Some of the most important questions that arise in a Christian’s mind will (and should) have to do with spiritual maturity.
Am I growing? How am I growing? Is “maturity” evident in my life? Have I been consistently (even if slowly) become more like Jesus?
The Bible repeatedly teaches that Christians are supposed to be maturing in many ways — all of which enable us to bring glory to God and fulfill our purpose on earth (Ephesians 2:8-10). In other words, “cruise control” Christianity is not genuine Christianity. Salvation is not merely eternal life insurance. Salvation is not a get-rich, get-healed, get-famous formula either. Scripture teaches that once we are saved, Christians are to be imitating Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), loving others like Christ (1 John 4:7), giving themselves up like Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2), keeping the commandments of Christ (John 14:15), growing in holiness like Christ (1 Peter 1:16), and even suffering like Christ (1 Peter 2:21).
The question begs: By the grace of God are you seeing signs of Christian maturity in your life?
Here are four signs that can help you make a prayerful assessment:
1. You see trials as training
This one is not fun. But since when is growth ever painless? In the gym, athletes hire trainers who “make them sore,” push their limits and provide resistance so they grow stronger. So it is in the Christian life when it comes to trials.
A mature Christian has natural feelings just like anyone else, but those feelings follow faith — they don’t lead it.
Do you see trials as cosmic abuse? Do you shake your fist at God; demanding He does what you are commanding? Have you come to rest in His sovereignty even when your life takes an unexpected turn into trial and suffering? Romans 5:3-5 reminds us to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
For the Christian, trials equal training.
2. You pray with a wide perspective
Prayer can be a sensitive subject for many Christians because they view it as personal and outside of anyone else’s opinion. It’s my prayer life.
However, we must sober up to the reality that God’s divine opinion matters when it comes to your prayer life. Your prayer life is also a significant indicator of maturity. For example, our physical and emotional needs are incredibly important to God (Matthews 6:25-34; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; 1 Peter 5:7), but there is so much more to prayer than simply asking God to do everything we want.
I recently completed a study on forty-one prayers or statements of prayer by the apostle Paul in an effort to see the kind of prayer life he fostered. It was eye-opening to see how most of his written prayers were focused on the salvation of souls, freedom from sin, open doors for the gospel, Christ-centered peace, joy in trials, and thanksgiving to God for all that He was doing in the hearts of believers (2 Corinthians 13:7-9; Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; Philemon 4-7).
Does your prayer life resemble Paul’s? Do you adore God in prayer like David repeatedly extols Him in the Psalms? Are you actively surrendering your will to His as Jesus did on the way to the cross?
Yes, pray for physical and emotional needs. But, seek a wider perspective than your own temporal needs.
3. You respond to rebuke with receptivity
When people play offense, we have a tendency to play defense. It is innate. It can also be a sign of spiritual immaturity.
Maturity is the antidote to the type of pride that always assumes it is right and reacts to being called out on sin. Proverbs offers convicting insight asking, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).
Sometimes our immaturity rears its ugly head when we react defensively (and even aggressively) to someone lovingly pointing out our need for repentance.
Do you freely admit that you very likely could be the problem in some scenarios? Are you open to others shining the light of truth on your darkened blind spots? Christian maturity reflects the heart of Psalm 51:17 with the kind of brokenness and contrite response that “the Lord will not despise.”
4. Habitual sins are fading
Nobody is called to perfection, but every Christian is called to progression. The plain truth is, putting off the old self and being renewed by the Holy Spirit is going to transform you (Ephesians 4:22-24). Even if it seems agonizingly slow sometimes.
By the grace of God, certain sins like unbelief, addiction, or hatred may be shattered upon conversion, while the habitual cycle of other sins may fade over time as you saturated your mind with God’s word (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:16). The Lord may use counseling, accountability, preaching, and prayer as a means of grace by which certain nagging sins get addressed. When it comes to sin and temptation, God always provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and a Christian is — without question — implored to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). All the while, a mature Christian trusts in the power of grace that is greater than all sin, knowing that it is “God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Are you confessing sin (1 John 1:9)? Do you see a pattern of holiness growing in your life and the flippant, habitual practice of sin decreasing (1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 3:6)?
As you strive by grace to grow in your faith, be encouraged by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:10:
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain…”