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January 6, 2018

Over the holidays my family blessed me with a wonderful gift of a Lego model of the Saturn V rocket. This rocket was used to propel men to the moon in the 1960’s and is the most powerful machine ever built by man. Not surprisingly, after getting this model and assembling it, God has been making us aware of renewed interest in our 3 Stages of Spiritual Maturity document. The connection is obvious as both the rocket and our document have 3 stages used to propel someone to their destination. God is once again giving us a stunning visual of the stages of spiritual growth.

When President John F. Kennedy gave NASA the mandate of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, there was a tremendous push to get the job done. The power needed to get the men off the earth, and speed them toward the moon would be absolutely unprecedented. What they built was the Saturn V launch vehicle. It was massive; 363 feet tall and had the most powerful rocket engines ever built by man. The nature of what this rocket had to do was unequaled in the history of man’s exploration up to that time. First the rocket had to break the men free from earth’s gravity; and then propel their lunar craft through space to the moon. The only way this could be done successfully was to divide the rocket and launch into three distinct stages.

The first stage was the most important and powerful. Since getting a million plus pound machine from sitting still to moving would take the most effort, it required five very large powerful rocket engines. The reason for this requirement is earth’s gravity. Gravity is the most powerful unseen force in our world. It keeps the earth in orbit around our sun; and our moon in orbit around the earth. Without gravity we would be in serious trouble. However, if one wishes to get off the earth, it is a major obstacle to be overcome. The rocket engines of the first, and largest stage of the Saturn V, were herculean in nature; but even with all their power, they were only able to lift the rocket 42 miles from the earth’s surface before their fuel was spent. If at any time those engines were to fail, the whole rocket would have crashed back down to earth in a spectacular fashion.

The first stage engines manage to get the launch vehicle moving; but at a fraction of the final speed the lunar craft would eventually reach. Even with all of their power, most of the energy was spent on simply overriding earth’s gravity. To give this some perspective, think of a large car in neutral; sitting on a flat road. With all of your strength you push against the car to get it to move. If you push hard enough, you may be able to get the car to finally move forward at the pace of maybe 1 mile an hour at most. Think of all the energy you had to expend just to get the car moving; now you have a small sense of just what the rocket engines on the Saturn V are up against.

In the same manner, our first stage of spiritual growth requires the most effort. Thankfully, we have the most powerful force in the universe on our side. That force, of course, is the power of Christ’s death on the cross. Never underestimate just how much power was released to us when Jesus laid down His life for our sake. With His power, Christ helps us overcome the gravitational pull of the world, the ‘self’ nature and satan. Just as someone else had to fire the rockets, we too have to accept the power of the cross. We will not even move an inch in spiritual maturity without it. The first stage of spiritual growth requires that we turn on the engine and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

Once the believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord over their life, steps of obedience to His will should be followed; otherwise it is not genuine lordship. The Spirit’s guidance will always lead us to greater spiritual maturity. Contrary to what many erroneously preach, God wants you to grow into a spiritual adult; the purpose is to overcome the gravitational pull of ‘self’. This requires daily effort and progress; and it may seem to be slow or nonexistent for many. I remember reading one person’s account of how they once believed Jesus had the power to change people; but since they did not see any change in their own life, they stopped believing that Jesus can and does change people. It is sad to see people fall for satan’s lies like this. If you follow God in obedience, you will change; but it takes time to grow up. Just like the Saturn V first stage rockets, a lot of energy is expended for what seems like little progress. Whatever the believer does, they must not quit. If one does quit, they will fall back into ‘self’ just like the Saturn V would fall back to earth, if its engines failed. Sadly, many believers never make it to the second stage and consequently fail this way.

The second stage of the life of a Saturn V launch, only begins after the first stage is jettisoned. This is a very dangerous time. The primary thruster must be discarded since all of its power is gone. Lacking fuel, it is now nothing but dead weight. As the first stage falls back to the earth, the second stage kicks in. If the second stage fails, there is still great danger for the explorers as they are not yet free from the pull of the earth. Thankfully, the momentum from the first stage is still pushing them upwards. When the second stage fires, it pushes them free of earth’s gravitational pull, and the rocket starts building up speed for the rest of the journey. Since the vehicle is already moving, and farther away from the gravity of the earth, the second stage rocket engines aren’t nearly as powerful as the first stage engines are. That is not to say they aren’t powerful though. The five engines of the second stage still give out quite a kick when they fire as they speed the astronauts on their way into the stratosphere.

