Imagine an invisible continuum that has needy on one end and totally self-reliant on the other. All along the scale there is a movable dial which can measure the progress or reversal of various physical qualities. Some of the qualities might be: Physical growth, Motor skills, Social skills, Financial skills, Knowledge, Wisdom and Emotional stability, to name just a few. As one goes through life the dial should show a steady advancement in these qualities. In reality, the needle would often bounce around and sometimes even regress. A child usually learns to tie his shoes at an early age, but when old may need others to do that for him. In between he should grow towards one day tying the knot.
Some of the other skills mentioned may be neglected or ignored, leaving the dial stuck on the same setting. Since this mental exercise is a self-check, there will be some occasions of self-delusion. As we move closer to self-reliance we may become a, “legend in our own minds.”
If one applies this method to our spiritual life, things get a bit more complicated. We know we are supposed to, “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Pe 3:18) We also know we need to study (2 Tim 2:15) and mentor others. (2 Tim 2:2) We also need to mature from milk to meat. (1 Cor 3:2) (Heb 5:12) (1 Pe 2:2) The problem is that as one advances along the continuum, he/she may be blinded by his/her own brilliance and pride like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. (Lk 18:9-14)
Ironically, the dial often has to regress in order to progress. It would not be hard for a congregation of today to grow from humble to arrogant as did the church in Laodicea. (Rev 3:17) To avoid such a fate, churches and individual Christians often have to return to the needy setting on the scale. Jesus says, “Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28) Also, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Pe 5:7) We soon understand the verses that state that, “…my power is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Cor 12:9) (Rom 8:26) (1 Cor 1:25) To move forward spiritually we have to often return, repent and revive. (Rev 2:4-5) (Rev 2:16) (Rev 3:3)