7 impediments to Growth
Why is it that some people go after God with their whole heart and others don’t. In John 15:5 Jesus says apart from me you can do nothing of lasting value. I remember teaching this young man in Baltimore who was such a brilliant student and who I thought was a lover of all things God. After graduation he went to MIT and had such an amazing future ahead of him. He had two choices at that point. Continue walking with God or make friends with the world and allow yourself to be sucked in that vortex.
James 4:4- know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
He chose the world which ended up on losing his scholarship and strung out on drugs. He had such a brilliant mind, but today he sits at home- all alone and plays video games. His parents are distraught and seeking how they can help him.
Lot was a great man of God, but chose Sodom and Gomorrah and ended up drunk, homeless and committing incest with his daughters which resulted in two of Israel’s greatest enemies- the Moabites and Ammonites.
Tomorrow is Christmas. Jesus the savior of the world is born. It’s amazing to see the two different reactions to this historic and blessed event. Simeon and Anna praise God for the Messiah who has now arrived. On the other hand, Herod and his cronies try to find the baby Jesus to kill him. He was so desperate to kill Jesus, he had every baby boy two years old or younger killed by his soldiers. We think Hamas is bad- and they are- but they had nothing on Herod. This slaughter was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:15
There is no upside to living life on your own terms, apart from God. At the very root of it is pride and arrogance. We convince ourselves that we don’t need God- that we are doing just fine. That’s exactly how Satan wants us to think. Work hard- have fun- your time and your life is your own. I don’t need to follow the Bible. My life is my own.
We may not get to all of them today, but lets look at 7 things that Satan uses to hinder spiritual growth.
1. Distractions & Desire
First, our desire has a great deal to do with whether we will grow into spiritual maturity or not.
Amazing as this might sound, we are the ones who determine our level of hunger and desire.
In fact, you can increase desire by exercise it or destroy it by neglect.
At its core this is an issue of value. If I value the things of God, then I pursue them. If I value my pastor, If I value the preaching of the word, if I value fellowship- then a 155 Howitzer cant keep me from going to church.
ON the other hand if I don’t value these things because I am selfish, or self-centered- then church means very little to me and I will have no desire to go.
Satan convinces me- or deceives me into thinking I don’t need my pastor, or my church or God’s people. I am doing just fine.
“One who is full loathes honey from the honey comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).
The cares of life, the love of money, the lull of entertainment, and other desires of this world fill our soul with junk. And when our soul is full of junk, we tell ourselves that we are full- that we don’t need the sweet intimate fellowship with our Lord.
You can increase your desire for God and His kingdom by decreasing the time you spend with junk and increasing the time you spend on the things of God- reading his word- prayer, church, youth group, special events, or one on one fellowship with you pastor or other body members. Mission trips, evangelism, YDC, time with the elderly, are all things that will increase you desire for the things of God. Spend less time in the world and more time in worship and it will train your mind to desire the things of God. Remember in John 10:10,
God doesn’t want to take away your fun! He wants you to have a full and abundant life!
He just wants to be included and to “do” life with you! – With him doing the leading and you enjoying the living, it’s a great partnership!
2. Sin Hinders Spiritual Growth
If you are not saved, then original sin separates you from God. IF you are saved, then your personal sin that you refuse to repent of is keeping you from enjoying the beautiful fellowship of your Lord and Savior.
God is Holy and without any kind of shadow of darkness. He cannot come near to sinful humanity without the atoning sacrifice Jesus made with His life.
In Habakkuk 1:13 GOD cannot fellowship with sin, which is why Jesus came to atone for our sins- to make the payment that only He could make to break down the Eph 2;14 Partition that separated us from God. That wall is gone to all those that ask Christ into their life. Their sins are blotted out. God’s grace and mercy reign in their life.
What does this mean for us? It means if we have never asked Christ into our lives, then we are not his children. The Holy Spirit is not in us. Christ is not in us. WE are dead men walking with no hope apart from a relationship with him.
But what if we are saved? Sin that is unrepented of will also hinder our growth with Christ. That’s why the bible says in 1 john 1;9 to confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and restore the broken fellowship caused by sin. For example, Heb 10:25 says to not forsake the attendance of church. 1 Thessalonians 4 calls us to learn from our pastor/teacher so that we can be equipped. Now let’s say someone rejects God’s word in this area and decides they will do things their own way. They will read the Bible when they can and maybe come to church once or twice a year. And yet having disregarded God’s instructions, they expect God to bless their lives, and blame him when things go south. Its like the man who sees a sign that says don’t cut this pipe- gas line- but goes ahead and cuts it anyway, and then when they are in the hospital with 3rd degree burns, they blame the guy who put up the sign. They never blame the one who ignored it.