The second stage of spiritual maturity is very similar. After one has passed all the lessons the Holy Spirit brings to us in the first stage, He is waiting to have us ditch this dead weight (Egypt); He moves us on to the next stage (Wilderness). This requires a tremendous amount of faith. With a great deal of fear and trepidation, we jettison the familiar surroundings of Egypt. In this place we begin to lose what used to give us thrust in the early days of our walk with God. We may feel we are losing something precious; but the reality is that the usefulness of the first stage is now gone. Nothing is to be left that would obstruct or impede spiritual growth. It is God’s power in us that helps us overcome our fears, and move us from the first stage to the second stage. Remember that God is propelling us to spiritual adulthood. He is our destination. To achieve this goal, we must be free from the pull of ‘self’ in order to explore the space of His Spirit. To do this, we must let go of all that would keep us bound to this earth; including the first stage of our spiritual growth.

As we transition from being pulled by ‘self’ downwards, and instead driven to follow His Spirit upwards, the ‘engines’ of faith that are at the heart of the second stage, kick in. This power of faith, linked with obedience, gives us the necessary boost in speed for our journey. As we follow Jesus though the wilderness, ‘self’ has less and less control over us. Obedience to His will, which was so hard in the first stage, becomes easier and easier. Our whole being moves faster and faster to do His will. We are reaching a point of safety, in the realms of the spirit, where our ‘self’ nature and satan no longer have the same gravitational power to pull us down to destruction; as it once did. This is similar to how gravity loses its pull on the rocket as the rocket goes higher and farther. Finally, as we near the end of the second stage, we must prepare to jettison the wilderness. We are now ready to launch into the third stage.

The third, and smallest stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle, has a fraction of the power of the first two stages. It can afford to be small. None of its power is expended just to overcome the gravity of earth. All of the energy produced by the third stage engine directly speeds the astronauts to their destination. The momentum of the first two stages are now amplified by the thrust of the third stage. The lunar vehicle is moving at an astounding rate of speed; impossible here on earth. The gravitational pull of the earth is now a memory as the third stage keeps pushing the explorers farther along.

After the very difficult season of the second stage the believer, now a disciple, has matured to a point where the once overwhelming pull of their ‘self’ nature is now in the past. They are at a crossroads. The work of the wilderness has been completed, but they have not yet come into the fullness of their destiny. The second stage has broken them free from the awful downward pull of ‘self’; but the third stage has not yet fired. This is also a critical time. The maturing Bride wonders if God will ignite the engines of the third stage? At this point, it is imperative that the disciple let go of the wilderness. For all of its harsh lessons and difficult times there was a sweetness, unique to the wilderness, as the maturing Bride bonded in faith with her Beloved. Even so, the wilderness is no place to live. One must let go of the second stage. The Bride is to progress in faith. This is the hardest time as we have to wait for God to ignite the third stage engines for us.

Once Jesus brings us into the third stage, we move faster and faster to the destination of the Father. No longer are we troubled by the crushing weight of ‘self’ and immaturity. We will be free to explore the beauty of God the Father; as spiritual adults. We are safe in His perfect will, away from the pull of the world. Deeper and deeper we will go into Father God’s heart, as we explore His unfathomable character. This is our destiny and heritage as spiritual adults; communing in intimacy with our Heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus, as He takes us by the hand into the heart of the Father.

This is the stunning parallel God has given us in the 3 Stages of Spiritual Maturity. Using the picture of the most powerful vehicle ever built by man, God has helped us understand what is required to overcome the horrendous gravitational pull of the world, the ‘self’ nature and satan. He has not only given us the understanding and model of this journey, but the actual power to achieve it. Today the rocket that is your life is standing at the ready. Are you still on the launch pad waiting to give God the go/no go signal? Are you struggling in the first stage thinking that you are not making any progress? Has God launched you past the first stage and as you have lost all for Him are moving into unknown territory? Are you waiting in faith; past the wilderness wondering if God will do what He promised He would do? No matter where you are, we want to encourage you to trust the Builder of the rocket that is your life. He knows what He is doing. Just follow His will in complete obedience and you will reach your eternal destination.


Homer and Wanda