The Pathway of Spiritual Growth

Purification through temptation is the pathway that leads to the finish line. We have already seen the scriptures that direct us to be perfect (complete in love) as the Father and Son and saw that this is the goal for which Paul was aiming (Phil. 2:12). James describes the same pathway in very clear terms. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). We note the succession of steps on the pathway.

Temptation (trying of our faith) => Patience => perfect/entire/lacking nothing

Paul gives the same process saying that he glories in tribulation. Why would anyone glory in tribulation? No doubt it was the same reason that James commands us to count it all joy when we fall into various temptations. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

Tribulation => Patience => Experience

The word ‘experience’ is the same word used by James (the trying of your faith) and Peter (that the trying of your faith) referring to the process of purifying metal (1 Pet. 1:6-7). Let it be said at the outset, that not just any suffering will cause spiritual growth. There is a certain kind of suffering which god has ordained for our spiritual growth. This brings us to a very confused subject in Christianity.

One of the great attacks on Christianity is the question of the existence of evil. Men ask whether a righteous God could create such a thing as evil. They cannot fathom a righteous God allowing all of the pain, suffering and evil in the world. Our God has a grand purpose for both suffering and evil. Consider some of the principles of God and the possibility of these standards if there were no evil on earth.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same (Matt. 5:43-46)?

We can be children of our heavenly Father. Jesus gives the definition of spiritual children when he informed the Jews “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). If we are God’s children, we will do the works of God. God returns good for evil. If there were no evil we could not be God’s children. If we return good to those who do good to us, we have no reward and are no different than the tax collectors. Returning good for good is a far lower standard than returning good for evil. Without evil in the world we cannot grow to be God’s children.

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