What Keeps You Grounded?

6 Things You Can Do For Spiritual Growth

Bob Goff

Our problem with following Jesus is we’re trying to be a better version of us, rather than a more accurate reflection of him.

There is a spiritual longing…

…a spiritual hunger in the world today—a need for something that soothes our souls and brings meaning to life. We’re fed up with religion’s inability to deliver, but desperate to be in community with grace-filled people who genuinely live and love like Jesus.

Many of us are asking, “Who is God, how to pray, how to pray to God, what’s the prayer for today and what’s the difference between spirituality and religion?”

Religion is a personal or institutionalized system of rules, attitudes, beliefs and practices that guide behaviors. 

Spirituality is an experience of connection to something beyond you that inspires a deeper and meaningful perspective; it is a commitment to living everyday life in a reverent and sacred manner.

For us, spirituality is being animated and inspired by the empowering presence of the Trinity—The Father, Son and Spirit—as revealed in the person of Jesus. This begs the question, “What was Jesus really like?”

We read that he hung out with the misfits, the social outcasts of his day. What does this teach us about his persona and demeanor? We see him pulling away from the crowds so that he could pray and meditate and be alone with his Father. What does this say about the Source of his strength?

We watch him sleeping…

in a boat tossed by a life-threatening storm as everyone around him panicked. Where did this assurance and peace amid the storm come from?

We watch him fearlessly call out the powerful religious leaders for their hypocrisy—for their lack of spiritual perspective and their pompous adherence to religious rules. What does this tell us about his courage and conviction?

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

We hear the sloshing of water…

as he washed his friends’ feet. We see him consenting to his Father’s will while agonizing in the garden. And, we hear his words—words of forgiveness—from the cross as he uttered his last breath. What does this teach us about his heart?

It illustrates his fierce intent and unwavering trust in the intimacy, goodness and power of his Father in the Spirit. In Jesus, we see unconditional love lived out in one who will go to any lengths to secure our well-being.

The question is, “If this is Jesus, can I be more like him? Can I be transformed, on the inside, to be like Jesus? Can I actually rise above my foolishness, greed and malintent to live loved, to live with peace, joy, generosity, and unearthly power as Jesus did? Is spiritual growth really possible in my ordinary life?”

We believe it is, because we’ve experienced it in our own lives and observed it in the lives of others. But we can assure you, having failed the school of “do more and try harder” that spiritual transformation is not a do-it-yourself project. Jesus made that clear when he said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

So, what opens us up to the energy and power that simply is not inherently within us?

Here are some thoughts:

1. Accept Your “Acceptedness”

Transformation is not the result of punitive rules or well-honed formulas. An authentic and enduring desire to change flows naturally from an understanding of who God is.

The Father, Son and Spirit is the most well-adjusted, healthy, happy, and functional family that exists in the universe. Theirs is a relationship of mutual delight, sheer joy and self-giving, other-centered love.

The emotional life of the Trinity is other-centered, not self-centered. It is profoundly personal and intimate, not distant or detached. The Persons of the Trinity are authentic and real, not pretentious. They are consistent, not fickle, and completely trustworthy.

Here’s the good news. We have been included. This Great Dance of love between the Father, Son and Spirit is to be played out in each of our “ordinary” lives. Why? Because we are a major ingredient in the unbounded joy of the Trinity.

More accurately, we are the very center of their joy, not because of what we have done, but rather because of who they are. We’ve done nothing to be loved and accepted, and yet we are. The Father, Son and Spirit, in a cosmic act of divine philanthropy, decided not to hoard the love they share. We are included. We are family. We are loved and accepted…period, no religious rule-keeping required, no Hail Mary’s, fasting, missions, baptisms required, there are no strings attached, you’re in.

Spiritual growth starts with knowing Who and Whose you are. It begins with believing the truth that you are already entirely accepted and then, accepting your “acceptedness.”

2. Adopt a Posture of Confident Humility

Humility is not groveling and “playing small.” Jesus didn’t have a low estimation of himself. He wasn’t weak or mousey. You never read of a time where he was timid or worried. Even in the garden before his capture and crucifixion, you see his pain accompanied by his steely-eyed determination to carry out his mission to the very end.

Jesus was not self-deprecating, and he didn’t falsely devalue himself in the presence of others. That said, in Jesus, there is also no fanfare, no spectacle and no performance to show off his glory and demand his rights. Jesus never put himself out front, yet he never lacked presence and he never played “small.”

