By James Holland, Sr.
Let’s get serious about where we really are in our walk with God. Ask yourself some hard questions, be honest with yourself, and locate your spiritual growth as measured from God’s perspective instead of yours. Questions like, am I walking with God or merely sitting in His presence? Many today are guilty of singing “standing on the promises” while they are merely “sitting on the premises”. We must be mature enough to judge ourselves by God’s work, not by our emotions, our carnal thinking, or someone else’s opinions.
I read the story one time of a family that had moved into their first home. While moving in, they discovered a yardstick in one of the closets. Once they had settled in, they began the task of measuring the windows for curtains. They used the yardstick they had found in the house. However, much to their dismay, when the curtains arrived and they began the task of putting them up, the found that none of them fit properly. Believing that the clerk of the store had made a mistake, they proceeded to return them. Yet, once at the store, they re-measured them and found that they were the exact dimensions they had previously ordered. After much heated conversation, they returned home to try again. The results were the same, and the curtains didn’t fit. The husband went to his work truck and got his measuring tape to re-measure yet again. Once he had measured the windows with another tape, he found that the yardstick that had been left behind was apparently a trick yardstick. The measurements on it were not correct! That is exactly what Satan wants to do to us. He wants to give us a trick yardstick to measure our lives, only to find out in the end that they don’t fit properly. Don’t ever get caught in the trap of measuring yourself against someone else. Use what is always correct, and that is the word of God.
Neither can we judge our spiritual success by our emotions. We all have them. In fact, God gave them to us. Yet, God tells us to walk by faith, not feelings. Our emotions, as great as they are, are not a good indicator to how we are doing. Our emotions will deceive us. When things are good, our emotions will try to convince us that things will always be good. When things are bad, our emotions will magnify the difficulty and sorrow, and try to convince us that not only are things bad, but that they are not going to get better. This is not true, so we must walk by faith based on the word of God, not on emotion. People that live in an emotionally based relationship will eventually crash and burn. Most of them do not need a devil to help them or anyone else. They will accomplish this on their own because their foundation is not sure. Satan is always ready to assassinate and rob us of God’s will. This is easy to do with emotional based servants. They believe that if they don’t feel a certain way, God isn’t there; or if the music doesn’t reach a certain pitch, God isn’t moving. When trouble comes and their emotions do a turn around on them, they find themselves in a great dilemma.
Jesus promised His disciples three things in this life. He said they would be wildly happy, completely fearless, and constantly in trouble. The question isn’t will we have difficulty and trouble, but rather how will we respond to the trouble (John 6: 47- 48, John 16:33).
The truth is, many are not being taught from biblical perspectives on how to be victorious. We will discuss this in depth later. One of the main problems that contribute to much of the defeat in the lives of people, especially in North America, is that we suffer from self-centeredness. In fact, I am totally convinced that God’s church in North America is the last strong hold that must be broken by the power of God for the church to experience the revival in North America that is exploding everywhere else. When people are self-centered, they are never kingdom minded. They only pray when it will benefit them or their purpose. It’s not about God’s vision; it’s about their vision. This is what splits churches and stops the mighty flow of the Holy Ghost. We must be delivered from self-centeredness and become kingdom minded. It’s not about us; it’s about God and what He wants to do.
People that are self-centered are always indifferent to the needs of others around them. Several mindsets must be broken in the church of North America to be able to have true apostolic revival. First, we must be delivered from our self-centeredness. Second, we must develop a respect for ministry again. The third mindset that must be broken is the spirit of stinginess and greed. Only after these mindsets are broken will we experience a mighty revival.
Notice what the apostle Peter wrote to us in his first epistle, chapter 5: 10-11. “But may the God of grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen”. Let’s look at this closely. First, the God of grace. This means that God is our source of all comfort, help, and mercy. The Lord becomes personally involved in using His ability for our needs. Then in verse 10 he declares that God will perfect – meaning to restore to a former condition, to repair the broken parts, to bring to a completion. Then the word establish – meaning to fix, to make firm or solid, to stabilize something with support. Peter continues in verse 10 – to strengthen – meaning to impart strength onto or to make strong. Then he says God will settle – meaning to lay on an immovable foundation, to give a firm basis, or to ground. Finally, in verse 11, he reminds us that God has eternal dominion. Dominion here means, “mighty power in action”. We can have confidence in God’s mighty power.
