I’ve been thinking more about my time in seminary now that I’m nearing the end. I am not the same person today as that guy who started Greek on that anxious Monday morning over two years ago. Indeed, the more I reflect on my time in seminary, the more I realize just how much I’ve grown spiritually. But it hasn’t come without a cost. Spiritual growth is always costly.
What has it cost me?
Here are a few things that come to mind.
Spiritual Growth is Costly
It cost me money.
I haven’t been able to work full-time since I started seminary because my seminary studies take around 40-45 hours of my week. Before seminary, I had a career and a decent amount of money entered into my bank account every two weeks. I gave that up to go to seminary to grow and learn and to be better equipped to serve the church. But it’s come at a price— literally. It cost me money.
It cost me time.
Three years. That’s how long it’ll take to finish when it’s all said and done. I’ve given three years of my life to study, write, listen, and learn to better serve the church. I often study on Saturdays and miss out on events with friends. I often have to read and write when I get home and sacrifice my evenings. Seminary work is never quite done until the semester is over, so it’s basically on my mind all day for four months at a time. It has cost me lots of my time — time that I could have spent doing something else.
It costs me emotional energy.
Lots of it. Seminary is brutal. And exhausting. Much harder than I thought it would be. But it’s supposed to be this way. I never knew how much worry and anxiety was in me until these three years. When you are in difficult seasons of life, sins and issues rise to the surface that you otherwise did not know were there. It’s a blessing because it helps you identify areas in which you can grow, but it’s painful nevertheless.
It cost me comfort.
It’s been uncomfortable. Starting over two years ago and hardly knowing a soul. Taking over a year to make friends. Constantly being pressured and pushed with Greek and Hebrew Quizzes, tests, exegetical notebooks, writing mini-commentaries, and a sermon — and often all on the same day! I haven’t felt comfortable in life for a long time. But that’s a good place to be. Being uncomfortable forces you to grow.
On and on I can go. It cost me a lot.
But you know what?
I have grown more spiritually over these past few years than any other time in my life.
While it’s been hard and at times I’ve wanted to quit, it’s been a huge aid to my sanctification.
Spiritual growth is costly. In order to gain more of Christ, you have to give up other things. There’s always a tradeoff. You have to take action. You have to make changes and sacrifices. Nobody who goes to the gym once every six weeks gets stronger. It’s a regular commitment, but the payoff is huge.
D.A. Carson on Spiritual Growth
D.A. Carson writes:
“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”
Yes, it’s the Holy Spirit that sanctifies you and does the work. But it’s not like you don’t have a part to play. We must never separate God’s sovereignty and human responsibility — they always go together.
What does this look like for you?
It may mean you sacrifice money to buy two new books to read a month. It may mean you sacrifice comfort and wake up early every morning to spend time praying and reading your Bible. It may be you sacrifice your Wednesday night every week and make small group a priority. Either way, if you’re going to grow, it’s going to be costly. Spiritual growth is always costly. But the tradeoff of receiving more of Christ is worth it.