Are you familiar with “lead indicators” and “lag indicators”? The latter display the results of our efforts; they are the scoreboard to which we look to see if we’re winning or losing. Report cards and sales figures, for instance, post current results of activities past. Lead indicators, on the other hand, measure the efforts that produce results. Hours devoted to study portend our final grades, and the number of cold calls impacts future sales. Pay attention to lead indicators, and the score will largely take care of itself.
Occasionally, people ponder this life lag indicator: “Is my spiritual life better than it was a year ago?” After all, growth is good, right? Yet this worthy aspiration brings with it the temptation to look to the do’s and don’ts of spiritual infancy as relevant indicators of spiritual maturity. When early Christians so regressed, Paul chided them, “Why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?1 When others similarly stumbled, the apostle appealed incredulously, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”2 This is not to say there is no right or wrong or bad or good—there certainly is—but the Law of Moses never could change our hearts, nor can we look to this external code as a scoreboard of spiritual growth. Our inner progress is actually the Spirit’s success, for it is He who transforms us over time. He pours Himself into us, evidenced by the character that flows out from us—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” taught Paul, adding, “Against such things there is no law.”3
Then what is our role regarding fruitful growth? Two words come to mind: Draw near. We read in Hebrews, “Let us draw near to God, with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith,”4 confident in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. “Come near to God and he will come near to you,”5 echoes James. It is relationship God desires from us—closeness and trust, unity and rest. It means learning about God’s love in His word, stepping into His love through trust, and opening up to Him in submissive, honest and relational prayer. Draw near to God; the scoreboard will take care of itself. He’ll see to it.
Father, your proactive love for me is beyond imagination. Strengthen and lead me into intimate time with you today. Give me discernment to know your voice, believe your truth, and grow up in your love. Amen.
1 Colossians 2:22
2 Galatians 3:3
3 Galatians 5:22, 23
4 Hebrews 10:22
5 James 4:8