In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how the Bible offers a personal and family approach to spiritual development stages instead of a structured diagram or list. We discussed how the Bible speaks of children, young men, and fathers instead of how to’s and steps:
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” – 1 John 2:12-14
In Part 2, we want to talk about ‘young men’ and ‘fathers.’
If you read 1 John 2:12-14, it appears that young men have gone through something; they have become strong through this ordeal and have overcome the wicked one. I take this to mean that the time after spiritual childhood is when things become difficult. There may be dismay. Things are not handed to you on a silver platter. You may wonder what happened to God, and then wonder how you have gotten off track. You search and wrestle (a true Israelite is one who wrestles, Gen. 32:24-28).
To some, this may be a prolonged trial, desert, or wilderness experience. Wrestling is not fun, but with ‘what you received from the beginning’ in your heart, the vision in your eyes, the wind in your sails, then you must wrestle. You become strong in the assurances that the Word urges you to find (Heb. 3:14; 6:11). So you overcome; the Word of God has assured you when the things of this world have failed you. You are thoroughly weaned from the assurances of the outwardly fortuitous and live instead by the realities of the Word of God. You have overcome and become strong.
A man I know, let’s call him Charles, had a wonderful birth and childhood in Christ, followed by 10 utterly devastating years. They were interminable – no end in sight; painful, suffocating, and with many tears. There were serious times of wrestling, dismay, and flash-in-the-pan glimmers of hope. He recalls how near the end of this time he heard an announcement of a large Jesus music concert and his heart leapt a bit at the thought of Christ’s presence.
He then knew that, much like the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), he had brought enough oil – that Christ was still that which awakened his heart. And coming out of that time of trial with great strength, with great independence from the fortunes of the world, he looks back on all the weaning, the strength, the owning of the assurance of the Word he exchanged for temporal assurances. Charles has no regrets, but thankfulness for that time and for the many revelations of God’s glory he has had in its wake.
Fathers are not just older, they are relational in their ‘olderness.’ That is, they not only have strength, assurance, and wisdom, but they are distributors of such, propagators – nurturing those who are younger. Perhaps that’s what Scripture means when it repeats of them, “you have known Him who was from the beginning.” I suppose that in coming to know Him, they have taken the posture of Him who is the nurturer, the propagator, the One who is the Father.
Christian Counseling for Spiritual Development Stages
If things are a bit dismaying to you in your spiritual walk, Christian counseling can help you understand where you are at in this – child, young man, or father – and help you recognize what to expect, what processes are at play in your life at this time. God’s grace and goodness to you.
“Draw with Me,” courtesy of dagon, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Elders,” courtesy of aderna, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Follow Me,” courtesy of Danielle Macinnes, unsplash.com, Public Domain License