When it comes to spiritual progress, willpower won’t cut it. Our flesh can never do the work of the Spirit. Granted, with self-discipline we can make changes. We can tack on new behaviors and stop doing other behaviors. But those kinds of changes are exhausting—and almost always temporary. They’re hard to pull off and even harder to maintain. Worse, they can deceive us into thinking that we’ve actually changed ourselves on the inside, that a cosmetic change equals a heart change. It’s as if we’ve fastened fresh oranges onto a couple of tree stumps and started to believe that we’ve created an orange grove.
But what willpower can’t do, God will do. It all starts with what the Bible calls yielding to the Holy Spirit—aligning our motivations, values and thoughts with the Scriptures and the Spirit’s inner promptings.
The fact is, our behavior flows naturally and almost effortlessly out of our core motivations. We can’t help but live in light of them. That’s why whenever our actions seem to conflict with our values, it’s a telltale sign that our stated values and motivations are different from our core values and motivation. And it’s why spiritual transformation always begins with a renewed mind that realigns our thoughts, motivations and values with God’s will and Word.
And that’s where Faith, Hope and Love come in. They’re incredibly important foundational spiritual indicators. Whenever they’re absent or weak, we’ll end up living selfishly, making self-centered decisions that lead to spiritually destructive behavior and dire consequences. But as we grow in Faith, Hope and Love, we’ll end up living for Jesus and others, making Spirit-led decisions that lead to Spirit-led behavior resulting in the experience of God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.
That’s why Ratta claims that our personal spiritual progress can often be measured with one simple question: How am I growing in Faith, in Hope and in Love?
I believe he is right. The Spiritual Progress model fits so well with the biblical paradigm that it’s almost a priori obvious, once you step back and look at it. It makes you wonder, Why hadn’t I seen that before?
As you read through this book, you’ll discover the motivational power that each of these three virtues has on our lives, and how our response to each one impacts our spiritual progress for either good or bad.
You’ll also find that Ratta goes beyond mere theory. He offers practical steps that anyone can take. He helps us honestly access where we are in terms of Faith, Hope and Love, and he offers practical and biblical steps to help us grow in each area.
Whether your spiritual life is steadily moving forward, merely treading water or about to go under, I believe the insights in this book will help you to become more like Jesus. That’s because at the end of the day, any time we submit to God’s Word and more carefully realign our values and motivations with his, spiritual progress is inevitable. And any time we don’t, it’s impossible.
Larry Osborne, author and pastor, North Coast Church, Vista, CA
Allen Ratta and Larry Osborne, Making Spiritual Progress: Building Your Life with Faith, Hope and Love (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014).