3 Marks of Spiritual Maturity

It’s been said spiritual maturity is not just what you believe, but how you behave.

But let’s be honest: marrying the two in every situation isn’t always easy.

Granted, we have this side of heaven to learn, grow and discover; still, if you’re like me in the sense you’re looking to embrace spiritual maturity without despising the growing pains, here are three marks of spiritual maturity to aim for…

1. Dying to offense

Have you ever dealt with someone who lacked the same care you had for an ideal outcome?

Probably multiple times, right? I know when I was younger, anytime I found myself in a similar boat, I would withdraw into discouragement, ignorant to the offense (specifically my attitude towards unmet expectations and what I perceived to be indifference) I was taking; however, as I now know, not only is this a recipe for cynicism, but a contradiction to our call to love at all costs.

So I got to thinking: if everyday presents a temptation to be offended…why not die to our offense in the moments we catch ourselves alive in it?

‘Cause truth is: while we’re all hardwired to passionately pursue people with the passions we pursue, that doesn’t guarantee mutual understanding or aligned priorities. Obviously what matters most to me won’t always matter as much to you or someone else, but this doesn’t mean we have to take it personally.

Rather, whenever we feel others aren’t heeding what we value, let’s consider confronting offense in the moment with the intent to make truth known at the right time (using the in-between time to process, pray, talk to mentors/confidants, etc.)

Bottom line: If you want to mature as a believer, start by viewing every day as an opportunity to love heart to heart (accept people as they are) even if you don’t see eye to eye.

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2. Praying in detail

 If you’re reading this, chances are you know the idiom, ‘the devil is in the details’ is often used to imply an effort that seems simple at first, but takes longer than expected. What you may not know is the phrase actually derives from ‘God is in the details’, expressing the idea whatever one does should be done thoroughly (see 2 Timothy 3:17).

What does this have to do with prayer, you say?

Again, note the origin of the idiom. Sometimes when we pray, it’s based on condition, setting…a criteria of life surrounding us; however, when we pray in the Spirit, we’re praying in detail…we’re praying on terms outside our own. And that, to me, is what prayer is all about: delighting in His nearness and inquiring the specifics of God to better know His will.

Bottom line: Don’t just be intentional in prayer, be aggressive. Have Word exposure (Side note: you can’t mature without it), have a list of requests in front you, have people in mind you can speak out by name, and know what you want to take captive/what you want to take their place. You’ll find the more you pray in detail, the more you’ll discover fresh perspectives you couldn’t have known otherwise.

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3. Fruits in fullness

If you know me, you know one of my favorite topics centers on an issue I haven’t always been great at: living fully/unconditionally; however, to be fair, this is a life-long tug-and-pull for all of us.

As I’ve been teaching my students the past few months in our ‘Fruits in Fullness’ series, fullness and spiritual maturity go hand in hand. The more we pursue fullness with the spiritual fruit we carry, the more others are able to taste and see that it’s good.

That said, we must understand one of the ways the devil prowls after us, especially in a compartmentalizing world, is conditioning our fruit to be conditional.

Check out Genesis 2:16 (AMP): “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely (unconditionally) eat [the fruit] from every tree of the garden.

Note the freely/unconditionally correlation and how this ties into fruit (albeit, the edible kind), God’s original design for man’s function…not to mention our place in Ephesians 3:19: “and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].”

Again, how awesome is it whatever talk about on here…it all comes back to God’s surpassing love and desire for our highest…our best with Him through Him by Him.

Mufasa tingles, anyone? 😉

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Bottom line: Staying with the Ephesians theme…

“…until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity]. ~ Ephesians 4:13

Selah.

Cover photos creds: http://julielopes.com/category/spiritual-maturity

3 Ways to Handle Unfair Criticism

If you’ve worked a job long enough, chances are you know what it’s like to be falsely accused. After all, rumors, gossip, backstabbing = just another day in the workplace, right?

Yet, while we can all agree condemnation is never fun, not all may agree on how to overcome; still, as an advocate of reconciliation, I submit even on the darkest of days, there’s always a roadmap to resolve.

