Spiritually Mature People Defer their Preferences

i_got_thisContinued from here.

Loving your neighbor as yourself requires us to prioritize other people above ourselves, so spiritually mature people repeatedly defer their own preferences in honor of others. Nothing about this process comes naturally because of our selfish sinful nature. The natural state for each of us is to choose the best for ourselves and follow our feelings. Only through spiritual maturity do we learn to humble ourselves as we honor others.

The way I learned this trait most effectively was by becoming a parent. I could not meet my baby’s needs without deferring my own preferences (such as sleep!) repeatedly as I placed my baby’s needs above my own. God gives new parents the grace of bonding through intense love, which helps them overcome their natural selfishness to prioritize the needs of a new baby.

Unfortunately, we don’t get the same feelings when it comes to deferring our preferences for annoying family members … or the people at work who are trying to sabotage us … or those who are bullying our child. When it comes to loving our enemies, obedience happens through a choice to obey God despite what we feel, and that’s hard to do. It takes spiritual maturity to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us.

My preference was to hate my childhood abusers, nurse my bitterness, and hope they all burn eternally in hell. However, God commanded me to forgive them, which I truly, from the bottom of my heart, did not want to do. God placed a question on my heart: did I love Him more than I hated my enemies? If I loved Him more, then I needed to forgive them, not because they deserved it but because I would obey God out of love. Obeying God by forgiving my enemies through repeated prayer for them was one of my most life-changing experiences. It was through forgiving them that God healed my brokenness.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “I got this.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Spiritually Mature People Prioritize People over Tasks

im_on_itContinued from here.

Another telltale sign of someone who is spiritually mature is that he or she consistently prioritizes people over tasks. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus also identified the second greatest:

‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: ‘‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” ~ Matt. 36-40

 

I, personally, find this commandment to be more difficult than the greatest commandment because I am, by nature, a task-oriented person. I have the spiritual gift of administration; thus, I see the tasks that need to be completed more clearly than most people do. However, the problem is not my awareness of necessary tasks – it’s my spiritual immaturity in regards to loving others.

I believe this is one reason God has placed me in a ministry requiring lots of personal relationship-building. On a daily basis, I am placed in a position of having to decide whether to prioritize a person or a task. My natural inclination is to prioritize the task, but that’s not God’s priority – it is always people. That’s not to say that the tasks are not important. They are! However, people are the priority, not the tasks. As I am obedient to God is following His priorities, He supernaturally provides the time to attend to the tasks. The fact that I must continually remind myself of this is an indicator of my lack of spiritual maturity in this area. As I mature, this will become less challenging for me as my priorities align with God’s.

God loves, and Jesus died for, every single person you interact with. This makes each and every person a higher priority than your to do list for the day. Of course, we need God’s wisdom and discernment for knowing how and when to interact with each person. Sometimes we need to set boundaries in regards to time and energy. However, those boundaries must align with God’s priorities and not our own. This is an area in which I am still growing, so I don’t have as many words of wisdom to offer in this area, only that I am in the trenches with you and that I need God’s help daily (hourly??) to balance prioritizing people with completing the tasks that God has placed before me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running with a long to-list and saying, “I’m on it!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Spiritually Mature People Focus on God rather than Themselves

me_timeContinued from here.

Another aspect of making God your #1 priority is focusing on Him rather than yourself, which is another sign of someone who is spiritually mature.

What is your least favorite type of music? Let’s say your pastor announces that next Sunday’s service will feature a musical guest performing that type of music. A spiritually mature person would joyfully attend the service, grateful for all the wonderful ways that God has blessed him or her. Spiritual children would sleep in that Sunday because they don’t want to hear that type of music, even when it is offered to glorify God. Where do you fall on the continuum?

Spiritual children complain about the aspects of a church service they don’t like: the sermon was too long, they didn’t like the song selection, the church has communion too often (or not often enough), etc. They behave like consumers, expecting the service to cater to their desires and preferences. In contrast, spiritually mature people don’t look for the church service to adapt to their own preferences but, instead, ask what they can bring for God. They look for ways to honor God and express gratitude for being able to spend quality time with God and their church family, even when the music, preaching, etc. may not be their personal preference. The underlying difference is that spiritually mature people view the church service as an offering to God, not to themselves.

