3 Characteristics of Spiritually Maturing Christians
By Jeff Cranston
For the Christian, maturity is a process we will never complete on this side of eternity. One fact about spiritually maturing people is they are always changing, always moving toward greater maturity. In Philippians 4:10-23, the apostle Paul demonstrates the characteristics of spiritually maturing Christians.
1. A person maturing in the faith finds opportunities to affirm other people.
The Bible teaches us about the power of our words. Proverbs 18:31 says, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Paul understood that, and he takes the opportunity to affirm the Philippians for their thoughtfulness in sending him a monetary gift to meet his physical needs. And in Philippians 4:15-18, Paul affirms them for doing this in the past, when he was in Thessalonica.
It is a mark of spiritual maturity to affirm, not just appreciate. As important as appreciation for a job well done may be, it is incomplete. We should affirm people not only for what they do, but affirm them for who they are. We all have an inner need to be affirmed for those unseen, hidden qualities that make us unique individuals of worth and dignity. And the best, most mature people like Paul know this–so they appreciate AND affirm.
2. A person maturing in the faith possesses the ability to be content through all of life’s vicissitudes.
Now, I know what you are thinking: vicissi-what?! The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, “a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.”
Paul had definitely been through unpleasant times. In Philippians 4:11, he writes, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” To Paul it made no difference whether he was free or chained to a soldier, whether the day was hot and humid or cold and cloudy, whether the Philippians sent a gift or failed to make contact. He was content regardless of his situation.
Christ-like contentment is internal, not external. In other words, Christ-followers don’t really need anything outside of themselves to be happy. We don’t need money or possessions to be joyful. No, true contentment comes from within.
3. A person maturing in the faith learns to exercise confidence in God’s power.
And Paul very clearly demonstrated this quality in verse 13, where he says, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
You see, for us it’s not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. Maturing Christ-followers aren’t hard, thick-skinned stoics. They are moved by the needs around them. They care about what happens to themselves and others. But they have learned to rely on God’s power within to enable them to withstand the pressure from without.
Jeff Cranston is lead pastor of LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, S.C.