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.
So, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3 NET)
On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing. For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11–14 NET)
Consequently, I have spent much time in the Bible before the Lord concerning this issue, resulting in this teaching that I will be sharing over the next few articles. I believe this lesson will be beneficial in locating where you are in your spiritual journey – and having located where you are – 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 who have not started and provide confirmation and course correction for those on it. Realize that all progress in spiritual growth is to grow 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 presently see through a glass darkly.
As Paul said,
For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NET)
Consequently, I welcome feedback to perfect my sharing. I desire that we all grow to full maturity in Jesus Christ.
Again as Paul said,
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. (Ephesians 4:13 NET)
Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, teaching about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this is what we intend to do, if God permits. For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:1-6 NET).
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’s 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).
But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 NET)
Phase I: Knowing Him
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)
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 pants on,” get off the couch and start the process of growing up spiritually.
Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately. (2 Timothy 2:15 NET)
No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him. (2 Timothy 2:4 NET)
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 to receive from God
Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it. For we had good news proclaimed to us just as they did. But the message they heard did them no good, since they did not join in with those who heard it in faith. (Hebrews 4:1–2 NET)
And to whom did he swear they would never enter into his rest, except those who were disobedient? So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:18–19 NET)
Therefore it remains for some to enter it, yet those to whom it was previously proclaimed did not enter because of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:6 NET)
Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:11–12 NET)
Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works. (Hebrews 4:9–10 NET)
Another strategy of Satan in this group 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.
They will maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power. So avoid people like these. (2 Timothy 3:5 NET)
“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.
Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and hard labor. (Exodus 6:9 NET)
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 and release to the captives so that we may be able to hear our Father God once again.
The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree the release of captives, and the freeing of prisoners, (Isaiah 6:1–3 NET)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19 NET)
and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:26 NET)
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!
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8 NET)
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, which turned into 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 that might make sense to us in our mind; however, is it not sad 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.
God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NET)
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!
This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life—and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us). What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ). Thus we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1–4 NET)
I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth. (3 John 1:4 NET)
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! (3)
In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NET)
Nevertheless, those who desire to know Jesus will begin the cyclic process to 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
The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.” (John 14:21 NET)
So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness. (1 Peter 2:1–3 NET)
Fellowshipping in prayer and
Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. (Hebrews 4:16 NET)
Ministering to others
And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NET)
I have found daily praying (1) the following prayer of Paul extremely beneficial during this phase of the journey:
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him,—since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened—so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realmsfar above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and he gave him to the church as head over all things.Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:17–23 NET)
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:
- Have You got Your Big Boy Pants On?
- Is Your Engine Running?
- God’s Rock Tumbler
- God’s Tractor Pull
- A License to Learn
(Security, Wholeness, Success)
Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. (3 John 1:2 NET)
(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.
(2) Kevin Grenier: http://www.gatheringhispeople.org
(3) Ellel Ministries, Seeds of the Kingdom 2/26/16, Receiving Help (1), Peter Brokaar.