Normal human development involves moving through different life stages, from learning to walk and talk to getting a driver's license to embracing adult responsibilities. Naturally, you become concerned when your kids don't hit those milestones along the way. While you were thrilled at your child's first word as an infant, it's much less exciting if, at age twenty-five, their only word is still "Mama."
Spiritual growth also features certain milestones we should be reaching, but far fewer of us are concerned about this type of growth. If anything, we tend to overestimate our spiritual maturity, getting by on the assessment that "I'm doing better than most."
In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul highlighted four milestones of the believer's past, present, and future relationship with God. He essentially laid out the path we are to take when we come to Christ, describing what we're saved from and what we're saved for: we are to go from wandering to waking to watching to working.
1. Wandering: "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world" (vv. 1-2). We all start off spiritually dead, separated from God. We are all sinners and trespassers, both falling short of God's glory in our ignorance and defiantly crossing known boundaries. We are dead men walking, wandering the world without purpose. God alone can awaken us spiritually.
2. Waking. Because God "is rich in mercy, because of His great love" (v. 4), He intervenes. There is no greater "but God" moment than this awakening to our need for God. We're all sleepwalking until the truth of the gospel strikes us somewhere deep inside: "Even when we were dead in trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (v. 5). When God intercepts our lives and we receive Jesus, we're transformed—we go from DOA to eternally alive.
3. Watching. At salvation, God "raised us up together [with Jesus], and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (v. 6). In the future—in "the ages to come" (v. 7) in the new heavens and new earth—God will show us the richness of His grace and kindness in Christ. Are you looking forward to that time? Are you eagerly anticipating Jesus' return and reign? Are you watching and looking for Jesus Himself?
4. Working. We prepare for an eternity of Jesus' unfolding love by obeying His call to love in the present. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (v. 10). You are a masterpiece, chosen, shaped, and designed by God to express His beauty and love. Don't worry if you don't feel like it—you're a work in progress like the rest of us. And God won't stop working on you; will you work with Him to see it through?
We seldom check to see what God says about our milestones as spiritual beings. But it's important to stop and take stock of where you're at in your relationship with the Lord. When you do that, remember that you're not saved by good works, but for good works. And God is an expert at working with imperfect tools. So watch for His work in your life and lean into His purpose for you. He's in this with you for the long haul.