Shallow Faith – Myths About Spiritual Maturity (Part 2) by Rev. Tony Cooke

To read Part One of this article, click here.

Shallow Faith – Myths About Spiritual
Maturity (Part 2)

by Rev. Tony Cooke

Last month, we introduced the topic of “Shallow Faith” and presented some of the myths about spiritual maturity.  In particular, we identified three factors that don’t automatically or necessarily make a person spiritually mature.  They are: Time (having been saved a certain amount of time), Proximity (having been around church or spiritually mature people), and Appearance (having an outward form or look of spirituality).

We also brought out Paul’s statement about maturity (or perfection) being a continual quest.  He said in Philippians 3:12, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”  In other words, maturity is more of a moving target than it is a settled state.  Once a person concludes that he’s reached ultimate maturity, he’s more likely to have simply been lulled into a condition of deception and spiritual stagnation.

This month, let’s look at some of the other myths surrounding the idea of spiritual maturity.  Let’s consider four other factors that don’t necessarily or automatically, in and of themselves, bring maturity.

MYTH # 4.  TRIALS automatically make you spiritually mature.

James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation…”  Unfortunately, we’ve often read and interpreted that as though it said, “Blessed is the man who experiences temptation.”  Many people who’ve merely experienced temptations, tests, and trials have come out of those experiences disheartened, discouraged, and defeated.  It’s not the trial that brings the blessing, it’s the enduring of it that enables us to grow and mature.  To endure means to abide under, to stand firm, to persevere, and to bear bravely and calmly.  It’s been said that trials will either make us bitter or better, and I believe we have a choice in what our outcome will be.

Trials are a bit like weights.  No athlete was ever made strong by weights.  It’s what the athlete does against those weights (lifting them and exerting pressure against them) that makes him strong.  Likewise, it’s our response to the adversities of life (acting on the Word of God, trusting God, persevering, casting our cares upon the Lord, etc.) that brings maturity and development into our lives.  Trials provide an opportunity or occasion for us to do these things, but the trials themselves don’t necessarily produce that maturity in us.

That’s why we should see trials as an opportunity to trust God and to see Him do wonderful things for us and in us.  I think that’s why Paul expressed the following in Romans 5:3-4: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” 

MYTH # 5.  KNOWLEDGE automatically makes you spiritually mature.

There is a lot to be said for knowledge (Hosea 4:6; John 8:32; 2 Peter 1:2, etc.), but that’s another lesson.  While knowledge can be a great source of blessing in one’s life, knowledge alone—the mere accumulation of information— doesn’t automatically create spiritual maturity in a person’s life.  Knowing Bible facts doesn’t take the place of acting on or being transformed by truth.

Paul said that the Corinthians were “…enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge…” (1 Corinthians 1:5), but shortly after that, he said of the same people, I…could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. …for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3).

The Corinthians had knowledge, but that knowledge had not translated into spiritual maturity in their lives. 

In speaking of meat sacrificed to idols, Paul said to this same church, “Yes, we know that "we all have knowledge" about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3, NLT).

The Apostle James strongly emphasized that it’s acting on the Word of God, not merely hearing it or knowing it that counts.  Consider what he said (James 1:22-25 – Message Version): “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God — the free life! — even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.”

I say this with compassion, not to make fun, but I remember a person I interacted with a couple of decades ago who had an amazing intellectual grasp of the Bible, but his life was a disaster.  He could finish quoting any Scripture that I brought up, but for some reason, none of his knowledge translated into a fruitful or transformed life.

MYTH # 6.  SPIRITUAL GIFTS automatically make you spiritually mature.

In our last point, we mentioned Paul’s assertion that the Corinthians were carnal, not spiritual.  He even referred to them as spiritual babies.  He didn’t simply refer to them being enriched in knowledge in 1 Corinthians 1:5, but consider what else he said about them in verses 6-7:

“…that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift…”

There was such an abundance of the operation of spiritual gifts in the Corinthians church, especially the utterance gifts, that Paul devoted an entire chapter (1 Corinthians 14) to the proper use of prophecy, as well as tongues and interpretation.  In the chapter before, he stressed the fact that no matter how many spiritual gifts or how much knowledge you have, if you aren’t developed in and exercising the love of God, everything else is in vain.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

When you stop and think about the Corinthians—a group of believers who were enriched in knowledge and had an abundance of spiritual gifts—it’s amazing that they were getting drunk at communion services, were suing each other in secular courts, and were full of strife and division.  Apparently, they saw spiritual gifts as toys, not as tools.  When used properly, spiritual gifts can greatly help in edifying the Body of Christ and bringing us to maturity, but in and of themselves, they don’t automatically make us spiritually mature.

MYTH # 7.  MINISTRY automatically makes you spiritually mature.

Serving God is a wonderful thing, and it’s such a privilege when the Lord calls and graces us to function in some type of ministerial capacity.  It’s important to keep in mind, though, that just because a person happens to have some type of gift with which to minister, that doesn’t mean that his or her character has necessarily developed along with the gift.  As a matter of fact, some people mistakenly see ministerial activity as a substitute for personal development.

I heard a minister say years ago that, “In the process of becoming great ministers, some become lousy Christians.”  It’s really a sad thing when a person becomes proficient in preaching the Word but deficient in living the Word.

In reading Luke 10:38-42 (the story of Martha and Mary), it’s obvious that Martha is a good woman who has a real inclination to serve.  In the midst of that serving, though, she is distracted and seemingly envious of Mary.  Jesus told her she was “worried and troubled about many things” and validated the decision of Mary to simply sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His Word. 

It’s not that Jesus does not appreciate those who serve, but He valued the personal development that Mary was submitting to and experiencing.  Perhaps Jesus was mindful of the fact that people can get burnt out serving if they don’t have a vibrant relationship with Him that underlies and fuels their serving.  Perhaps the position He took simply reveals the priorities that He holds.


Many of these things (time, proximity, knowledge, etc.) can certainly contribute to our spiritual maturity IF we are applying ourselves to obedience and IF we are allowing Christ-likeness and the fruit of the Spirit to be developed in our lives.  But we must not allow ourselves to be lulled into a sense of carelessness and assume that these things are substitutes for or will automatically make us spiritually mature.  May God help each one of us move into true maturity in Christ!