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I've been pondering the idea of spiritual growth. How are we doing? Are we growing up? Still wearing our spiritual pampers? Calling the waaahbulance every time we get an "owie"? Rebelling? Mouthing off? Are we self-absorbed? Wise? Reproducing? Looking and acting more like Jesus?

Spiritual growth is a lot like natural human growth. There are stages and seasons. Infant, childhood, teen years, adulthood. Which stage are you in? What stage should you be in? Unfortunately, there are lots of believers who should be in responsible spiritual adulthood by now, but they are still drinking from the spiritual sippy cup and having tempter tantrums.

Are You A Spiritual Infant?
Infants are adorable, aren't they? Cute, sincere, cuddly and extremely demanding! When they cry—you better come running. They're either eating, sleeping, cooing, crying or messing their diapers! Spiritual infants are the same; they are cute and sincere and genuine and refreshing. There is nothing more refreshing to me than brand-new believers and their sincerity! At the same time, spiritual infants are often demanding and selfish, thinking that the world revolves around them and their needs, woes and crisis.

Baby Christians are needy...they are not ready to help others they need all the help and attention they can get. They can't handle too much of the Word. They have a zillion questions and opinions and need just a few ounces of the Bible every few hours. They make messes. They let their flesh dominate them and angry words, critical comments, apathy, slumber, strife, crying fits and fussiness is their life. The goal is to help baby Christians grow!

Somewhere between six months and one year of age, the spiritual baby needs to be rolling over, crawling, pulling up to the furniture and walking! The saddest person is the one who's been a Christian for 20 years or so and yet is still acting like a baby. The best remedy for baby Christians: take away their pacifiers and make them grow up...shrieks and fits and all!

Are You A Spiritual Child?
Kids are great—funny, curious, innocent, sweet. Spiritual children are that way too; I love working with spiritual kids who are still wide-eyed and sweet about the things of God and eternity, heaven, hell, Jesus' return and all the mysteries of the Word. That sweetness often gives way to one word that toddlers and young children are very acquainted with: MINE! I know some spiritual children like that. As soon as you touch their time, their pleasure, their habits/addictions, they start screaming, "MINE, MINE, MINE"!

Spiritual kids haven't learned about being unselfish and sacrificial. They want what they want when they want it and you better get it for them right now. If they want church to be a certain way, if they want a small group to meet their needs, if they want the worship to fit their liking, if they want to sit in the pew and never lift a finger to serve, well, you better snap to it! Spiritual children need help with a few major things: Discipline! Self-control! Unselfishness! Trust me, they won't let you teach these things unscathed. Prepare for the temper tantrums, stiff body convulsions and big salty tears!

Are You A Spiritual Teen?
So far, I have loved the teen years with our kids. We have intelligent conversations, genuine understanding and emotional bonding. Independence and responsibility begin to emerge and we have great laughs together. Sure, there are those hormonal puberty moments, rooms that look like tornadoes, the rolling eyes and sometimes a bit of rebellion towards authority. Spiritual teens are the same way; they are great fun, ask intelligent spiritual questions, learn to worship from their hearts, show signs of maturity—and yet often we see those spiritual hormones kicking in.

Spiritual teens struggle with a mix of pride and insecurity. They are so stinkin' emotional and it's those emotions that dominate their lives! They think they know more than they do and they act like their spiritual parents or any authorities are idiots compared to their own wisdom and maturity. Their sweet submissive self sometimes gives way to a sassy, cocky, mouthy, "I'm smarter than you" attitude that can be felt a mile away. We've seen those spiritual teens in our own church—once sweet, hungry and maturing...suddenly they are emotional, critical, hormonal, and proud know-it-alls!

We flinch! How long will it take to get them through this stage? Will they stick around long enough? If anyone is going to leave a church—it's usually in the spiritual teen stage. They run away because the whole world is against them, no one understands them, no one is as smart or as spiritual as they are—life is cruel!

The way to help these spiritual teens is with patience, straight talk, holding them accountable and allowing their own pride to bring them low. The goal is to help them yield to their heart/spirit more than they yield to their emotions/mind. It's not fun to watch, but in some ways we all have to go through those spiritual teens and learn the vitals truths that bring maturity—more self-control, humility, sacrifice, submission and service to others.

Are You A Spiritual Adult?
Adults are responsible, mature, wise, strong and productive. Spiritual adults have figured out that it's not all about them; actually they've discovered that none of it is about them, but rather it's all about God and His kingdom! Their sites are set on eternity. They've taken responsibility for their maturity, cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, obtaining wisdom from the Word and they have committed their lives to the sacrificial service of others.

They stay strong most of the time because they realize that lots of people are leaning on them at home, at work, in ministry and in their sphere of influence. They have to tap into God's strength and wisdom daily to function—they've grown up, so they rarely allow themselves those fits of rage, temper tantrums, selfish agendas, know-it-all attitudes, and emotional roller coaster rides. They've found their stability in God and His Word. They've begun to "parent" other baby Christians, kid Christians and teen Christians. They are reproducing and helping others to grow up! (Heb. 5:12-14, TLB)

Growing up spiritually...where are you at on the journey?

Beth Jones Ministries All rights reserved.

Author Biography

Beth Jones
Web site: Valley Family Church
As a young couple, fresh out of Bible School with Two daughters and a third child on the way, Jeff and Beth Jones felt God's call to pioneer Valley Family Church in 1991 with a vision to make an eternal difference in Southwest Michigan. As a husband and wife team, they have always led together as visionary pastors and have shared the pulpit as Bible teachers. They are passionate about building the local church in greater Kalamazoo and the global church around the world.

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