To get us there, here are three basic truths we can rely on when coping with unfair rebuke…

1. Don’t take it personally

Let’s be honest: when we receive unfair rebuke, it’s easy to lock into defense mode (i.e. shutting down, walling up, and basing every thought/action around hurt prevention). Sure, we may take the punches, turn the other cheek, heck, we may even get back up again…but at the end of the day, we’re often far too content remaining frozen in cynicism and analysis paralysis (i.e. over-thinking a situation towards indifference).

Perhaps you can relate to a colleague dishing out unnecessary criticism or a supervisor unwilling to hear your side of the story. Maybe you once wanted to rightfully confront an issue, but fearing job security, kept quiet in hope ‘this too shall pass’.

If so, then it’s important no matter what situation you’re in to not take it personally.

‘Cause while offense may feel good in the moment, truth is: it’s never the answer to reproach or resolution.

But Cam…all I want is to be heard and understood. What’s so wrong about that?

Technically, nothing; however, if offense is your default reaction whenever a finger is pointed at you, are you not doing unto the ‘offender’ what you don’t want them doing unto you?

Bottom line: Rather than stack shoulder chips, dare to defend against offense rather than with it. That way you deactivate pride and open the door for humility1 to enter, which as I’ll explain in my next point, makes taking offense a lot harder.

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2. Respond with class

As mentioned in point #1, when unwarranted criticism strikes, human nature often gravitates towards silence. For some of us, this can be a good thing initially (key word) as ‘quiet time’ allows us to process and collect our thoughts; however, at some point, it’s important we respond to critique rather than sweep it under the carpet pretending it didn’t happen.

Case and point: A few years back I had a supervisor who called me out in front of some colleagues before apologizing on my behalf without my consent. At first I was offended.  Not only did I have no idea what I’d done wrong, but also why my supervisor would jump the gun without discussing the matter with me one-on-one.

With the wind knocked out of me, I sank in discouragement…disguising hurt as focus. Yet, after realizing my processing was teetering on pouting, I decided if I didn’t want a repeat, I had to confront the issue head on in humility.

To do this, I first acknowledged what I could have done better to diffuse defensiveness and establish submission. Then, I addressed the misunderstandings in a way where context could be delivered and exchanged. Granted, I could have started the dialogue here and the conversation turn out okay; however, I knew if wanted to better learn where my boss was coming from, I had to lay down my walls first.

Thus, if you’re like me in the sense you crave context, always ensure it’s both deliverable and receivable when discussing difficult subject matter. That way you come across as understanding, not withstanding.

Bottom line: In the wake of reproach, keep your responses discernably demonstrative, not irrationally remonstrative.

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3. Follow through

As a basketball connoisseur, I’ve always been fascinated with jump shooting. I remember as a little kid riding my bike to the library each summer, picking up some VHS tutorials of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen, and watching them over and over until I mastered that elegant, fluid release (i.e. ‘follow-through’; see definition/instruction/animation below).

How to follow-through (basketball)

  1. Your wrists should be floppy (relaxed).
  2. Fingers should be pointed at the target (rim).
  3. Finish high. You should see your fingers at the top square of the back board.
  4. Hold your follow through position until the ball hits the rim.

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What does this have to do with handling wrongful accusation, you say?

Well, in the same way the follow-through allows the hand to maintain motion and guides the ball’s trajectory closer to the basket, focusing on smaller wins2 (i.e. baby steps/progress points on your way to recovery/restoration; see examples below) can maintain confidence and guide selflessness after a bruising experience.

Remember who you are is loved and what you’re called to is love. So if you want to ‘peace’ yourself together, why not give yourself an outlet to express that? Yeah, I know it can be overwhelming at first to reach out, especially when you’re trying to mask pain, but as I’ve learned in recent years, when you invest in those small wins, it’s amazing what can result.

Bottom line: If you’re unjustly critiqued, don’t stay low, finish highand follow-through.

Footnotes

  1. Humility = the pathway to ‘nowhere but up’
  2. ‘Small win’ examples = initiating conversation with colleague, seeking advice from mentor, reading the Word/referencing God, praying, taking ungodly thoughts captive, random acts of kindness, re-focusing energy and attention away from pain, etc.)

Cover image creds: Psychology Today (edited by Cameron Fry)