Some people like to say, “Let go and let God.” Which essentially means, relax, sit back and let God do all the work.
Other people seem to be of the mind that spiritual development rests solely on the shoulders of the disciple. In other words: God does the saving, but its on us to do the growing.
I find both views to be extreme. Instead, I believe that discipleship is a holy collaboration between Creator and the re-created.
We can’t grow without God’s help. At the same time, we won’t grow if we refuse to put forth any effort.
In John 15, Jesus stressed the importance of consistently abiding in Him, to the point that he declared, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” As we abide in Christ and keep in step with the Spirit, God works through us to produce lasting spiritual fruit that will remain forever (John 15:4-5; Galatians 5:25; John 15:8).
If we leave God out of our “spiritual growth equation,” its a sure sign of hubris. Simply put, “no God, no growth.”
Yet, in contrast (but not in contradiction), Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 5:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Paul used an athletic analogy to convey to Timothy that effort will be involved. The Olympic athlete dedicates himself to countless hours of rigorous training, all the while refraining from otherwise acceptable enjoyments to maintain discipline, all for the sake of achieving his goal. So, too, the follower of Christ must engage in certain activities and refrain from others in order to achieve the goal of increasing Christlikeness.
Paul also told the believers in Philippi, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13)
So, although we are completely dependent upon God to mature spiritually, we have an indispensable role to play in the process.
Perhaps we might look at it like this: God provides all the tools we need to grow (which is backed up by 2 Peter 1:3-8), but its our responsibility to pick up the tools and put them to use.
Those who farm know that they, on their own, can’t make a single plant grow, But, the wise farmer also knows that if he doesn’t plow, plant, water and cultivate, no crop will sprout from the ground.
Spiritual maturity is a divine work of God and a miracle to watch. Yet, God calls upon us to join Him in this amazing work. We are called to listen, learn and obey. We’re also called to study and meditate upon God’s Word, pray, worship and serve.
Scottish Bible teacher Alexander MacLaren once wrote: “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” So we see, then, that the choice is ours. May each of us desire increasing godliness and use the keys we have been given.”