Lately I have been thinking of the spiritual life as climbing a ladder. The rungs of the ladder support you and take you above to a place that is higher than earth’s gravity (the world) will allow you to reach. You are grounded by the rungs of the ladder; however, the rungs are held firm as a place for you to stand by two poles. Spiritual progress is like climbing a ladder: you need the rungs and the poles in order to climb higher.
The rungs on the ladder can be thought of as formed from the cross of Christ. Jesus, sent from the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the firm foundation that we stand on as we progress towards our ultimate destination, which is intimacy with the Trinity. The outcome of spiritual progress is oneness with God. Sometimes we lose track of this purpose, but Jesus never did. He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one.
If you are not making the spiritual progress that you recognize in others or in the saints, perhaps you should think about the spiritual rungs on which you are climbing. It is very natural to climb on the rungs that the world offers even when our goal is spiritual progress. We mistakenly focus on ourselves or our behaviors when evaluating our progress. We are not standing on the mercy of God and His great love and compassion, but rather our better-than-the-next guy-mentality like the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus clearly showed us that those kinds of rungs become sticky and hold you back from making spiritual progress though they feel firm and steady. The firmer you stick, the less aware you become that you are stuck.
Learn to pray what Jesus prayed for you in John 17, and you will be standing on the rungs that lead to spiritual progress:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
The rungs that lead to intimacy with the Trinity are held firm by two poles. These two poles are the Word of God and the personal presence of God in your life though the Holy Spirit. It’s a good idea to check out your poles to make sure they are balanced; otherwise your ladder will lean in a lopsided way and you may miss the heights that God is calling you to experience. God’s Word and God’s Spirit are always in perfect balance never contradicting each other.
God has given us His Word to guide and lead us to this intimacy with Him. In spite of the fact that it was given through sinful men (the holiest of the sinners none-the less), it is a miraculous book that we must cling to daily and know well. I have been blessed that I have learned how to read and study the Bible since I was a young child. I attended Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries where my learning and memorization expanded so that I realize that I will be ever learning from this Holy Book. I love the word of God so much that I cannot go into my day without connecting to God through a daily reading. In my left hand, my spiritual progress is insured as I firmly hold on to the Word of God. In my right hand, I am steadied by my experiences of God’s transforming work in my life. I am also helped to make spiritual progress by reading about the spiritual experiences and progress of the saints who have written about their journeys.
Spiritual progress is made by always reaching for new heights of intimacy with the Trinity, by standing firm on the work of God in my life through the cross of Jesus Christ as I hold on in His presence through the Word of God and through the manifestations of His presence in my life thought he Holy Spirit.