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Faith

Self-Improvement ≠ Spiritual Growth

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Who doesn’t love control? Acting as the master of your own destiny is a temptation that is constantly flaunted in our faces.

Sure, maybe we pray through an issue, but are we earnestly praying for God’s strength, wisdom, and guidance, or are we going through the motions?

Every facet of life beckons self-empowerment. How many self-help books populate the shelves at Barnes & Noble or the Amazon marketplace? How many seminars and workshops exist on the topic? The answer is: too many to count.

Is self-improvement a good and noble thing? Merriam Webster defines self-improvement as “the act or process of improving oneself by one’s own actions.”

Improvement of the self is a good thing as directed and enabled by God. The definition listed above places the glory on the individual instead of God.

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True self-improvement impacts the Kingdom of God, and this kind of transformation is impossible apart from the Lord.

Improvements that have little to no impact on the Kingdom of God are not lasting. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t rejoice in temporal accomplishments. In fact, the Lord strengthens us to accomplish these things for His glory.

For instance, someone who loses a great deal of weight can celebrate and use the accomplishment as a springboard to talk to others about our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Or the individual who is promoted at work because of the Lord’s strength and favor can use this time of rejoicing to share about the Lord’s provision (Philippians 4:19).

Accomplishments and advancements in life don’t have to appear spiritual, but nonetheless, we recognize God’s involvement through the process. These things can be used for His glory, no matter how insignificant they may seem.

We must depend on God for every situation we face in life, and we cannot accomplish lasting (eternal) impacts without Him. The best we can do apart from God is like filthy rags in His eyes (Isaiah 64:6). Our deeds that are not for God’s glory will be burned up—they will not last (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

Therefore, regarding self-improvement, let’s ask God how we need to adjust and improve in every area of our lives. We cannot even recognize all the areas of need, but God can show us (Psalm 139:23-24).

Don’t stop with asking to see areas of need but ask God to work in your life to accomplish and fulfill these things. Remember, if you try to accomplish these things alone, you will fall into discouragement, failure, and/or burnout.

But, if you rely on Him, He will equip you to accomplish His purposes. These are the prayers that please the heart of the Lord (1 John 5:14).

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David Mathis writes, “Spiritual growth is a marvelous effect of spiritual discipline, but it is only an effect”.

We have no excuse not to call out to the Lord. He cares for His children beyond comprehension, and He has our best in mind…all for His glory!

“You will make known to me the way of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11, NASB).

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Dr. Randall Downs is from Mobile, AL. He received his Master of Divinity (2011) and his PhD in Church History (2018) from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. Randall is the Director of the Worship Arts program at Grand Canyon University, and he currently serves as Worship Pastor at CrossLife Church in Anthem, AZ. Randall is also the singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the folk/folk-rock band, Loser’s Way Home.
Dr. Randall Downs is from Mobile, AL. He received his Master of Divinity (2011) and his PhD in Church History (2018) from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. Randall is the Director of the Worship Arts program at Grand Canyon University, and he currently serves as Worship Pastor at CrossLife Church in Anthem, AZ. Randall is also the singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the folk/folk-rock band, Loser’s Way Home.




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