What we call salvation is merely the first stage of God’s plan for our lives. Salvation means to conform us in character and power to the image of Jesus Christ. That is what spiritual maturity is all about. It is a walk, not just a talk. If we fail to see our relationship to God as such, we will allow too many areas within us to remain unchanged. Getting the mind of God is the pulling down, the demolition and removal of these old ways of thinking so that the actual presence of Jesus can be manifest in us and through us.
Self-centered people will not allow this to happen because they see no need for change. The end result is devastating. People become defeated in their walk with God. I am totally amazed at how many spirit-filled, Jesus name people, serve God out of shear will power. No joy, no vision, no power, spirits full of anxiety, fear and confusion, wondering what am I supposed to do. Just think how powerful we could be if we were living in victory, joy, and the power of the Holy Ghost. I challenge you today my brother and sister, to stop right now, lay this book down, and ask God to deliver you from self-centeredness, or what ever it is that Satan is using to hold you back.
Signs of self-centeredness:
1. Always have to be right
2. Always question what you have not yet experienced
3. Territorial- more concerned about keeping your little place or position in the church rather than growing.
4. Always opposed to any new ideas
5. When praying, using the personal pronouns ‘I, ‘me, and ‘mine’, more than anything else
6. Never had a burden for anyone but your immediate loved ones.
These fortresses exist in the thought patterns and ideas of individuals, churches, and even nations.
We need the peace of God in our lives to be victorious. Jesus can use peace to do war! It was Jesus who spoke to the waves on the sea “Peace be still” (Mark 4:39). Peace warred against turmoil, and turmoil laid down. Our peace in God doesn’t come from extreme indifference. Rather it comes from being so confident in God’s love that we know, regardless of the battle or the difficulties that may come, we will be victorious. We are not self-assured; we are God-assured.
Romans 16:20 makes reference to Jesus bruising the head of Satan under his feet. To wage spiritual warfare, we must understand spiritual authority. Spiritual authority is not forcing your will upon someone else. It speaks of establishing God’s peace in our life, where once there was conflict, oppression, and defeat. Our victory never comes from our emotions or our intellect. Our victory comes by refusing to merely judge by what our eyes see or our ears hear or by what we feel. We will never know Christ’s victory in its fullness until we stop reacting humanly to our circumstances. You see, when you truly have victory over something, you can look at that thing without worry, fear, or anxiety. In fact, your peace is the proof of your victory (Matthew 8:23-27).
Satan’s arsenal consists of such things as fear, worry, doubt, and self-pity. When we have victory, we have peace. Our peace in God is immovable because it is based on His word. It is time for us to stop being defeated and to be victorious. The peace of God, that He desires to release in our lives, is actually a weapon we can use in the battles of life. Peace declares that we are not falling for the lies of Satan. Jesus attacked Satan, not with emotion, but with power of the Spirit of peace working in Him. He simply refused to be influenced by Satan’s lies.
We can do the same thing. Only God’s peace will quell your fleshly reactions in battle. The source of this peace is God Himself (Revelation 4:6). We must know that we are not struggling with God, but that God is with us. We must be settled and positioned correctly in our relationship with the Almighty. Look at Psalm 110:1-2 – “sit at my right hand while I make thy enemies a footstool for thy feet”. So position yourself in the presence of God. The focal point of all Victory comes from seeking God until you find Him, and then allowing His presence to fill your spirit with His peace. He has not called us to defeat but to victory (Philippians 4:7-9).
Christian maturity is God’s desire for us as His church. A weak, anemic, pale, sickly Christian, is not a pleasure to the heart of the Master. With reference to His people, God deals in super abundance. He doesn’t give stingily of His gifts so any deficiency of the church cannot be laid to His charge. God’s pardon is always abundant in faith and love. His peace passes all understanding. His joy is unspeakable and full of glory. His love passes all knowledge, and His riches are unfathomable. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 3: 17-19. “That Christ may dwell in your heart by faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that ye might be filled with the fullness of God.”
