Some believers can tell you all about their spiritual growth, and you can clearly see the changes in their lives. They testify to you about how the Holy Ghost has vanquished the enemy for them, and you rejoice with them in their victory.
Yet these kinds of Christians are the exception. Most believers are totally unaware of any spiritual progress in their lives. They pray, read the Bible and seek the Lord with all their hearts. There’s no obstruction to spiritual growth in them, but they can’t discern any growth in themselves. I’m an example of this type of believer. I know I walk in the righteousness of Christ, yet I never sense that I’m making progress. In fact, I occasionally get down on myself whenever I do or say something un-Christlike. I wonder, “I’ve been a Christian for years. Why don’t I ever learn?”
I think the Thessalonian Christians were stunned when they heard Paul’s glowing assessment of them. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thessalonians 1:3, NKJV).
Rest assured that if you have the fear of God in your heart, you’re going to emerge from your life’s storms much stronger. When you’re doing battle with the enemy, you’re calling forth all the grace and power of God. Even though you may feel weakened, that grace and power are strengthening you. For one, you’re becoming more urgent in your praying. Second, you’re being stripped of all pride. The storm is actually putting you on “spiritual guard” in every area of your life!
Paul knew that spiritual growth is often a secret, hidden thing. Scripture likens it to the unseen growth of flowers and trees. “I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5-6).
God is telling us, “Go to the lilies! Just try to watch them grow. I’m telling you by day’s end you won’t see any growth whatsoever. But know this; I water the lily every morning with the dew I send, and it’s going to grow.” The same is true of most spiritual growth, especially in the middle of trials. It’s imperceptible to the human eye.
Take heart, friend; I’ve got good news for you. You are growing in your struggle. In fact, you may be growing by leaps and bounds because of your struggle.