This book by E. Stanley Jones is designed to be read over an entire year. Each day there are scriptural verses, a meditation, a prayer and a thought for the day. Christians have used guides like this for their daily devotional life since the rise of Pietism in the 17th century. However, most of these devotional guides go quickly out of print because they are so bound to the particular issues and challenges of a single generation. However, Growing Spiritually by E. Stanley Jones is timeless and profitable for any Christian in any place or time. The reason is that Jones sets out not simply to inspire you, but to directly address the timeless issues which Christians face which hinders their growth in discipleship.
T he devotional Growing Spiritually, is a study on the fruits of the spirit. “We are made to grow into the measure of the stature of Christ. In Christ the past is buried, the present blessed and the future beckoning.” We grow by “all the stimulus of Christ.” (Phil.2:1) In Growing Spiritually, Jones focuses on the significance of the devotional experience in our lives. Without this daily and consistent focus we risk continued (and even dangerous) immaturity. Jones emphasizes that the need for spiritual growth is critical, not just in itself but because of the unprecedented demands placed on the human spirit by our complex world and its myriad problems. He writes, The center of almost every acute problem, personal, social, economic, political, and international is moral and spiritual immaturity. The problems and possibilities in almost every situation have outgrown the persons. Our world problems and challenges require mature persons, however in many instances the persons who handle those challenges are immature. Our problems are costly as powers are put into the hands of people morally and spiritually too immature to handle them for the collective good.
We need a place to begin to address this urgent need for maturity. Jones tells us that it begins with us, with each individual. The good news is that God wills our maturity and we are made for spiritual maturity. However, we need to cooperate with God and be open to receiving his beckoning. Jones found that his own spiritual growth was directly related to his consistent devotional practice. Jones spells out how we are made for growth and why we need to create an environment that makes growth possible, and even stimulates this growth. God has set the urge within us for growth and we can choose to make use of the mental and spiritual environment in which we live to further our inherent growth. Jones helps us to understand the hindrances to growth that may deter us, things like fear, anxiety, worry, resentment, and self-preoccupation. The reader is shown concrete steps to release him or her from such hindrances of maturity and lay open the path to joy and peace. Jones offers many powerful examples of human growth. The most striking example of is of a lay woman, Mary Webster. (Mary’s story begins on page 224) He writes, The very center of the Christian faith is the Incarnation, in which the Divine Word becomes flesh—the Idea becomes Fact. All other faiths are the word become word, the idea projected as an idea. In Jesus the Idea walked. It spoke in human life and manifested Itself in human relationships. It transformed religion from idealism to realism. Where this faith is sincerely tried, it becomes incarnate as fact. It works in human relationships. And wherever it is tried, it produces something so exquisitely beautiful that we stand “lost in wonder, love, and praise.” From many outstanding examples of Christian growth I am picking one, for several reasons. One is that the person is an ordinary person, with ordinary education, with ordinary’ abilities. The second is that she was placed in a very commonplace situation—on a farm. The third is that at first sight she seems not to be endowed with particular physical gifts. — And fourth, she wasn’t always what she is now. Her sister-in-law said: “Before her conversion her attitudes were all wrong.” And because she was average, I pick her out to let the average person see what can happen when average life is fully surrendered to God and responsive to His will. And I pick her out because in doing so I can easily look past her and beyond her and above her to the source of her life and power— Christ. Mary is not a lone star, aloof and unique: she is an example of ordinary human nature responding extraordinarily to God’s grace. God has no favorites and what God did for Mary Webster he will do for any of us provided we come to him with simplicity and singleheartedness, to grow spiritually. God’s grace is available to you as you choose to Grow Spiritually! This book could not have been reprinted without the assistance of our entire E. Stanley Jones Foundation staff, including Rev. Shivraj Mahendra, whose publishing skill and theological perspective contributed greatly to the project, and Nicholas Younes whose writing and editing expertise always ensure the updated text is clear as he tenaciously pursued the needed annotations. I also want to thank Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary for his Foreword and endorsement for this new edition of this E. Stanley Jones classic. I am surrounded by gifted people and am truly blessed because of them. I trust that in turn you will be blessed by this book.
ANNE MATHEWS-YOUNES, ED.D., D. MIN.
President, The E. Stanley Jones Foundation