Conformity to the image of Christ reflects itself in spiritual maturity. A good example of spiritual maturity is seen in Stephen in fivefold fullness. He was full of power, he was full of the Holy Ghost, he was full of wisdom, he was full of faith, and he was full of light. We are called to be lights in a dark world.
Defining spiritual maturity
What is this fullness that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:13 “Till we all come in the unity of faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the statute of the fullness of Christ.” The perfect man refers to the complete man, the grown up man, the man of mature life or full manhood. It is a state of strength, wisdom, knowledge and courage. We are to grow until we become like Christ. He is the standard by which we measure our growth.
Some people equate Christian maturity with some simple experience or a certain feeling they may have. Truthfully, this maturity does not come through one experience, but through a combination of experiences with God. This is accomplished in Christ through successive deepening steps, which are declared for us through the word of God. Maturity is to know Christ in the fullness of His person. One can be born again of water and spirit, and I might add, must be. They can be sanctified doing all the right things, and yet not be a full-grown believer.
Paul had been serving God for twenty-nine years when he penned the words “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death.” Paul wanted to become fully acquainted with Christ in His nature, character and work. This is the true mark of maturity. We must resemble Christ in all things. Most, today, want to reign with Christ in His glory, yet few want to acquaint themselves with the submission and obedience to Christ that is necessary for developing real maturity in our lives. Many want the crown of glory, but avoid the crown of thorns. Many want to wear the robes of righteous splendor, but are not willing to wear the robe of submission and obedience.
Those who will live the more abundant life do not see the Christian experience as merely something to receive and to hold, but something that possesses us! It makes us willing to wear a yoke, to share a cross, to deny ourselves, to expend his energies, and to live an overflowing life. This is spiritual maturity.
Unfortunately, childishness permeates the ranks of Christianity, and must be dealt with before the church can advance. It will take a mature church to make an impact on today’s world. Paul complained to the Corinth church that he could not deal with them as spiritual people, but as carnal people. The Moffat translation gives a striking rendering. “I could not discuss things with you, my brothers, as spiritual persons. I had to address you as worldlings, as mere babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with solid food. You were not able for solid food, and you are not able, even now; you are still worldly. For with jealousy and quarrels in your midst, are you not worldly, are you not behaving as ordinary men? (1 Corinthians 3: 1-3)”
The church that will shape and lead the way for this last day harvest will be a spiritually mature church that understands prayer, spiritual warfare, and kingdom thinking and living. Not people that are always upset about something.
Immature people must constantly be milk fed. They must be amused, they deal with petty things, they are always in the midst of bickering and strife, and they are always trying to promote their own agenda. Immature people must always be served. Have you noticed how many people there are in the kingdom that love God with all of their hearts, yet they can’t get along with anyone, in or out of the church?
Mature believers, on the other hand, are addicted to the care of the kingdom. They desire to please God, rather than themselves. They know how to submit themselves to one another in love, bearing one-another’s burdens, and praying for one another. When they are asked to serve in a different capacity than where they are, they never see it as something being taken away from them. They view from the kingdom mindset that they are merely making an adjustment in their place in the kingdom to promote the will of God for all.
What are the foundations of maturity? Paul declares in Ephesians 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love.” He was literally saying, living in truth would lead a person to spiritual maturity. The foundation stones for maturity are love and truth. Love demands truth for its full flowering; this is love that has been tested and proved. Love is associated with mature development throughout the scripture. Love is the condition under which growth takes place. Jude in verse 20 writes, “keep yourselves in the love of God”. Faith always grows in the fertile soil of God’s love in our lives. Paul talks about the dimensions of love, the breadth, length, depth and height. The height of God’s love reaches to the heavens. The depth of His love reaches to the lowest hell. The breadth of His love is as expansive as the east is from the west. The length of His love is from everlasting to everlasting.
However, in addition to love, there must be truth to be spiritually mature. The scriptures admonish us to abide in truth, to walk in the truth, and to do the truth, for He is truth. The only alternative to maturity is childishness. God had called us to be victorious soldiers of the cross, not just toy soldiers, but real soldiers. Toy soldiers look good, but have no real fighting experiences.
The above article, “Why Are There So Many Defeated People in the Kingdom of God?” is written by James Holland, Sr. The article was excerpted from the fourth chapter of Holland’s book The Battle for Spiritual Maturity.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.