You might think well I’ve gotten away with this sin for this long- why rock the boat? God is very patient, but ultimately there is a serious price to be paid for sin. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says –11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
We need God’s life-giving presence- his blessed fellowship to grow in faith and love, yet sin will hinder growth in all areas of our life.
The good news is this: The first step to come out of sin’s grip is to repent and ask God for help. And now that you are clean, now that fellowship is restored go forward with God with a clean conscience and bear fruit for the KINGdom of God.
3. Negative Thinking Hinders Spiritual Growth
Thirdly, negative thinking is a bad habit which you need to deal with in order to grow emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
These negative thoughts are a roadblock to spiritual growth. These negative thoughts include not forgiving someone from your heart. Jesus said in Matthew 6:16- But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. In other words your fellowship with God will not be restored until you forgive your brother from your heart.
Maybe your negative thoughts are a lack of faith in God for your situation. How are you going to grow if you don’t trust the one who does the growing. We need to trust our teachers.
James 1:6- But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth ( has no faith_ is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Some people have a habit of looking at each situation negatively and thinking it was too hard.
You need to engage faith and tell yourself, “My God is bigger than this situation, and He will help me.” He will help me because He loves me. And I will be OK because in his power He does all things exceedingly above all that I can ask or think. A choice to trust him is a choice to grow with him.
Maybe your negative thought is something the pastor said or didn’t say, or something that someone else said. Despite the fact that 2 Corinthians 5:18 says all things are of God- in other words God allowed it to test your faith- will you stand steadfast, or quit? Despite that truth- you use as an excuse and that’s exactly what it is- an excuse to leave church.
I have known people who were growing like crazy. In bible college, starting different ministries in the church, going on evangelism- just going all out for God. It brought joy to them- healing to their families and such amazing fruit. Then comes the test. You don’t really own something that you’ve been taught till you’ve been tested in it. God allows someone to do something- say something- and then that person is gone in a flash. NO more church, no more joy, no more fruit, but still they are DECEIVED into believing they did the right thing, when it was nothing more than a victory for Satan in their lives.
One strategy you could consider to overcome negativity is to document in some way all the things that has done for you over the past year or even years past. How has he changed your life for the better? How has he come through for you in different circumstances when you cried out for deliverance. Has he helped you grow in his word. Have you found a church that preaches the word of God. Have you found Christian brothers and sisters? Has he healed you of something. Write these things down and reflect on them.
Remember Phil 4:8- Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these thing.
Your thoughts are powerful tools for spiritual growth. Prov 23:7- As a man thinketh so is he!
4. Certain Relationships Hinder Spiritual Growth
Fourth, Psalm 1 says that successful people do not get tangled up with negative, wicked, or limiting people. However, successful people delight in God’s freeing Word and fellowship with God and his people.
Sometimes its not as easy to determine who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Some people are so into themselves, but in an effort to square it with Christianity they develop what I call Spiritual arrogancy.
Well, that church might teach the word of God, but their building is so small compared to ours. They don’t have all the gifts that we have. ( which is such a lie- When you have the Holy Spirit who gives spiritual gifts- you have all spiritual gifts available to you.
The good news is you can be a successful person!
You can be planted like strong trees along the riverbank, bear abundant fruit, and be prosperous in all things you do!
I will caution you, however, that you may have to cut ties with some negative and limiting people. Relationships with some people will hinder you!
Relationships with negative or controlling people, judgmental people, gossiping friends, and people with different priorities, will all limit your growth as a person (emotionally, mentally, and spiritually).
In fact, it is dangerous to let these kinds of people influence how you live and think. These kinds of attitudes are not from God who is peace, faith, hope, and love.
Each situation is different, so ask God for strategies on how to deal with these ones.
You may have to be willing to let some people go.
Abraham and Lot were very close, yet as time went by conflict arose between them and their households. They both loved God, yet they were not able to live close together anymore.
They each had different attitudes, motives, and goals.
So, they had to separate.
They were still family. They still loved one another, yet Abraham could not continue to develop into the Father of Faith while burdened with all of Lot’s family drama.
