The Three Life-long Stages of Spiritual Development: Part 1

Because of the work of Jesus, we can complete the logical progression of Psalm 100. When we complete this progression, it is not just lived out in our private seeking or in our corporate worship but in the stages of our life.

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This evening, I was reflecting on Psalm 100, particularly verses 4 and 5 which say, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (NIV). It occurred to me that this passage outlines more than just a progression of worship. This passage also maps out our lifelong relational development with the Father through the stages of life.

Contextually, these verses outline the attitude of the Jewish worshipper on pilgrimage to the temple. As the spiritual sojourners approached their destination, they were to proceed with an attitude of joyful adoration, but as they actually entered through the southern, northern, or eastern gate, they were to enter with words of thanksgiving.  Bringing their sacrifice with them, they were to enter the outer and inner courts declaring His praise. No commoner could enter the sanctuary or the Holy of Holies.

Let’s imagine, for example, a pilgrimage for the Day of Atonement. The worshippers were coming to sacrifice and gather for the sacred assembly at the temple, and the high priest would proceed through the sanctuary and into the Holy of Holies (Lev. 23:27, Num. 29:7). That day, the high priest would complete the logical progression all the way into the secret place. They would come into the presence of God.

Because of Jesus, we know that we can now enter into the Holy of Holies. The veil has been torn. We have access to God. Because of the work of Jesus, we can complete the logical progression of Psalm 100. When we complete this progression, it is not just lived out in our private seeking or in our corporate worship but in the stages of our life.


Stage # 1: The Thanksgiving Stage

The first stage of development in our connection with the Father is marked by thanksgiving. This is the phase of receiving the goodness of God. In this time, we receive salvation, forgiveness, justification, and propitiation. In addition to this, hopefully, we receive discipleship from the church or from other brothers and sisters in Christ. 

As our repentance begins to bear fruit, we find coming into His presence easy. Just the mention of Jesus and we have goosebumps up our arms. We’re not jaded by issues in the church or other conflicts. We are receiving of the Holy Spirit, and we are not really having to invest anything. What we do invest feels like a joy.

In this first stage, the Holy Spirit is doing everything and we’re doing nothing and the only logical response is saying “thank you.” In this first stage, we live in thankfulness. We are entering into the gates of the Kingdom with thanksgiving. The Holy Spirit seeks to develop our faith, to teach us to govern, and to have ownership in the Kingdom; thus, when He feels that we are ready, He moves us onto the next phase.


Stage # 2: The Praise Phase

The next phase is marked by praise. In this phase of development, the Holy Spirit is teaching us to co-labor with Him. We’re no longer being led by goosebumps, but we’re acting in faith. We’re investing in His Kingdom and bearing fruit.

Many times, because He’s teaching us to rule and govern in His Kingdom, we will have to work through relational conflict, messy situations in the church, difficulty, and disappointment. Our ideals fade away and there is a real-life reality check. Ironically, at the same time, vision is filling our mind and our gifting is beginning to emerge and to be refined. 

It’s at this stage that many people will begin to drop their relationship with God. Many are discouraged by difficulty, church issues, and unfulfilled visions. Even if they don’t give up on God, they give up on the church. They hop on the conference circuit and keep church issues at arm’s length.

Others hit cruise control and stick with it but become negative and toxic. Still, others find themselves as pastors and leaders and feel called to sell insurance. Yet there’s a small majority of people who, through submission to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, learn how to co-labor with Jesus. They take ownership of problems within the church, they learn to navigate conflict, endure disappointment, and submit when they don’t agree. 

Through the school of Christ, they learn to be happy warriors through the good, the bad, and the ugly. They understand this is the price of co-laboring and being a co-heir. They understand they’re governors in the Kingdom, and governors don’t run from problems, they fix them. 

They’re not shocked at difficulty; they understand they’re called to solve problems. Without problems, they can’t fulfill their calling. As they endure through this phase of spiritual development and training, they’ll see vision refinement and fulfillment, but more importantly, they’ll see their faith come to full harvest.

So why is this stage marked by praise? First, you’ll learn the sacrifice of praise. When you’re working on staff and the pastor says, “I appreciate your idea, but we’re doing it this way,” are you going to praise Him? When you don’t feel anything at church, are you going to praise Him? When your prayers are unanswered, are you going to praise Him? 

When your vision dies, are you going to praise Him? When Christians don’t act like Christians, are you going to praise Him? When pastors don’t act like Christians, are you going to praise Him? When you’re hit with one problem after another, are you going to praise Him? When your calling feels like labor, are you going to praise Him? 

