Spiritual Maturity

Once we have accepted Christ as our Savior, our journey of sanctification has only begun. We have a tremendous duty to grow in knowledge of the Lord (Ephesians 4:15) so that we can become ambassadors of the Good News and share our faith with confidence. Our spiritual growth can be developed through many different methods.

One example of a growth opportunity is in the problems we face. In Genesis 35:1-15, God reminded Jacob of his new name, “Israel”, which meant “one who struggles (strives) with God”. Although Jacob’s life was filled with difficulties and trials (many of which were self-inflicted), his new name reflected his desire to stay close to God despite life’s disappointments.

Many people believe becoming a Christian results in living a trouble-free life. Consequently, as life gets tough they become disappointed. Instead, they should learn to prevail with God through life’s storms. We can only do this if we involve Him in our struggles through a prayerful life and one that seeks His will for us. Problems and difficulties are painful but inevitable; we need to see them as opportunities for growth (Proverbs 3:12; John 16:33; Romans 5:3;12:12; 1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:2-8;12; 1 Peter 5:10).

Spiritual growth can also come through listening to and obeying God’s Word. In Deuteronomy 5:1-33, the people of Israel had entered into a covenant with God, and Moses commanded them to hear, learn, and follow His statutes. Christians have also entered into a covenant with God through their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and should also be responsive to His expectations. Moses’ threefold command to the children of Israel is excellent advice for all of God’s children. Listening is absorbing and accepting information about God. Learning is understanding its meaning and implications. Following is putting into action all we have learned and understood. Without an abiding desire to find time every day to open our Bibles and spend time with our Creator, we will never achieve all that God wants us to be.

Recognizing weaknesses is often the beginning of growth. What is weak faith? Paul speaks about about immature faith in Romans 14:1-23, describing a faith that has not yet developed the muscle it needs to stand against worldly influence. If a new Christian came from a background of idol worship or ritualistic practices, they might feel empty or unfaithful if their Christian worship did not include the same practices. These individuals need to be reminded of what saving faith is actually all about. It is in our response to the weaker members of the body of Christ that offers opportunity for our own maturation: we should respond in love. Certainly, some issues are central to the faith and worth fighting for—but many are based on individual differences and should not be legislated. We should promote unity in the essentials and liberty in the nonessentials, but in everything, love.

Spiritual growth results from discipline. Paul uses the illustration in 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 of winning a race to explain that the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial, and grueling preparation. As Christians, we are running toward our heavenly reward. The essential disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship equip us to not only run such a race, but win as well. We should not merely observe from the grandstand or turn out to jog a couple of laps now and then. Our training should be diligent—one that reflects the importance of preparing for the life to come. Reflect on your own maturing process: Do you make time for study every day?

Finally, recognize that through self-denial, spiritual maturity will flourish (Matthew 19:29; Romans 12:1;13:14; Philippians 3:7; 1 Peter 2:11; James 4:7). At times, we must give up something of earthly pleasure in order to do what God wants. It is in these moments where the world is striving to draw you into its grasp, that your ability to withstand the trappings of the world will be most tested. With the goal of pleasing God foremost in your heart, the necessary denial of worldly pleasure seems like nothing compared to the eternal, imperishable reward that will be ours.