A couple of times in our house, water has gotten into the ceiling, and left a stain. If the this wasn’t something we previously noticed, it’s sometimes tough to tell if the discoloration is actively expanding; or, if it was from an old, one-time event. So, my wife will take a pencil, and draw around the stain. Then, over the next few days (or, the next few rainy days), we watch and see what happens. (For those of you aghast at the thought of us writing on the ceiling, this spot would have to be replaced or painted over, anyway.)
Just like measuring the extent of homeowner problems, we can measure good things, too. We know that we should continue to develop our lives to become more like God’s ideal, but how do we tell if we are making progress? Whether we call this process “discipleship”, “sanctification”, or something else, this is a notoriously difficult thing to measure in numbers and graphs. That’s OK, though – it doesn’t mean that we can’t tell whether or not we’re growing.
Here are some suggestions:
- Keep track of your Bible reading. Start a Bible reading plan that will last a while – maybe a month or so – and mark each day that you’ve read. Even better, jot down a few notes about what you learn from reading the Bible each day, or – if you don’t understand a particular passage – write down your questions. Then, when you are done with the reading plan, go back and look over the list. Has anything you read made a difference in your life during that time? Have you received answers to any questions?
- Keep track of your prayers. You don’t have to write down what you pray about as you drive down the road, or the food you’re thankful for at meals (unless you’re that kind of Instagrammer). However, looking back at answered prayers – whether they reflect God’s provision, His direction, or just His help to become more like Jesus – is a great way to see how your faith has changed over a period of time.
- Keep track of your spiritual journey. I’m not sure how many people keep a pen-and-ink journal in today’s electronic era, but there are some who do. But, if that’s not you, take notes somewhere else. You can use a memo application on your smart-device, or just open a document in your favorite word processor and start typing. By reading back over the records of where you were a week, a month, or a year ago, you can better see how you handle things, and how you’ve matured in the faith.
- Maintain accountability with another Christian. This is a tried-and-true method, but your choice makes a big difference. Be sure to choose someone of your own gender, as well as someone who you can trust and who will challenge you to do your best for Jesus (and not let you get away with slacking off). Then, after you’ve been meeting with this person regularly for a while, ask what he or she has seen in your life. Receiving honest feedback will probably be a mix of encouragement and challenge, but both of these can help you on your journey.
Some may insist that our faith and growth can’t be measured, and I would agree that our spiritual maturity isn’t a matter of yards, meters, or microfarads. However, measurements are certainly present in the Bible, and I think that intentionally collecting evidence of our progress is worthwhile if it helps us continue to grow and develop in our faith.
If you’re looking for a place to start your process, you could read Ezekiel 40 (and following chapters), or this verse from Matthew:
For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Matthew 7:2 NASB
These efforts will not only help you measure your own growth; I believe that they will each show you God’s work in your life, as well. May the waterstains in your house (or wherever you may live) be absent, but may the evidence of your spiritual growth – becoming more like who God made you to be – be exceedingly clear.