Summary: One who is mature in the faith will act as a spiritual parent to others.
John speaks of 3 stages of spiritual development. Level 1 is spiritual childhood. The challenge here is seeking to walk with God. Next, is the level of spiritual adolescence. The challenge here is striving to work with God. Now, we come to the third stage mentioned by John.
Stage 3: Spiritual Parenthood - Sharing The Wisdom of God.
As one develops spiritually, he goes from learner (Spiritual Child) to laborer (Spiritual Adolescent) to leader (Spiritually Parent).
The basis of all spiritual maturity is knowledge of God.
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
The process of spiritual maturity involves applying one's knowledge of God to life experiences.
"Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us." - 2 Timothy 3:17 (The Message)
Wisdom is applied knowledge! Spiritual parents, through applying their knowledge of God to daily life have gained wisdom. They not only know God through factual understanding; they know Him through personal experience. Their prayer is that of Moses:
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12 (NIV)
The spiritual parent wants to influence others toward Christ & maturity. Paul was such a believer. In 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, we read how he sought to influence others. From Paul's example, we learn that a "Father in the faith" shares God's wisdom through . . .
1. Evangelism - v. 15
"He who wins souls is wise." - Proverbs 11:30 (NKJV)
The evidence of spiritual wisdom is a burden to see souls come to Christ. Paul was a father to the Corinthians by leading them to faith in Christ. How many have you "fathered" into God's family? Spiritual parents are involved in winning souls for the kingdom!
From 1923 to 1955, Robert Woodruff was president of Coca-Cola. After World War II, the company to adopted his goal, "During my lifetime I want every person in the world to taste Coca-Cola."
If a man can be passionate about everyone having the chance to taste a soft drink, how much more should God's people be passionate about everyone having a chance to taste "Living Water?"
2. Exhortation - v.14
The spiritual parent share the truth with the world, and speaks the truth to the wayward. Paul says in Ephesians 4:13 & 15, that when we are "mature," we will "speak the truth in love." Spiritual parents want others to avoid mistakes and benefit from lessons he's learned.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." - 2 Corinthians l:3-4 (NIV)
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." - 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NIV)
NOTE v. 15 - "All this is for YOUR benefit . . ."
In his book Tell The Generations Following, Robert Baker tells the story of Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth. During the first years, when times were tough, president B.H. Carroll wrote a letter to pastors and friends. "I am up a tree. Can you and your fine men help me?" Frank Groner, pastor of First Baptist, Stamford, Texas, replied, "I am in a hole. I must call my fine men together to raise $14,000 to pay on a pressing debt on our building. How can a man in a hole help a man up a tree?" President Carroll wrote back, "When you come up the tree to help me down, you will be out of your hole."
What can help us when we're "in a hole," is the thought that what God teaches us there will enable us to help someone else who is "up a tree." God expects us to use what He teaches us through life's experiences to encourage others going with the same experiences. A spiritual parent uses what he's learned to benefit others.