Confident humility opens the door…

to God’s empowering Presence. Confidence is knowing who God is and having the faith that he cares enough to show up. Humility is acknowledging that independence quickly takes us to the end of our personal resources. The truth is, our willpower is weak, we are continually challenged by difficult circumstances and a tendency toward bad choices. Humility is realizing we can’t live an EPIC life under our own power, but our strength is in the One who wired us to live EPIC, and with Him, we are capable of exceedingly great things.

Confident humility makes us aware of, open to, and present to his Presence. And, it is his Presence, the power of his life in us that empowers our will, spiritual growth and maturity.

3. Pursue Conversational Intimacy

If you really want to know how to pray, how to talk to God, we invite you to think instead about talking WITH God.  What if you had the opportunity to have an ongoing conversation with the wisest, kindest, most generous and loving person in the world, what would you do? Would you give up “screen time” to cultivate this intimacy? Would you carve out time for them? Would you invite them to be your guide, as opposed to slogging your way through the many distractions and mundane routines of life on your own?

Does God still speak? Are the Father, Son and Spirit really interested in the details of our lives? Well, think about it, the purpose of all creation, which includes you, is to share in the exuberant Life of the Trinity, to be in communion with them. We were created out of relationship for relationship. We know love, express love and enjoy love because they first loved each other and then loved us. As Father, Son and Spirit, God is relational to the core.

Relationships form and grow, how? Through conversational intimacy, through conversation WITH others not conversation at others.

Prayer is a conversation with God…

a close sharing between friends. It involves carving out time to be with Those who love us. This conversational intimacy can be vocal or verbal—words we pray silently or out loud to God. Although for some, God may speak in an audible voice, more often we “hear” God in our hearts, if we are present enough to listen.

Prayer can also be meditative—it’s engaging our imaginations and thinking through what we know about God through the words and stories of Scripture. Or, prayer can be contemplative—a quiet, yet intense awareness of our union with God and God’s Presence in the moment.

However we are nudged—words we pray out loud or in silence, meditation, or contemplation—the prompt is always God’s initiative, it is God moving in us. It is never the result of our efforts, although it does require our participation.

Spiritual growth rises out of this conversational intimacy with God. What does that look like? For us, it takes place in all of life, in the excitement, joy and fulfillment, as well as the struggle, frustration and heartache of every day.

It is mindfully asking God questions, making requests and sharing gratitude. It is a presence and posture of expectancy and surrendered engagement—knowing the Trinity delights in showing up in ways that are beyond our comprehension. It is surrendering to what They want to say and how They want to say it, and then, being fully-engaged in following Their lead.

These are just a few samples of questions, requests and affirmations that have worked for us. Please see them only as starting points, teasers if you will, to help you engage in your own conversation with God. Your journey and your relationship will be different than ours, it will be yours:

Some Conversation Starters: Jesus…

  • Where are you, our Father and the Holy Spirit right now, in this moment, in this specific situation?

  • What are you doing right now? How can I participate with you?

  • What are you trying to teach me? What issues deep within me are you trying to surface right now?

  • How should I pray about this situation? Guide me.

  • What is it I misunderstand about you? How can I see you more clearly, more accurately?

  • What is it about your love that I don’t understand? About how you see me?

  • Holy Spirit, where have I been missing or resisting your nudge, your shoulder tap, your whisper?

  • What is it you are asking me to embrace? Let go of?

  • What agreements have I made with evil, shame, or doubt, perhaps unwittingly but willfully? What agreements have given foul spirits access to my life? Break these agreements and guide me into healing and transformation.

God isn’t a vending machine, yet he loves to be asked…

  • Awaken me to my union with you. Abolish the lie of separation that haunts me.

  • Awaken me to your empowering Presence and help me stay present to you.

  • Help me to see you in the eyes of every person in my life: my loved ones, those who challenge me the most and even my enemies.

  • I want to know the bigness of your goodness, show me where I’ve boxed you in.

  • Show me were my trust in you is lacking. Show me where I’m playing small.

  • Go before me and break down the barriers I face. Snap the tethers holding me down.

  • Restore a sense of wonder and the realization that my life is anything but ordinary and routine. Give me the courage to follow you into the adventure.

  • Show me the inner security, deep sense of significance and unearthly assurance that comes from knowing my union with you.

  • Open my eyes when I reach for the “apple” and start to entertain the idea that maybe you have abandoned and forsaken me in your silence.

Spiritual Affirmations…

  • Jesus, I give your life, in which you showed us the Father, your death, in which you killed and banished my sin, your resurrection, in which I have been raised to new life, and your ascension, in which I am seated with you in authority at the right hand of the Father. I give it ALL total claim to every aspect of my life.