I had the joy of attending Easter mass outside of Venice, Italy in 2016. I don’t speak Italian, so I did not understand one word that was said. I am not Catholic, so I was excluded from taking communion. And because I am not Catholic and don’t speak Italian, I had a hard time tracking what was going on when throughout the service. Nevertheless, attending Easter mass in Italy was well worth my time, not because I got much out of it but because I had the experience of prioritizing and worshiping God, which was the value of the experience. In fact, everyone who attended with me seemed to get something out of the experience and was grateful we went. Nothing in that experience was about myself – it was all about God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace reading a book under the words, “Me time.” Courtesy Bitmoji]

 

Spiritually Mature People Always Have Time for God

no_timeContinued from here.

Perhaps the most obvious characteristic of someone who is spiritually mature is that he or she always has time for God. Why? Because daily time with God is a necessary part of obeying the greatest commandment:

‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’” ~ Matt. 36-38

Loving God with all of your heart, soul, and mind means that He is a priority. Not only is He A priority – He is THE priority, meaning that nothing in your life – absolutely nothing – takes priority over Him. And that priority is driven by love.

When you first met your significant other, you probably had a busy life. However, you somehow managed to spend time with that person because you were falling in love with him or her. And we somehow manage to shift our time around to prioritize what is most important. For example, I was working full-time and had many other time commitments when my son had back surgery. I somehow found the time to stay in the hospital with him for five days and nights, not because I wasn’t busy but because he was my priority, and he was my priority because I love him.

You know who else I had time for while I was living in my son’s hospital room for five days? God. While my quiet time with God was far from perfect as hospital personnel streamed in and out of my son’s room, I spent time with God every day, not because I had oodles of time to kill, but because I love God, and He is a priority in my life.

When I was a spiritual child, I did not set aside time for God every day. Instead, I would squeeze in my Bible study while waiting in the car line at my son’s elementary school or cram it all in the night before the next meeting. I grew to realize that when I don’t spend time with God, I am saying that the least important thing I do in a day, such as watching a television show or playing a game on my cell phone, is more important that the God of the Universe. Today, God comes first, no matter what.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her hips, saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How Spiritually Mature Are You?

pictureWhen I was 16 years old, I thought I was all grown up. I behaved more maturely than most of my peers, and I was a straight A student. I was certain that I was an adult in all but my chronological age, but I wasn’t. I was just a kid! I had no idea that I needed to bring my Social Security card to the first day of a new job. I knew nothing about mortgage rates, finance charges, or 401Ks. Ensuring I had good health insurance wasn’t even on my radar. There was so much I didn’t know about adult life, and because I didn’t have any concept of all I did not yet know, I mistakenly believed I was grown up when I was not.

I see the same dynamic with the Church. There’s a heavy focus on bringing people to Christ and feeding congregations milk, but most sermons tend to shy away from the solid foods. Far too many Christians have no concept that God has expectations beyond saving them from hell. They don’t seem to comprehend that Christians are expected to transform into Christ’s likeness. That doesn’t happen by accident – it takes effort and a willingness to change as we put off our old selves, change our attitudes, and put on the new self that reflects Christ’s image.

To transform from who were when we came to Christ into who he is calling us to be, we need to be discipled. If you have nobody in your life discipling you, I strongly encourage you to reach out to someone who is mature in the faith and ask that person to mentor you. Become that person’s apprentice, learning what to do and then doing it. Spiritual maturity does not come about by accumulating knowledge – it only happen by doing. That’s how Jesus taught his disciples, and the method has not changed.

In this blog series, I am going to share some traits of spiritually mature Christians so you can assess your own level of spiritual maturity. Consider this a crash course in where transforming into the image of Christ is taking you. Then, pray for God to bring you a mentor, and become a willing apprentice so you can grow spiritually mature and then start mentoring someone else.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up a child’s drawing. Courtesy Bitmoji.]