It’s a good desire to want yourself and your loved ones to be more Christlike. This feeling can be intensified in a romantic relationship, especially if you’re outpacing them in the process of spiritual maturity. However, metaphorically speaking, not all Christians grow at the same pace nor do they reach the same height throughout life. Consequently, what’s to be done when you’re growing faster and taller than your significant other?
The fundamental building block of spiritual formation is worship. Although it should encompass hymns, worship is not simply singing a song on Sunday mornings. It’s a decision that permeates every aspect of a Christian’s lifestyle and isn’t affected by the changeability of feelings (Romans 12:1). Whether happy or sad, healthy or sick, rich or poor, worshipfulness should be the constant of every scenario. You might want your partner to grow, but unfortunately, you can’t decide to worship for them.1
As Christians, we predominantly increase in spiritual maturity through knowledge of God and conformity to Christ. The former is an increase of mind and the latter is an increase of heart, but make no mistake, there’s a war being fought for the hearts and minds of humanity. These forms of worship can be strengthened and hastened through our prayerfulness, and that’s where you can make a difference in the spiritual growth of your significant other.
Growing in Prayerfulness
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18, NIV)
The passage above is couched in the context of spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10-20 speaks about the armor of God, and typically, it’s thought to consist of six pieces (belt, breastplate, boots, shield, helmet, and sword). It’s important to remember that we’re part of a cosmic war, and with that in mind, think of prayerfulness as the seventh piece of armor to equip.
Similar to the sword, prayerfulness is both an offensive and defensive armament. It’s like a ranged weapon for you to use in spiritual battles. Each prayer is a projectile, and just like with arrows and artillery, you can attack the enemy or defend your allies from a distance.
Therefore, don’t underestimate the potential of prayerfulness. Scripture makes it clear that the prayer of a righteous person can be powerfully effective (James 5:16), and as a Christian warrior, you should be praying for your partner to grow spiritually. It’s extra defense against the enemy’s plans to destroy them and an offensive request for the Holy Spirit to attack the strongholds of the enemy in their life.
Growing in the Knowledge of God
“…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Colossians 1:9-10, ESV)
Prayer is again highlighted as the best course of action when desiring spiritual growth in others. From this passage, we learn that growth in the knowledge of God is pleasing to Jesus and part of His will for us. This learning process is necessary to become a Christian in the first place.
For example, it’s impossible to receive the gift of salvation if you choose not to accept it. However, to accept it, you must first recognize what you’re being saved from. Recognition of sinfulness and its devastating consequences is necessary for understanding Christ’s death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice that provided the gift of salvation and the way to eternal life.
Furthermore, continued growth in the knowledge of God is essential to fulfilling the role of a Christian. The above example falls into the realm of theology, and teaching theology is a vital part of the discipleship process (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, per the command of Christ, obedience to Jesus requires growing in the knowledge of God for the betterment of others.
Growing in Conformity to Christ
And if I…understand all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing. (1Corinthians 13:2, ESV)
Growth in our conformity to Christ is perhaps the most important aspect of the Christian faith. As referenced above, growth in one’s mind without growth in one’s heart is the equivalent of nothingness. We might be able to learn the basics of theology through our intellect, but conformity to Christ is only accomplished through our sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
Sanctification is a process by which a Christian is set apart from the commonality of the world and made fit for holiness by God. It’s a two-step process that results in newness of lifestyle. The first step sees the believer declared holy by God simply through their faith in Christ. However, the second step calls these Christians to continue growing in holiness by cooperating with the indwelling Holy Spirit. This final step of the process is perpetual and ongoing until the believer is completely conformed to Christ, but due to the sinful nature of our physical bodies, that goal is impossible to reach before death.
Ultimately, growing in our conformity to Christ is akin to growing in our love for God and others. We understand Jesus to be the physical embodiment of God’s love and our example of how to love others (1John 4:7-12). If indeed we are submitting to the Holy Spirit and continuing to allow Him to conform us to the image of Christ, it will be known to others and growingly evident by our love (John 13:34-35).2
I hope this article has helped you better understand some core aspects of spiritual growth. This information should give you and your partner some ideas to discuss together. Most importantly, don’t forget the power of prayer and continue to pray for their spiritual wellbeing.
May God bless you and give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
- Richard Averbeck, “Worship and Spiritual Formation,” in Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ, ed. Paul Pettit (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008), 51-69.
- Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (1999), s.v. “sanctification.”
Written By: Nicholas Lakin
Nick is an academic scholar, budding theologian, and thoughtful teacher of the Bible. He has a passion to see others grow in their knowledge of God for the purpose of glorifying Christ. He’s also a graduate of Liberty University and a former United States Army soldier.
His academic works range from commentaries and exegetical analyses to nuanced details regarding the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible. His future endeavors include Chaplaincy and founding a nonprofit organization that’s conducive to ecumenical orthodoxy across Protestantism.