In every church exists a combination of infant, child, and adult. Yes, every church has these. We can say this with certainty because each redeemed individual is at a different place in his/her spiritual growth. Some are infants, some children, and some adults. God matures each of His children at a different speed. It’s a wonderful testimony to His sovereign plan, patient tenderness, and unending grace.
We are remarkably blessed to possess the mail written by some of His most spiritually mature (i.e. the New Testament). The Apostle Paul is a titan of spiritual maturity. His life is a source for comparison as we examine our own spiritual maturation. I was struck anew by his maturity as we walked through a portion of Philippians yesterday. In 1:18-26 the Apostle wrestles with various outcomes of his imprisonment. Paul interacts with each one—not as a faithless complainer—but with the mind of a spiritually mature Christian.
The spiritually mature approach “deliverance” as an opportunity to exalt Christ (v.20). However “deliverance” is understood in v.19, we recognize that it is coming—either in this life or the next. The spiritually mature aren’t content to simply remark “Praise the Lord that’s behind me” or “I’m free of that trial”—rather, they expect and hope that Christ will be exalted.
The spiritually mature approach death as “gain” (v.21). Christ makes such an unusual declaration possible. When we die we are “with Christ”—a claim the lost will never make and the only reason death can be viewed as positive. Conversely, the spiritually immature look forward to heaven for the purpose of rewards. The materialistic Americanized version of heaven is all about getting stuff, living in a mansion, or simply escaping. The spiritually mature “desire to depart and be with Christ” (v.22). It’s about Christ, not stuff.
The spiritually mature approach life as ministry. To borrow Paul’s situation, seasoned Christians are free from the prison of sin and freed to serve others. Paul understood that to be free meant “fruitful labor”; it meant contribution to the local church (“I will continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,” v.25). The spiritually mature are keenly interested in ministry toward others. Because their lives are centered on Christ they regularly make an investment in His body, the church.
If you’re redeemed, you’re in process. Perhaps just starting out or maybe a seasoned veteran. Wherever you are, keep going! If you’re still around there is work to do and growth to enjoy. Like Paul, we all one day may proclaim the words of the spiritually mature: “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”