“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
A spiritually-mature Christian is a ‘faith walker’ who strives to embody the qualities of Jesus Christ. Their sense of purpose is shaped by their Christian values. Conversely, a new Christian has just begun his or her walk with the Lord.
As I sat in Bible Study one Tuesday evening last October, the topic was hearing God’s voice – i.e. one’s spiritual ears. Just two days earlier, the same Associate Minister, as he ended his anointed Sunday sermon, mused on the ‘spiritual blindness’ of the unsaved. The seed for this series had been sown.
Stages of Spiritual Growth
While no two Christian’s share the same ‘spiritual essence’, I feel the stages that they typically take are the same. The core mission of this blog is helping Christians in the areas of spiritual empowerment and encouragement. Without spiritual growth, being encouraged and empowered is a fairly tough task for any Christian. In this post, I’ll set forth four (4) stages of Spiritual Growth. In upcoming posts in this series, I’ll touch on the work of John MacArthur, discuss how ‘Hearing Him Availeth Much’, and discuss some relevant New Testament scriptures.
- Seeing the Way (Ezekiel 37)
- Hearing Him (1 Samuel 3)
- Grasping God’s Greatness (Matthew 14)
- Walking in the Spirit (James 1)
Stage 1 – Seeing the Way
Before a believer can begin this stage in earnest, they must have a wholehearted belief in God’s power. As well they need to eagerly embrace his 7/24/365 presence in their life. Those who remain mired in a ‘Valley of Dry Bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-6) will not be able to enter the ranks of the redeemed of the Lord. They will not be able to see the way, and start their walk with Christ, due to their spiritual blindness. The ranks of unchurched believers is, I think it’s fair to say, larger than it should be.
For me personally, Matthew 6:33 and Psalm 23 were the words that moved me to start my walk.
Stage 2 – Hearing Him
While working with Eli in the temple (1 Samuel 3), Samuel was called by the Lord three times before he realized that it was the Lord, not Eli, who was calling him. Samuel simply did not recognize the Lord’s voice.
However, Eli helped Samuel understand who was calling him. Scripture tells us:
So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. 1 Samuel 3:9-10, 19 (NIV).
How long did it take you to start to hear God’s voice? Your level of growth is, in part, based on your ability, and desire, to discern his voice with ease. This ability will develop and get deeper, generally, as one continues to grow.
It goes without saying, learn to ignore the ungodly voice that asks you to do wicked and ungodly things. Please treat that voice as noise; you’ll be glad you did!
- Personally, it was my ability to hear him fairly well that laid the seed (Spring 2012) that motivated me to launch this blog last September. I have an awesome spiritual father (my Pastor) and great father in Heaven. While not a doctorate-toting theologian or ordained minister, given my interactions with these fathers, I gradually grew to love motivating others. Based on what? What I’ve learned in sermons (6 years), weekly Bible Study, singing in a choir (a critical part of my spiritual essence), leading a ministry (Dare to Work), my life experience, and listening closely for God’s voice.
Stage 3 – Grasping God’s Greatness
To move to the next stage, I believe, one needs to do more than just be able hear God’s voice. They need to fully grasp God’s greatness too.
Once you truly understand who he is, what he’s done, and what he can do (if you trust him with all your heart), your maturity will be taken to another level. To just hear him, without understanding and trusting him, doesn’t get you very far! Think about the 11 fear-paralyzed disciples that refused to be ‘walk on water’ Christians like Peter – in Matthew 14. These hand-picked men, disciples of Jesus Christ, weren’t at this 3rd level of spiritual growth. That scripture reads:
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14: 25-29 (NIV)
To hear him and not grasp what he’s saying, and who he is, leaves a Christian spiritually stuck. Think like Peter, not John, James, Thomas, and the other terrified disciples in the 14th book of Matthew! Think like David, as he took on and triumphed over Goliath (see Giant Slaying series).
Stage 4 – Walking in the Spirit
Scripture tells us:
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:21-24 (NIV)
This is the highest level of spiritual growth.
Those who reach it, and can remain there, do indeed walk by faith.
- They are doers of God’s word, not just hearers of his word.
- They strive to embody the traits of Jesus Christ in all aspects of their life.
- Those who reach this stage see the way, go the way, and fully grasp the greatness of God – whose voice they hear well.
- They shun the ‘sight walking’ they used to do; they shun sin.
- They worship, praise, and pray regularly; they read and study the Bible – and live it’s scriptures.
To summarize, the Stages of Spiritual Growth I’ve described in this post:
1. Seeing the Way
2. Hearing Him
3. Grasping God’s Greatness
4. Walking in the Spirit
I will continue this series this month in several mid-week posts. In the next series post, next Wednesday, some perspective from a man who’s forgotten more than I know about this topic (John MacArthur) will be offered.
In closing, remember:
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2: 2-3 NIV)