikely to feel comfortable around other people or unlikely to make them feel comfortable around you.

Skills necessary for relational health include the following:

  • Developing intimacy. Intimacy is the ability to connect with another person at a deep level. This involves sharing thoughts and feelings about yourself.
  • Setting boundaries. Boundaries are limits, or markers, that define a person as separate from others and help define what is unique about that person. Boundaries define what a person is, what he chooses, what he feels, what he likes, what he wants, and so on. A person needs to set his own boundaries and not allow others to set them for him.
  • Developing good communication skills. These skills include speaking clearly, listening carefully, and giving constructive feedback.

    Conclusion

    It is critical to a person’s spiritual growth that he develops both the equipping and restorative (emotional and relational) dimensions of his life. Spiritual growth is a life- long process. The important thing is to stay on the path and continue the journey. The good news is that these various dimensions of our being have a positive relation- ship to one another. As we grow in our knowledge of God, in service and in faith and trust, it will help us to grow emotionally and relationally. And as we grow emotionally and relationally, it will help us to grow in our relationship with God and service to Him. It is important to remember this truth⎯”He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)

Application:

  • Read Psalm 73. List the emotions described by the Psalmist. Describe how the Psalmist dealt with his emotions in this Psalm.
  • Read Matthew 12:9-15. How is Jesus’ ability to set boundaries tested in this situation?
  • Read John 2:1-11. How do you think this situation impacted the growth of the disciples?
  • Think of a situation in your life that is impacting your spiritual growth. Write down evidences of growth that are occurring because of this situation.

 

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