Pastoral Commentary: Here's how to grow in spiritual maturity this year
What does it mean to live towards spiritual maturity? Apostle Paul's letter to the church in Philippi was about finding spiritual maturity, a trait that would help them in difficult times, times somewhat similar to that which we live in today.
Paul wrote: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” (Philippians 2:12-16)
Paul is writing this letter because he is genuinely concerned for those church members and for all Christians under the pressure and persecution of the world and the constant attack of the enemy. Paul is telling them to diligently prepare themselves. He knows the storm is battering their walls and Paul knows worse days may be ahead. So he exhorts them to build their foundation deep and strong ... and to complete it.
We often engage minimally in our spiritual lives, expecting God to give maximally. And when we feel overwhelmed and knocked down in life, we tend to blame or doubt God.
Listen, our lack of faith is never God's fault. Our lack of spiritual maturity is never God's fault. We carry the responsibility to work that out ourselves.
And the attitude in which we pursue that path of spiritual maturity is in this cryptic sentence “with fear and trembling.”
The Greek word for fear is phobos, which is where we get the word phobia. Paul uses this strong word meaning much more than just awe, but a sense of the gravity and importance of what is going on. These things that really matter, and this phobos, this profoundly impacting fear, should have a real effect on our lives.
But the key to this building this foundation of spiritual maturity is letting God do the work in us.
“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
We need to let God have this authority in our lives.
We have grown complacent in our spiritual lives, accepting the idea “this is good enough.” But I want my foundation to be deep, to be strong; and I want it to be completed so I can begin building on it.
That's our prayer now.
Lord, I give you authority in my life to build this Christian character, this spiritual maturity, that can withstand the chaos of this world and become a strong foundation for you to build my life on so that I can serve you the best I can.
Paul further points out to his early church-friends that they should “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.”
I read this portion, understanding the heart of Paul's intense desire to see them thrive and stand firm, while continuing the important work of the Good News and the Great Commission, and I hear Paul saying “don't gripe, don't fight within yourselves; you have work to do and that should keep you all very busy.”
I love how Paul sees the Church in the world, as lights shining in the darkness. Lights that reveal Truth, Lights that reveal Jesus, Lights that invite the lost, Lights that bring comfort to the overwhelmed.
To accomplish this, we must hold fast to the Word of Life. Both the Word who is Jesus AND the Word that is the redemptive Gospel story. Hold fast to the word of life.
Holding fast is a commitment. It's about recognizing how desperately we need Jesus. And when our foundations are deep and strong, whatever we hold fast to stays as well.
To grown in spiritual maturity we must take advantage of those opportunities to grow, worship, and study. Commit yourselves this year to growing spiritually. Because Jesus is your life and your life-line, an ever-present help in times of trouble.