“Lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes.” I was reading Charles Swindoll’s “Living the Psalms,” when that sentence bought me to a dead halt. I don’t know about you, but I don’t talk like that. I’d say, “Lord guide me;” or “please strengthen me so I don’t become want revenge;” but I’d never think to ask straight up for righteousness.
Righteousness was a good choice. David got straight to the heart of everything he needed by using that word. It’s another example of the exemplary spiritual maturity that he showed from a surprisingly young age. I am well over double the age David was when he dealt with Saul’s attacks in a wise way, and I can’t hold a candle to his example. I would be trying to fight my way out of that situation, rather than maintaining my innocence to stay clean before the Lord. It takes more self-control to do that, than I possess.
Spiritual maturity is hard to quantify: it’s not static. It is not something that is gained which stays at a minimum fixed level; rather it’s a process of becoming holy, balanced and responsible. It affects the totality of how you react, think and feel and you can lose it all, or parts of it. When David sinned with Bathsheba and killed Uriah for convenience, he ignored the moral part of his maturity for a time, even though he was still mature in other areas. That incident is a reminder that we all have to work hard to keep our heads on straight. We never arrive with no danger of backsliding.
Spiritual maturity (and growth) are not accumulatively achieved as a result of ageing. It comes through surviving tough life experiences and hard work. A working definition of spiritual maturity covers an extensive number of areas and behaviours in life, and I see many of them in David. (This definition list is by no means exhaustive.)
– Uncompromising obedience to the Lord;
– God alone becomes your primary resource of strength, wisdom and guidance;
– you act and serve other people in love, not out of obligation, or seeking reward;
– you bring peace rather than create strife or problems, and settle disputes wisely;
– your pride is well on the way to dead; plus you don’t focus on your achievements publicly;
– you respond to your failures and sins with repentance and a desire to please God, picking yourself up off the floor, determined to do better (teachable and humble);
– you desire God’s correction and are willing to make adjustments to your thinking and behaviour;
– regardless of what hits you in life, you push forwards with hope, praising God;
– your attitude and faith are a catalyst which strengthens other people’s faith;
– you don’t treat God as a needs-delivering vending machine, but instead respond to Him with joy, trust and the positive expectation that He is there for you, whether you can feel that or not;
– you build your relationship with the Lord daily, without prompting, or because you’re desperate;
– you have tamed your tongue and are not caught up in appearances;
– you do not act out of vengeance or judgement, but with the fruit of the Spirit;
– you give all credit to God, or other people as appropriate, never yourself;
– you care for the elderly, sick and disadvantaged in the community without doing so because you feel motivated by guilt or duty;
– you’re kind, generous, loyal and dependable;
– you can be trusted to be moderate in dangerous areas, such as in the use of power, alcohol and sex…
… or to put it very succinctly, you have learned that God is in charge, where you stand in Him and you continuously lose your selfishness in order to follow and obey Him.
The rewards of seeking spiritual maturity are greater joy, peace, hope and stability. You cope with the ups and downs of life better, find more fulfilment in the path the Lord is leading you down and have an enriching, dynamic relationship with Him, which will pull you through any havoc that life can throw at you. That makes the process of slowly killing off your selfishness to become mature worth it. It is a long learning curve which is never easy, but the benefits make every moment of sacrifice undeniably worthwhile.
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