  • Holy Trinity, I give you permission to work, heal and render powerless my watchful dragons, my defense mechanisms, my insecurities and fears, and my posing, pretending and hiding. Work as deeply as you want to work. I invite you to reveal the things that are keeping me from encountering the love and life of the Great Dance in my marriage, in my work and in my friendships. Break the strongholds, shatter the lies with your truth and let your light penetrate the darkness so that it is no more.

  • I renounce every critical comment, every curse and every form of judgment I’ve directed at someone you love, someone you died for. I ask you now to disarm that curse and lift it, once and for all time, from the person I judged. I ask you to lift from them the guilt, shame, exclusion, fear, despair, hopelessness, anxiety and all the earthly consequences of my judgment.

    In its place, I ask you to anoint them with the voice of I AM—“I am a child of the King. I am created in the image of God. I am loved beyond comprehension. I am the one in whom the Father delights. I am strong and capable based on the gifts God has planted in me. I can overcome the attitudes and behaviors that draw judgment from others. I am accepted by the One and only true judge of humanity. I am the one Jesus ransomed and the one he will heal.”

    For your ongoing spiritual growth, we’ve included a list of readings at the end of this post.

4. Seek Solitude

As we pointed out, Jesus frequently stole away from the crowds and his friends to pray and be alone with his Father. It took 40 days of solitude and fasting in the desert to prepare Jesus for the dangerous mission he was given. We suspect those 40 days were a rite of passage, in which Jesus demonstrated to himself and the world, Who and Whose he is.

Satan came at him with one temptation after another, and yet, he never stopped being his Father’s Son. The accuser asked, “Are you sure you are the Son of God? Do you really have what it takes? Are you up for a mission as dangerous as this?” The answer was always unequivocal, emphatic and deliberate. Jesus came away from this initiation, if you will, with his identity confirmed and his resolve strengthened.

Could there be a lesson in this for us? Yes! Solitude is where we engage in private devotion. It’s where we adopt a posture of surrender, quiet our hearts and eliminate distractions to be with the Father, Son and Spirit. Solitude is where the Trinity has an opportunity to confirm our identity as Their beloved.

The problem with solitude is…

not being alone, although some of us find it extremely difficult to sit quietly for even a short period. The problem with solitude is our egos. It’s convincing our egos that the world will get along just fine without us. We need to be needed, so we tell ourselves that the business, the family, the marriage, you name it, will collapse in our absence. The weight of the world was on Jesus, yet he found it necessary to retreat.

Sometimes we can’t hear from God because we can’t get away from the chaos, routine and the noise at large in our lives. Silence in solitude is an essential prerequisite for achieving conversational intimacy with God. The way we spend our time says a lot about our priorities and what we value. Shutting off technology, unplugging to be with God, is a choice indicative of our desire for conversational intimacy and relationship.

Solitude is where we step off the treadmill and reflect. Here’s the thing, those who can’t or won’t reflect don’t really know what they want in life. If you don’t know what you want in life, if you’re too busy going through the motions, defaulting to your over-scheduled life, or simply lost in the routine, you’ll end up empty, spiritually dead.

In thoughtful reflection…

we become self-aware and self-awareness is essential to spiritual growth because pride, induced by self-indulgence, is the absence of self-awareness. Solitude opens the door for the kind of reflection that puts us in touch with our own poverty and depravity. When we truly come to terms with this, we see our true identity in Jesus and experience the joy of adoption, of having a place in the shared life of the Trinity.

Now, please don’t read this as punitive or shaming. The time you spend with God and practicing solitude should be aligned with where you are in life. If life is blurred and blended, if you’re managing a household of five and working full-time, no one, especially God, expects you to live like a Monk. God doesn’t want your obligation, he wants your invitation to join in your journey, He wants your love. So, it’s okay, start small. Invite God into your busy life, to join and guide you. Although He is already there, He still loves to be invited.

5. Read, Watch, Listen to Soul-nourishing Material

The old adage, “you are what you eat” could easily be added to, “you are what you read, watch and listen to.” It’s an important point given that time spent on TV and social media has gone up every year of our lifetime.

Everyone knows the importance of nourishing our bodies. Yet, how often do we neglect the need to nourish our souls and our spirits? Think about it, how much of what you consume enriches your life? How much of it zaps your spirit, darkens your mood and depletes your energy? It’s worth doing an audit.

Solid spiritual reading is essential for spiritual growth. Of course, top on the list is the inspired Scriptures. Although, with over 40,000 different religious denominations, these texts can be read and interpreted very differently. What happens when two people read the same Scripture and come up with interpretations that are diametrically opposed? 

To fuel your spiritual journey we’ve included a list of suggested readings and resources at the end of this post.

Our litmus test is…

the life of Jesus. He said he is the final revelation of God—the Word mediated through words. So, we look at the entire arc of the story, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, in the context of the way Jesus lived, what he said and what he did. We glean meaning from the Scriptures in terms of how he landed on people and how they responded to him. Doing a deep dive into his personality, temperament and behavior has caused us to jettison a punitive, legalistic reading of the bible and trade it for a grace-oriented perspective. This is how His life speaks to us.

Scriptures are the foundation, but there are many other things to read, listen and watch to nourish our souls. The point is, trade the brain candy for timeless truths, new ideas, insights that matter, inspiration, good energy and optimism. If you want to grow spiritually, if you want to be anchored to something real and foundational, consume music, TV, streamed programs, and books that help you:

  • Get to know God better,

  • Love deeper,

  • Judge less,

  • Extend grace more,

  • Be wiser, and

  • Experience more peace and joy in life.

6. Establish Community

Since we were created out of community–Father, Son and Spirit–wired into us is a deep desire to belong. We were not meant to do life alone, we need people. We need people who will love us and encourage us, who will share our burdens and pray for us, and who will call us out in truth and love and show us our blind spots.

Spiritual growth and maturity take time. As we’ve said, it happens through conversational intimacy with God, but it also occurs in trust and conversational intimacy with others. The context for this conversation is a community that moves us beyond the self-interested isolation of our private lives and into communion with others.

Most of us are going 90-mph with our hair on fire, just trying to keep up in an increasingly uncivilized world. When we feel the shame of our own failures, when we feel beaten down and lack the courage to rise strong, community is a powerful thing. To have people in our lives who surround us with compassion and wisdom lightens our burdens, strengthens us and gives us the courage to keep going. Likewise, when life is good, the party is more meaningful when we can share it with people we genuinely respect, connect with and love.

The Challenge in Building Community is…

that the cultural current of the day draws us toward superficiality. Relationships are messy. A lot of people are more comfortable on the surface. Community requires courage and vulnerability. You can’t have one without the other. It’s an act of courage to be vulnerable and authentic and let people go beyond our watchful dragons to see who we really are. It takes guts to risk exposure. But the more we dare to exercise courage, the more vulnerable we become. This sets the stage for relationships that are deeper, more meaningful and fulfilling.

We talked about how reflection through solitude fosters self-awareness. Community facilitates self- and other-awareness. Being surrounded by trusted others who see the world differently than we do is a gift. Growth feeds on multiple points of view. That is, we mature from the wise counsel and support of people who have different gifts and talents than we do. When we hear what these people are learning, from God and from others, it teaches us too.

But diversity requires managing the creative tension that arises when my insecurities and imperfections rub up against yours. Only in community can we learn to appreciate, learn and grow from our differences.

If the Trinity is anything to go by, we were not created to be independent, autonomous and self-sufficient. We were made to be interdependent—to complement, collaborate, strengthen, and complete one another. The forces of darkness will try to convince you that YOU are all you need, but it’s a lie that is trying to keep you from the spiritual growth that will enrich your life.

In the bigger picture, spiritual growth is a way of life. It’s about showing up regularly out of genuine desire, not an obligation. It requires a firm and reliable disposition of the will that says, “I desire to get to know the Giver behind the gifts. And, I will lean on His grace to grow good habits, root out, and heal the bad habits that keep me from living an EPIC life.”

But if you’re like us, fear, resignation, routine and the grind of life-as-usual can keep you from exploring your own spiritual growth.

We encourage you to get reflective, read, reach out and explore your spiritual desires. Spiritual growth is a critical practice to master, yet it is only one of six important life dimensions for leading and living EPIC.

Join us on a journey designed to help you evaluate where you are in all six life dimensions, a journey that will equip you to thrive personally and professionally.

Our online course, Crush Fear, identifies the techniques and lessons that will help you Build Resilience, Do Brave Work, and Lead & Live Epic.

Grow Resilience  |  Do Brave Work  |  Lead & Live EPIC

Spiritual Work is one of 6 life dimensions we explore in our new online course CRUSH FEAR. We’ll guide you through 8 life-changing modules designed to help you thrive in work and in life.