Stretching Beyond Your Measure
Spiritual maturity is determined by the size or capacity of the human spirit and the degree of divine wisdom and understanding in the soul: the larger your spiritual capacity and the more knowledge, understanding and wisdom you have, the more mature you are. Jesus grew in stature and wisdom:
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
The current size or capacity of your human spirit and the degree of God’s wisdom you possess determines what spiritual responsibilities you can handle at each point in time. You must be careful not to take on responsibilities that will stretch you beyond the measure of your present spiritual capacity:
2 Cor 10:14
14 For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:
Too many Christians want too much too quickly!
For instance, how can the flock of God be properly cared for by spiritual children? It would be the height of irresponsibility for a natural father to put his 5 year old child in a rented apartment by himself and tell him to fend for himself, because he is now old enough to talk.
If you are going to make it in Christianity, you must learn to wait before God can entrust you with more responsibilities, power and prosperity. This is because proper spiritual growth, like physical growth takes many years.
A scriptural example of somebody who got his inheritance prematurely and consequently wasted it and almost lost his salvation was the prodigal son of Lk.15:11-17:
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
The prodigal son was taken back into the family, but he lost his inheritance because all the Father had now belonged to the elder brother:
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
This is like the case of the Christian who is saved but so as by fire and suffers loss:
1 Cor 3:15
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
One reason why his works were of the quality of wood, hay and stubble and were burned was that they were done prematurely without the necessary spiritual capacity and wisdom.
Long Distance Race
The Christian life is more like a long distance obstacle race than a hundred meter dash. It is more a test of endurance than a test of speed. What is the true goal of Christianity? To attain the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ being conformed to His image:
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Every Christian is faced with the simultaneous challenge of two types of growth.
The first is a growth into spiritual maturity (from spiritual babyhood to fatherhood).
The second is a growth in purity, which starts with sanctification of the human spirit (at the new birth) and ends with the total and permanent sanctification of the spirit, soul and body of the believer (permanent perfection.)
So many Christians are deviating from these goals because this vision is not clear, or unknown to them (Hab.2:2) and so they are racing against each other instead of against time (Jas.4:1-3; 2 Cor.10:12; Heb.12:1-3).
2 Cor 10:12
12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
The Christian race is against time, because the condition of your heart (i.e. the degree of honesty and humility) becomes fixed after you have been born again long enough to have grown into spiritual maturity.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Growth to Maturity
There are three main stages of spiritual growth for the Christian; the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear.
26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
1 Pet 1:23
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
The Bible also speaks of babes, little children, young men and fathers.
1 Cor 3:1
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
1 Pet 2:2
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
I Jn 2:12-14
12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
The growth from a babe to a little child is the blade stage. From little child to young man is the ear stage and from young man to father is the full corn stage. We must grow in wisdom (Lk.2:52) and in spiritual stature (Ps.119:32).
32 I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.
The Bible talks about captains over thousands, captains over hundreds, captains over fifties and captains over tens, which speaks of how many people God can feed and shepherd through your spirit.
15 So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
How long does it take to grow from spiritual babyhood to spiritual fatherhood?
Example: Jesus, from the time the Lord started about His Father’s business, at age twelve (Lk.2:42,49), until the time of fulfilling His purpose at the cross, at thirty three, was twenty one years.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,
Example: David; he was anointed as a teenager (1Sam.16:11; 17:42) and became king over all Israel at the age of about thirty eight years: a period of about 21 years.
1 Sam 17:42
42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
2 Sam 5:4-5
4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.
Example: Joseph; he was seventeen when God gave him dreams and thirty eight to thirty nine years old when he experienced the fullness of those dreams (Gen.37:2;41:46:53-54;45:4-6): again about 21 years.
2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was
46 And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.
53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. 54 And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
From the example of Jesus who is our perfect example (we cannot grow faster than Jesus), we see it will take about 21 years to grow from the new birth to Fatherhood under the right conditions.
21= 7 x 3 is symbolic of perfection of completion: 7 is God’s number for completion (Genesis 2:2) and 3 is God’s number for perfection (Luke 13:32):
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.
So to grow from baby to little child takes 7 years; little child to young man takes 7 years and young man to father another 7 years.
It is possible to have been a Christian for many years and still be a baby Christian because of a improper growth conditions:
12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
This does not mean that you must wait 21 years before you can do anything for God. As you grow, right from the early stages, you can and should engage in spiritual activities within your local church, even to the degree of becoming a leader at one level or another. However, this should be done under the authority of your local church until you leave spiritual childhood and cross into young manhood (at least 14 years) (Gal.4: 1-2).
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
We see that it took Joseph and David about 14 years to become Prime minister and King (over Judah only) respectively