These kinds of people, if we keep allowing them to influence us, will keep us stuck in spiritual muck. Some people do not want to change; they do not want to grow.
God will bring the right relationships into your life.
“I am a companion of all those who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:63).
5. Judgmental Attitudes Definitely Hinder Growing Spiritually
Fifthly, a judgmental attitude severely limits spiritual growth.
Sometimes this attitude can creep into our minds ever so subtly and can have deep roots. Once you start honestly looking for this in your own life, you will see it everywhere. For example, have you ever judged someone’s appearance?
Christians seem to be the worst at judging others. Many of us don’t try to understand where other people come from.
We speak disparaging words and think judgmental thoughts about others.
And we do not understand other people’s situations, actions, or choices, and we do not know the intent of their hearts!
When we pass judgment on others, we usurp God’s authority to judge.
Yet, God is the only judge who can judge rightly.
This leaves our lives open to the boomerang!
To illustrate this point, consider that judging another person is like throwing a boomerang.
When we judge another person in any area, that same judgment is boomeranged back to us.
Even if we do not see this in ourselves, we either already do the same kind of thing, or we will do the same kind of thing.
It is a spiritual law.
If we look with an honest heart, we can see these things in our own life.
The continuing judgment cycle prevents spiritual growth.
Yet, the cycle stops with acknowledgment and repentance!
6. Unhealthy Submission to Religion Limits Spiritual Growth
Sixth, as you know, church—in all its forms—is meant to help you in your journey towards a deeper relationship with God.
The problem comes when a church takes the place of God in our lives.
A church can morph into what is commonly called “legalism.”
Legalism emphasizes doing lots of things to be saved or doing lots of things to please God.
There is pressure to conform to laws and customs. There is little or no teaching on God’s amazing goodness and grace.
[Reminder: God saved you by His amazing grace by faith alone! Your Lord loves you and values you simply because you are His child!]
Legalistic ideology limits growth, and yet it is extremely difficult to get untangled from!
Christians in these legalistic situations submit to things God does not require because of what others may think, or tradition, or fear.
They submit to people who continue to control their clothes, time, behavior, relationships, and money.
Literally and spiritually, the person/church/organization/tradition/culture is placed on a pedestal above God.
The Mixed Message Problem
Some church situations are more difficult to discern because they teach a mixed message. In these cases, it may be hard to realize how stuck you are until you are away from the situation.
If you suspect you might be in this situation, begin to seek the Lord in earnest for how to get unstuck from this type of bondage.
I suggest you read Galatians every day. Then share your situation with someone you can trust to help who is outside the situation.
Most importantly, God is cheering for you! He loves you and wants you to experience His freedom!
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).
7. Fear of Change
Do you have a desire to do something, but never do it?
It can be hard to step out of our comfort zone; it can be scary. Yet, God calls us to face our fears and do amazing things. Jesus will be there to help you.
Fear is going to try to hinder you until you conquer it. Do it afraid.
The hardest part is getting over the initial inertia—just get started!
You may have to take small steps forward at first. But take a step of faith, then do the next step, then the next step, then the next.
Soon you will have followed Jesus into an amazing and purposeful life!
All you need is the next step!
In conclusion, our roots need to have room to grow.
We need to have the chokeholds broken from our necks and receive the living water and fresh Word that nourishes our souls.
God has amazing plans for us!
He wants to root and ground us in His love (Eph 3:17).
Also, He allows us to be challenged by freedom, trust, and experiences (Eph 4:17).
Some people may be comfortable in their bondage, but comfort does not equal growth.
That spindly little seedling fir tree had grown as far as it could grow in that little pot.
The poor seal was stuck at 125 pounds when it should have been 350 pounds.
They were alive, but barely! They were both restricted, hindered, and choked.
My granddaughter and I watched as technicians rescued that poor sick seal. When they broke its bonds, it freely slid back into the ocean where it could eat, live, and grow unrestrictedly.
My husband planted that little tree in the rich fertile earth, so now it is growing free from the bonds that hindered its growth. Now it shows signs of renewed life in its limbs.
The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom, even if there may be a struggle to get free! We can break free from all the things that hinder our spiritual growth.
God has such wonderful plans for you! He has amazing hope and a purposeful future that is good!
He is simply waiting for you to grow up into them and break the things that hinder spiritual growth!