A Booklet Series on Building Faith and Spiritual Life
By Chaplain Edward Lundwall, US Army, Ret.
Growth of a Faithful Series - Book Two: “Principles of Contentment”
In the Scripture, there are many allusions to levels of growth. In spiritual life these levels of maturing often are described in terms seen in physical, intellectual, social, and emotional life. These references are identified and interspersed throughout the New Testament.
The approaches and methods of ministry are given in terms of the spiritual conditions and maturity of people. One of the best known is the set of instructions to Peter as a type of spiritual teacher by the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. They can only adequately be understood from the original Greek text of the Gospel of John. He said:
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15– 17)
At this time Peter, who was usually self confident and idealistic, had a humble spirit because of his failure to remain faithful during the Lord’s trial. This becomes apparent from the Greek word used for his responses to the Lord’s first two questions: “…lovest thou me…” The Lord’s question used the Greek word for the highest kind of love. It is the love that God expressed when He gave Jesus to be our Savior (John 3:16). This word not only speaks of the passion that gives the best, but love that is intelligent, in that it meets the appropriate need. Peter always humbly replied: “I love you” using the lower level word that speaks of human emotion on a familiar level that can be thoughtless. Further, it can be weak and inadequate to meet needs and to be consistent.
The Lord used the high level of love in regard to feeding the very immature lamb like believers. This should challenge the spiritual caretaker to the greatest amount of patience. Therefore, he should give easily understood teaching and exhortation. The Lord used this same word for the next level which can be identified as a teen age stage. They have more confidence in themselves and quick understanding, but with excessive energy, they rush into what they don’t adequately understand. This becomes apparent from the Greek word translated in the KJV as “feed.” The Greek word here is for shepherding. The love must be high, but it must be the “tough love” of caring that shepherds use in guiding and protecting sheep. They must use the rod and staff of guidance and protection.
This level of the “Growth of a Faithful,” described as “Principles of Contentment,” deals with the spiritual growth area that is between that of baby lambs and teenage sheep. It is designed for those disciples that have accepted the basic principles of faith, both for salvation and for foundations of spiritual life, but need to deepen their commitment to follow the Shepherd, their Savior and their Master. As has been seen in efforts of mass evangelism, if “follow up” teaching and shepherding are not done, few continue even to attend Church.
While foundations for faith and life must be taught, these beginners need care until they become confident and content with what they have embraced. This was the purpose of the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36, 41). They had done this before (Acts 14:22) and is the thrust of the Epistles. They were simply practicing the Lord Jesus’ exhortation and demand to experience a stabilizing relationship with Himself (John 8:31–36; Romans 8:1–9). This is the goal of instruction in the “Principles of Contentment.”
Related reading: Book One: Introduction
This second study booklet in the series Growth of a Faithful may be purchased singly for $2.50 or in packages of five for $10.00 by sending a money order or check donation to: