Question: I worship God, I read his word, I pray, and try to repent of known sins, but I just can’t seem to make much progress in my Christian walk. I think I’m doing everything I should be doing. Am I missing something?
Answer: Applying ourselves to the spiritual disciplines you mentioned is indeed a very important aspect of our growth in grace. However, every Christian needs to be careful to avoid a spiritual kind of self-centeredness.
I am not not sure whether or not you have fallen into this particular trap, but I did notice an awful lot of “I’s” in your question. So what I would recommend to you first is simply this: Take your eyes off of self and fix them firmly upon Jesus.
Self-examination can be a good thing for the Christian, but it has a very narrow purpose according to scripture. It is intended only (and quickly!) to convince us of our utter inability to save or sanctify ourselves that we might forsake all hope in self and cast ourselves wholly upon the perfect sufficiency of Christ.
The following meditation from Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) recently reminded me of these things and I hope his words will also help you to fix your eyes upon Jesus – the Author and Finisher of your faith:
“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’ All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’
Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.
We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him.
Oh! Let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee.”
‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.’