As a teacher of men and women and a ministry to men leader in the Body of Christ for many years, it has been my concern that very few seem to grow up spiritually to the point of being able to help others grow in the faith. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3. Hebrews 5:11-14)
Consequently, I have spent much time in the Bible before the Lord concerning this issue with the result of a teaching that I will be sharing over the next few articles. I believe this lesson will be beneficial in locating where you are spiritually - and having located where you are - it will guide moving to the next phase in the journey. However, this is not a formula that will instantly allow spiritual maturity but rather point the way to the journey for those that have not started and provide confirmation and course correction for those that are on it. Realize that all progress in spiritual growth is for the purpose of growing in our relationship and dependency on God. Unlike physical growth from a baby to an adult which is a function of time, spiritual growth is only a function of obedience. That means you do not have to be a certain age to become spiritually mature (i.e., you are not too young or old to begin the journey). We all see through a glass darkly presently (1 Corinthians 13:12); consequently, I welcome feedback to perfect what I am sharing. I desire that we all grow to full maturity in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13. Hebrews 6:1-6).
The Five Phases of our Spiritual Growth
I believe the five phases of our spiritual journey to spiritual maturity are captured in the following verses:
My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 NET)
After being saved we are to grow from believing in Jesus to knowing Jesus (Christian in training (CIT) phase), experiencing the power of God (self-sufficient phase), fellowshipping in His sufferings (suffering phase), death of self-will (self-abandonment phase) and resurrection of Christ will in our lives ("Licensed" Christian Phase) as described in Philippians 3:10. Understanding the cyclic process will help us to work with, instead of against, God in the maturing process. My goal for the reader is that we all will become fully mature and thus enabled to fulfill our God-given destiny in this life (1 Timothy 1:5).
Phase I: Knowing Him (Philippians 3:10.that I may know Him…)
Upon graduating from college, Engineers can take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam to attain the Engineers in Training (EIT) status. This is the first step to becoming a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE). Similarly, the new Christian must spend time with God by studying His Word, talking to Him in prayer, and serving His other children to develop an intimate relationship with Him. Once the intimate relationship has been formed, then spiritual growth can begin. Think about it - how can you obey someone with which you cannot communicate? (1) Consequently, I refer to this as the Christian in Training (CIT) phase as upon its completion you will be in a position to start growing up spiritually and ultimately becoming a "Licensed Professional" Christian (PC)!
Which of the following groups identifies you?
The first group in this phase is those that have recently accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. At the beginning of this phase, we do not really trust God very much, and we have not surrendered to Him in a significant way. We claim we are walking by faith but in reality, it is by sight. The key indicators of being in this phase are that our life matters a great deal to us and we do not think God can or will take care of us. (2) Those that have been in this group for years need to get their "big boy/girl pants on," get off the couch and start the process of growing up spiritually (2 Timothy 2:15,4). That is, stop pretending to be a helpless little lamb and become the lion or lioness you were recreated to be!
The second group in this phase consists of those that may have been saved for many years; however, they are under a false doctrine that in some way substitutes traditions of men for the Word of God thus making it ineffective (Mark 7:13). For example, the spiritual gifts stopped with the Apostles, the original manuscripts of the Bible contained errors (i.e., the Bible cannot be trusted), only the clergy need to study the Bible, the Bible is just a beautiful book of stories but does not contain things you must believe in order to receive from God (Hebrews 4:1,2. Hebrews 3:18,19. Hebrews 4:6,11,12. Hebrews 4:9,10), etc. Another strategy of Satan is to introduce legalism making it a performance based religion instead of a relationship based one. These have an appearance of godliness but deny the power (2 Timothy 3:5).
"The third group in this phase consists of significantly hurting people who have such a negative emotional picture of themselves and the Lord that they cannot trust Him or surrender themselves to Him in a significant way (Exodus 6:9). Typically, they are well aware of their struggles, are not babies in the faith and really want things to be different. However, they are so wounded that much healing and deliverance (1) needs to happen before they can walk by faith." (2) Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1-3. Luke 4:18,19), so that we may be able to hear our Father God once again.
The fourth group in this phase consists of those that find receiving help is hard to handle. How much can we be like this? God is an ever-present helper, with a heart to come alongside us in the midst of our struggles. He is also very likely to bring people alongside us to support, strengthen and help. But how do we respond? We may have many objections to accepting help! (Luke 5:8) Perhaps we feel ashamed of our failures, think that we are meant to do it all ourselves, have allowed others to help us at some other time, and it has been a negative experience, or we have started feeling sorry for ourselves and have stopped truly wanting help. There really are many reasons for refusing help which might make sense to us in our mind; however, is it not sad though to watch someone suffer when you want to help them? God is clear, He is a helper, and He rejoices when we accept the help He makes available to us (Psalms 46:1). Godly people are very much the same desiring to help others. Think of it this way, when we allow others to help we give them cause for rejoicing! (1 John 1:1-4. 3 John 1:4) This is neither wrong nor selfish, but actually life-giving to all involved! Again, when we allow God to help us, we bring our heavenly Father joy! (Luke 15:10) (3)
Nevertheless, those that desire to know Jesus will begin the cyclic process that will bring about their maturity in Christ. Again, we start to know Jesus as we actively seek Him through practicing the Christian disciplines of meditating the Scriptures (John 14:21. 1 Peter 2:1-3), fellowshipping in prayer (Hebrews 4:16) and ministering to others (Matthew 25:40).
Also, I have found daily praying the following prayer of Paul extremely beneficial during this phase of the journey:
Read these verses until you learn them by heart. Apply the prayer directly to your life and pray it for your family as well. Receive the prayer as if Paul by the Holy Spirit was praying directly to you!
The Five Phases of Spiritual Growth Series
2. Is Your Reactor Critical? (1)
3. God's Rock Tumbler (1)
4. God's Tractor Pull (1)
5. A License to Learn (1)
(1) Left click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Kevin Grenier: http://www.gatheringhispeople.org
(3) Ellel Ministries, Seeds of the Kingdom 2/26/16, Peter Brokaar, http://www.seedsofthekingdom.com/devotionals/2788/receiving-help.php