When you’re hit by unexpected loss, are you going to praise Him? When half the church walks out, are you going to praise Him? The only way you’re going to make it through this stage without becoming critical, negative, wounded, bitter, and toxic is to praise Him through every situation. In phase two, we also learn the sacrifice of praise in an experiential way. 

The second reason this season is marked by praise is vision fulfillment. This is usually on the back end of the phase, but God, in His graciousness, sprinkles victories all throughout it. Once you have maintained your attitude and developed a more well-rounded Christ-likeness, you’re primed for vision fulfillment.

Your faith has endured the test and your investment is beginning to pay off.  Now, equipped with a mature faith coupled with refined skills in co-laboring, the fruit of your vision is beginning to come forward.  Your acts of faith are powerful and effective. You’ve been trained by the desert.  

At this point, every hard-fought miracle is especially joyful and completely praise-filled. Victories roll in and praise explodes. Where pride would have taken root in your heart with such consistent victories, you now easily give God glory. God’s formation of your inner man is solid.

You’re now a co-laboring governor in the Kingdom who has a developed faith in God’s power and a heart set on His goodness, and none of these rise or fall in correlation to your circumstances. You’re ready to reap your harvest, and you’re singing His praise while you’re swinging your sickle. You’re singing, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever.”


Stage # 3: The Friendship with God Phase

Vision fulfillment is sweet, but the joys of success don’t last long. You don’t have the energy you once had, and you can’t work like you once did. You no longer have anything to prove, and success just doesn’t satisfy. At this point, some people find a new mountain, but a select few find the God of the mountains. 

Ambition shifts from vision, fruit, and success to coming into the Holy of Holies. They understand their only satisfaction comes from sitting at His feet. 

Our goal is to rest at His feet. Our efforts have killed Martha, and now we’re ready to be Mary. Our inner striving is over. We’re resting in His grace but also from our labor. Now, we’re just sitting at His feet. 

At this place in our journey, our moments of intimacy with the Holy Spirit and our diverse shared history with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit converge into an intimate friendship with God. We may have been intimate with God over our entire spiritual life, but there is now a prominent place for this intimacy that is free from ambition.

When this is paired with a life long shared history with God, true relational friendship is birthed. It’s at this point we become friends with God like Abraham was. In the previous stage, we have too much energy, zeal, and God-given ambition, but in this stage, those seeds have played out. 

The harvest has come. It has been reaped, harvested, and stored. What we’re left with is what’s truly valuable. At this point, we have decades of shared history with God. You can say to Him, “Lord, do you remember when we were facing this?” Friendship, intimacy, sitting at His feet, and entering the Holy of Holies become the places of prominence in our life. This is the goal. We enter His courts so we can end up in His presence. 

If we stay the course, we will sing, His faithfulness continues through all generations. Friendship with God ensures our legacy. At the end of the second phase and at the beginning of the third phase, we become more concerned about the generations. We want to leave a legacy that lasts. 

The problem is everything we’ve built in the second phase is not secure, but it begins to solidify as we spend time in His presence. Legacy is supernaturally sustained. Look at Abraham! Outside of his relationship with God, his only accomplishments in life involved moving, having a son, and running a good herdsman business. And he couldn’t even have a son without God. Yet his legacy is profound.

Almost everyone in the world knows who Abraham is. Why? Because Abraham was about friendship with God, and because of that friendship, God supernaturally sustained his legacy. The reality is that God valued their talks under the stars at night more than sacrificial labor and work done in His name. 

So if you want a legacy, choose your secret place and develop a friendship with God. Also, keep in mind that Abraham developed this love for the secret place between the ages of 80 and 120, during his third phase of life.  Abraham made the right choices in each stage of his life and secured a legacy for eternity. 

So work your way through the temple in each stage of life and end up in the secret place.

In my next article, we’ll look at how we need to respond to the phase in which we find ourselves. Keep a lookout for that one. It should be on the Kingdom Winds site really soon!



This is an updated edition of a post originally published on

Featured Image by Anthony Intraversato

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About the Author

Cameron King had a radical encounter with God as a teenager, and has since devoted a large portion of his life to prayer and worship. This desire to be intimate with God birthed a love for the prophetic and healing ministry. For years, Cameron has trained people to hear from God, and he helps activate the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in the lives of believers. His mission is to help serious disciples develop intimacy with God, move in power, and live principle-centered lives. Cameron is the lead pastor of Newsong Church, a thriving congregation that is passionate in worship, active in spiritual gifts, and is on the cutting edge of seeking a spirit-filled outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the East side of Atlanta. He and his wife, Rachel, live in the Monroe area with their four daughters, Abby, Alena, Maddie Grace, and Eliana.