The final characteristic I am using to define spiritual maturity is that of perseverance. While our salvation is secure, our actions and mentally at times can betrayed this. The mature Christian is not immune to suffering or persecution but they don’t shy from it seeking what God might teach them or might be glorified in it. How we respond to the challenges of life defines our perseverance. Do we turn from our community when it gets messy? Do we let depression overpower us and rob our humility? In maturity we face life with assurance and strength. Our example is extended and in community we stand with others struggling as well. Our faith is lasting and weathered but remain undaunted by life.
How might I then realize these characteristics in my life and be an example for those around me? Personally I recognize 3 areas in which I need to invest, prayer, study and community. In prayer I ask God to spur me on and keep me in a place of holistic pursuit of Him. I have the daily opportunity to see how the cross has changed my life and in prayer I can meditate on this further and keep it at the center of my life. Moving to study I can never rest in my pursuit of God’s revelation. I must avoid study for intellectualism’s sake and maintain it for God’s glory alone. As I study I am equipped to share with others what God has shown me and bring them into greater relationship with Him. This is a grand purpose. And finally in community I allow others to push me to maintain all of this. As I open my life I am creating relationships that I rely on and fulfill biblical commands for it.
As we grow in maturity we also become charitable out of response to the charity we receive from Christ. While our faith alone is what secures our salvation, we recognize a call to service and let that play out in our lives. While to some extent this is fulfilled in how we live in community (tithing, caring for other believers) it also takes from in how we interact with our neighbors.
This characteristic is where the most opportunities for living and sharing the gospel take place. Charity brings us outside of our cloisters and into the world around us. We share the provision God has given and most importantly sacrifice our time to those in need. This comes with the maturity that we know we have something to share (gospel) and something to give (love). Our charity is vast and noticeable to those around us, but not for our glory, it is solely in response to the cross and our faith giving God the glory.
As we mature we do so in humility. This next characteristic is central to our growth and the virtues of Christianity. While we grow in knowledge and influence we take a reverse path from our culture, we become humbled by our experience instead of arrogant in it. We recognize our depravity and need for a savior. This brings us to our knees as we evaluate how Christ worked on the cross and we sustain a posture of humility because of it. We simply can’t live a prideful existence once we embrace the cross how what it is. We deserved the suffering, the ridicule and wrath, but someone else took our place and we are humbled in Christ’s presence.
Humility in function is not misplaced lowliness, but fully understood grace. We respond to others and those in opposition to us with a measure of the grace we have received. We are slow to anger and quick to resolution. In maturity we also embrace a humble orthodoxy that allows us to interact with divergent views even within the faith with grace and mercy. We don’t have the exclusive answers to issues and we rarely respond with negativity when we do hold fast to certain beliefs. As mature Christians we strive for humility to be an example for others and a testament of Christ’s work to our culture.