Throughout the Scriptures, the call to spiritual maturity is expressed in various ways. For example, in Philippians 3:12-16, Paul used an athletic metaphor to illustrate the need for spiritual growth. If we are to mature spiritually, we must have the attitude of an athlete pursuing a prize. It is not enough to encourage people to study and know their Bibles without teaching them why they should grow! We are to study and know our Bibles because the Bible teaches us how to live the Christian life and pursue the ultimate goal of Heaven.
Pursuing the prize starts with an awareness that we have not arrived. In the Christian marathon, we are continually striving to reach the end and must keep running steadily until we have reached that finish line (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Heb. 12:1-2). As a maturing Christian, we cannot ever be content with our prayer life, biblical knowledge, or our good works. The call to maturity demands that we constantly strive toward the goal of being more and more like God.
Secondly, one who is pursuing the prize makes the maximum effort. Picture a runner nearing the finish line, reaching forward, straining every muscle, pushing himself to get there first! That type of zeal and effort should describe our spiritual fervor. We should be running to win and straining every spiritual muscle in pursuit of the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). The maturing Christian cannot allow the trials, hardships, and temptations of life to overwhelm him. We grow spiritually by enduring the trials (Jas. 1:2-4), overcoming life’s hardships (Ps. 27:13-14), and triumphing over temptation (Jas. 1:13-15). Everything that we need to know to pursue the prize has been given to us in the Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). The call to spiritual maturity demands that we continually strive toward the goal, giving our very best effort.
Thirdly, those who are pursuing the prize must continue on the path of spiritual progress. The phrase, “let us walk by the same rule” is used of armies marching in battle formation. The key is to stay with your unit, stay in step, be consistent, and keep moving forward! In the church, God has provided new Christians and struggling Christians godly examples to follow (Phil. 3:17). If you are reaching for the finish line, surround yourself with strong runners who spur you on. In the Scriptures, God has provided all Christians the spiritual food we need to mature and develop (2 Pet. 1:3). The call to spiritual maturity demands that we continually strive toward the goal, giving our very best effort, staying in step with our unit.
Finally, as we pursue the prize it is imperative that we maintain a proper focus by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 2:2). Of all the things that may cause a Christian to quit the race, taking our eyes off of Christ is perhaps the most dangerous. Whether we are distracted by entertainments, seduced by the secondary, or looking back longingly at the broad path, we will begin heading toward our focal point and abandon the race. While sin can easily trip up an immature Christian, as we grow spiritually we develop discernment and with that a distaste for sin and a healthy appetite for holiness (Heb. 12:2; Heb. 1:9, 5:11-14; Amos 5:15; 1 Thess. 5:21-22). The call to spiritual maturity demands that we continually strive toward the goal, giving our very best effort, staying in step with our unit, and above all keeping our eyes focused on Jesus Christ.
It is a sad reality that there are some who have grown up in the church but have never grown in Christ. They did not heed the call to spiritual maturity and somewhere along the way, they stopped striving for the finish line. The story is told of a man who tried to climb to the top of a prominent mountain and fell to his death. At the bottom of the mountain, there is a little grave with a tombstone that has the man’s name and then it says, “He died climbing.” That should be the epithet of every Christian! May we continually strive toward greater spiritual maturity.