In my first article on the phases of spiritual growth, we looked at each phase itself, and in my second article, we looked at the similarities within each of the phases. Today, we’re looking at how to respond to each stage and what snares can potentially trip us up.
Our Response in the Thanksgiving Stage
Remember, this is the starting point. This is the place where we first engage in grace. The place where God initiates. In this place, we’re rejoicing because the Holy Spirit is doing everything. There are times in this stage where things just appear easy, which makes us feel like we’re pretty awesome!
Our response in this stage is to just receive. Our goal is to gobble up as much of the free stuff as we possibly can. We need to take in and exploit everything the Father is offering to us! Don’t be eager to leave this place. Certainly, don’t rush it. The temptation here is to hurry up and exit this phase because we believe that we can conquer the world. Why should the world suffer when there’s such a mighty warrior here to save it? It’s easy to feel that we can save the world when the Holy Spirit is doing everything for us.
Nevertheless, when He delegates a tiny fraction of Kingdom responsibility to us in the next phase, it’s easy to believe the weight of the world is on our shoulders. So, in light of this, don’t be so determined to get into ministry or launch your personal vision so fast that you jump into problems and spiritual battles you’re not prepared to fight. Just chill out and receive.
Snares in the Thanksgiving Stage
This desire to rush the journey is the first snare that can trip us up in this phase. It’s really easy to pick a fight with a giant when you’ve never even killed a lion or a bear (1 Sam. 17:36).
The second snare in this phase is falling back into sin. You’re not far from your old lifestyle. The appetites for sin are still relatively accustomed to being fed. Old habits are broken but not forgotten. This can be compounded by the ease of early grace. The easiness of it all predispositions us toward pride, and pride greases the stairs for your fall down the staircase (Prov. 16:18).
The third snare is the Joseph syndrome. At this early point in the journey, the Father has divinely called you out from among the crowd. The Holy Spirit is hooking you to your calling by giving you an early taste of the things to come. He’s revealing your potential to yourself. You’re tasting the power of your gifts in their future and more mature state.
One suffering from the Joseph syndrome believes they’re so awesome that the sun, moon, and stars are ready to bow down to them right then and there (Gen. 37:9). Lacking the maturity, experience, and wisdom of a more seasoned disciple, they show off their pearls of revelation to anyone who will listen (Matt. 7:6).
The problem with the Joseph syndrome is everyone wants to throw Joseph into the pit. The pride and arrogance, which is hidden from those afflicted with this syndrome, is apparent to everyone else. Since their older brothers have been baking in the sun while watching over the sheep, they’re certainly not all that enamored by their inexperienced little brother’s self-revelation of grandeur, even if the revelation is from God. If you know a Joseph, don’t throw him into the pit. Just be silently content that God’s providence can help him find it himself.
If you’re suffering from the Joseph syndrome, it’s probably impossible for you to see it right now. However, if you can, just sport your multicolored coat and thankfully know you’re not mature enough to work the fields like your older brothers. Be quietly gratified in knowing you’re the Father’s favorite and ponder the word in your heart like Mary; don’t tout it like Joseph.
Our Response in the Praise Phase
In the praise phase, you must respond to the Holy Spirit by embracing what He’s giving you. You must embrace the vision, calling, and identity that He’s placing upon You while, at the same time, accepting the responsibility that accompanies these things. In this stage, you’re learning to be a manager in God’s Kingdom. You’re growing into a person that’s co-laboring and co-reigning with Him. You embrace the call along with the heavy responsibility that comes with it. You are offering the sacrifice of praise but also releasing the shout of praise in times of victory.
Snares in the Praise Phase
The snares in the praise phase of your life-long journey are disillusionment and discouragement. We get disillusioned with God, with people, with other disciples, with leaders, and the church as a whole. None of the above acts in a way that is consistent with our expectations. They certainly don’t align with our assumptions of what “should be.”
Nevertheless, the redemptive potential of this place is powerful. This is the place of character formation. Though at times fruitful, it can be mundane. As we press through this stage, we learn the value of friendship with God solely for the sake of the relationship. He totally breaks us from seeking Him for the purpose of seeing our dreams come true. We learn to seek Him for the purpose of knowing Him. Whether in success or failure, He becomes our prize apart from our circumstances. Many times, as we remain faithful, vision fulfillment occurs in this season, but this is not guaranteed.
If you find yourself in this place, press through discouragement and disillusionment. Don’t drop out of the race. Don’t just settle for being a good citizen; be a Kingdom warrior that fights until victory is secured or until you die trying.
Our Response in the Friendship With God Phase
The third and final phase is the place of mutual friendship with God. In this place, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are your best friends, which may have been true through all the phases, but now you have the maturity, experience, and enough history together to be His friend as well.
Your response in this place is to choose to sit at His feet. Your focus is now interaction within His presence, not the vision or the call. Success or failure is irrelevant. He is the prize. Knowing Him with clarity and mutual transparency is the goal.
Snares in the Friendship with God Phase
The snares one faces in this stage are dependent upon how things faired in phase two. If one doesn’t believe they fulfilled their calling as they interpreted it, there is a temptation to fall into bitterness and to live in a place of perpetual grieving and inferiority due to the fact that they didn’t reach their goals. The people who have fallen into this trap rarely desire to press into His presence. They feel betrayed by Him.
If this is you, you must embrace the Kingdom reality that your “being” calling trumps your “doing” calling. You must embrace this passionately or you’re in danger of missing your whole life purpose. Your purpose is not to be a machine that produces results but to be a person that knows Him.
Remember this! The greatest commandments reap the greatest eternal rewards. The greatest command is to love Him, so throw yourself at His feet and let eternity pick the winners and losers. If you choose His feet, eternity will prove you wise.
The second snare in this phase is wrongfully choosing more success over the humility of being at His feet. Maybe phase two was really good to you. Whether by the sovereignty of God or by the wise use of your talents, you bore much fruit. If this is you, there’s a danger of becoming success greedy.
It’s hard to transition from being the visible head into moving to His invisible feet. Even if you choose more success, you must be aware in the economy of God’s Kingdom that you’re not eating at the head table, but you’re eating at a buffet for all, even lesser servants.
Unfortunately, many people who choose more success don’t attain it. Many times people overstay. How many people and pastors do you know whose business or church would be much stronger if they had retired three years earlier? They can’t seem to let go. They don’t realize their time is up.
If this is you, then you must choose the humility of sitting at His feet. Your experience, counsel, and consultation will be so much more valuable if you end on a strong note, especially if you offer this from a place of friendship with God. Don’t be deceived into believing your value to the Kingdom is based on your results for the Kingdom. Your value to the Kingdom is based on who you have become and the depth of your relationship with the Holy Spirit.
As your physical strength diminishes and you find yourself unable to maintain the pace you’ve engaged in the past, this provides the greatest opportunity of your life up until this point. You now have the opportunity to deepen your friendship with the Father by drawing on a rich history lived with Him.
No matter where you are on this journey, make a point to run to the end. Godspeed, my friends.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on royalperspectives.com
Featured Image by Todd Quackenbush