How important is Christian spiritual development?
As a Christian, it’s important to me to have some clear landmarks on my life-journey. How do I know I’m making progress? And if I experience movement, how do I know it’s in the right direction.
Over the years, many have proposed stages of spiritual growth. Some propose six or seven, and some two. I will use 1 John 2:12-14 and its suggestion of three, two of them with clear markers for that cycle, “dear children,” “young men,” and “fathers.”
Each cycle provides depth and range for us to grow within the cycle. For instance, John uses two different words for child in the first cycle. By observation, “young men,” which I’m calling “warriors,” can be young and emerging, trained, mature or a warrior-king when his/her expertise and track record lead to a position of leadership. The third cycle knows no limits since we continue to be life long life learners and do-ers within this limitless season. When could we ever fully know “Him who is from the beginning’?
These three Christian spiritual developmental cycles are sequential, yet not only sequential. Each cycle is also recursive, a math term meaning “repeating loops.” Each cycle is also interdependent with the other cycles. Each loops back on previous to give depth and breadth, insight and warmth.
The next cycle draws strength from the previous and passes this new strength and insight on to the next, only to repeat itself again. Strangely enough, each cycle may also be simultaneous as we experience a temporary foretaste from others. In my first eighteen months of my Christian life, three different times I journaled experiences that are representative of the third cycle. Yet these were short lived, not because of sin, but because of a lack of Christian life-experience.
Also, as we progress beyond the first cycle, we never outgrow the Father’s love from the “beloved child” stage.
Unfortunately, we may also regress for a time. For instance, a “beloved child” takes on the tasks of a spiritual “warrior” early-on. But the first cycle as a “beloved child” was not well-formed. When trials and tough times come for the young “warrior” (and they will come), the “warrior” may slide back to the more comfortable first cycle, regressing back to “feed me!”
Some say that we should never teach or write anything that we have not personally experienced ourselves. Certainly, there is some truth in this statement. I don’t want to write anything as if I had experienced it in all its splendor.
However, I also would fail my readers if I neglected to write something I see in Scripture simply because I personally do not constantly live in it. My life is not the standard for spiritual possibilities in you.
As I now look back at my personal journey with these Christian spiritual developmental cycles in mind, many times I either saw myself as farther along. Or stuck, unable to move beyond where I was at the time. So please use this less to evaluate where you are on your unique journey. Use it more to release a longing or yearning to draw you towards being a lifelong life learner and do-er in all three stages. And please don’t use this as a box by which to judge others.
Since you are the sole gatekeeper of your own heart, you will need to evaluate and discern for yourself.
How much of what I have written is unique to my own experience?
How much is Scriptural truth with its wider application? All writers are mixed in some areas.
I’m now living in my seventieth year, forty-four with Jesus. I confess that some of what I write is still a deep longing in my life. Writing has stretched me to reach beyond my normal experience. Yet still, what I write is true to God’s Word, to the best I see it at this time. Though I hope to be able to write with more depth of experience next time we connect.
I will follow this first blog with three more, one on each of the three cycles of spiritual development. Of course, if you want to read a draft of this book, here is a free PDF download of “Cycles of Lifelong LifeChange,” describing three spiritual development cycles on my page “Books by Jim Fredericks” under the tab “Bible Resources.”
I would appreciate any insights so feel free to dialog in the comment section about Christian spiritual development.