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 (Manna 28)
Phases of a Christian Life
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Phases of a Christian Life

Tay Eng Guan (Singapore)

Sixteen year old May Lee stormed out of her house in suburban New York cursing and swearing. She had just quarrelled with her mother over her smoking of cigarettes.

Now Serene Lee was worried where her daughter would spend the night. Would that it be at least a girlfriend’s house! She quickly called her best friend Kim and told her what had happened. Kim was Serene’s age but had two adult daughters. Serene trusted her because of her greater experience and also because Kim was a trained psychologist.

“Don’t worry, Serene,” she said. “It’s just a phase that they all go through.”

Haifa globe away in Madras, India, Meenachi was serving dinner to the family. Just fifteen, the girl had finished her schoolwork and was doing what came naturally to children in India.

A phase is a state of being that is repetitive and/or unavoidable. So we talk about the “phases” of the moon and say comfortably that puberty is a “phase” in human life. But some of us would react uncertainly when some forward-thinking parent says that his rebellious teenager daughter is just going through “phase” of growing up. Do all teens rebel? Do all young men sow their wild oats? Must all teenagers date when they are young? Or are phases culturally bound? Though May Lee and Meenachi are fictitious characters, they are representative of girls growing up in different parts of the world. We have to accept that people in different parts of the world go through quite different phases in life. And so it would not be right to universalize a particular phenomenon such as teenage rebelliousness in America to every other part of the world.

To a Christian, the influence of culture should not be paramount because we are “not of this world” (Jn 17:14); moreover, we are to walk as children of light (Eph 5:3-10), putting off the old nature which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts (Eph 4:22-24).

Being human, a Christian goes through different phases in life. But it is as yet unclear to many whether a particular state is a phase (i.e. an unavoidable situation) or an aberration of what God has intended for us. Some youths stop attending all services except for Sabbath when they start their families. Their reason? This is a natural phase of life. After all, they had done their share when they were younger. It is now time for the younger youths to take over. But did the people of God in the Bible go through early retirement?

We have to turn to the Bible to understand what God expects of a Christian life. We must not fool ourselves into leading a life contrary to God’s will under the mistaken notion that it is a natural phase that all must pass through. To delude ourselves is to hurt ourselves and the Lord who died for us.

Some of these phases overlap and we remain in some of the phases for as long as we live. In this article we shall discuss three of these phases and their aberrations or deviations so that we may learn to grow in the Lord according to His will and avoid the pitfalls of what man thinks is but natural.

Children born to church members and baptized as infants are loved by the Lord. It is the responsibility of believing parents to teach their young the Word of God. If, in the first place, parents are not strong in the Word, it would not be surprising that their children do not know the Word well either. For this reason, most churches conduct RE classes for children from nursery school right up to pre-university level.

A Christian who has been taught the Word of God properly, whether at home (see the life of Joseph) or in RE classes, will grow up joyfully in the knowledge and love of God. He will have a stable and true set of moral values to guide him in life. Further, because he has been taught to pray, he would have established some relationship with God early in his life. Although this may be a simple faith, it is exactly the kind of basic foundation that is so necessary for the future complexities of life. In joy, he will thank the Lord; in sorrow and pain, he will turn to the Lord in prayer. He knows how to ask God for forgiveness when he has done something wrong and very importantly, he would have learnt what is sin and its consequences.

The value of good RE cannot be underestimated.

However, some children skip RE classes, perhaps because their parents do not attend church regularly or perhaps they think that the classes are boring. In secular education, there are always the recalcitrants who skip school despite the displeasure of teachers and their own parents but these are often difficult, perhaps even maladjusted, children. The same is not true in church because there is no compulsion to attend class and so a large proportion of our children do not have the benefit of a comprehensive RE. This is an aberration in this phase of Christian life.

There are at least three states of knowledge knowing, not knowing and not knowing that one does not know. It is sad that many children who attend RE classes irregularly or who do so without a sincere searching faith grow into adults who think that they know all there is to know about God when actually they lack so much. Some of these adults even reject God in later life, certain that their conscience is clear because they had given God a chance and God h~’ failed! It is a result of deficient RE that many adults today do 1~ot know that they do not know the Bible.

Some Christians go through a sub-phase where they question the exclusive nature of our religion and our church. But the enlightening nature of the truth is such that all who continue to question sincerely and prayerfully will be satisfied (Jer 29:13). We do not see good children leaving the True Jesus Church after assiduously attending RE classes and living out the Word of God. One’s deviation from the church can often be traced to intellec­tual pride and a lifestyle that is against the teachings of the Bible.

Charles Ow is an example of one who has stumbled for these reasons. A favourite with the lecturers at the Youth Theological Seminar, Charles’ future as a useful and even influential worker of God seemed assured. He studied hard for tests and was often top in the class. He spoke well in preaching practice and he even took to wearing the garb of preachers at that time — short-sleeved white shirts untucked over dark pants with a heavy Bible carried on the right hand.

But then Charles went to study in one of the best universities of the world. A few years later, he openly stated that he did not believe in the one true church nor did he believe that baptism was necessary for salvation. Still, he had no intention of leaving the True Jesus Church because his family was still part of the church. Anyway, he reckoned that the church would still be one of the many churches which could be saved. (A notion gaining popularity in some quarters of our church today and which, if left unchecked, would harm many in due time.) Friends were surprised and saddened by this turn of events and they continue to pray to God for his return before it is too late. His lifestyle confirmed the true reason for his fall. He boasted that he had drunk in every bar in that university town in one drinking binge — a total exceeding 20! Today, he continues to be in church but the zeal and fervency of the early days are no longer there.

Working for God

Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work” (Jn 4:34). If we had to divide life into exactly two phases, it would be apt to label them as childhood and adulthood; the difference between them being that one centres around play and the other, work. A child finds fulfilment in play while the adult finds fulfilment in meaningful work.


A Christian must work for the Lord. Be it preaching to others, teaching in RE classes or keeping the church compound clean, one must do these in some part of one’s life and then again for a significant period of time. How long is that, one may ask. How long does an adult work? If he retires at 55, at least 30 years. Two common aberrations in this phase of Christian life are total lack of service to God and premature retirement.

The first problem occurs when people view the church as a cinema. They put in their offerings (buy a ticket), listen to the sermon (watch the show) and then leave the church, often with comments on whether it was a good sermon or not. This perception of the church changes every once in a while to that of a hospital. This happens when one has the peculiar faith of the nine lepers who knew how to turn to God in times of great distress (Lk 17:12-19). Some of us were once like this because we were ignorant but God has called us to better things. If we open our ears to the call of God in sermons and in personal Bible reading, we shall understand how God wants us to work for Him. For example, as sisters, we may be moved to commit ourselves to the raising of children in the Lord . In the process, we free our husbands to work more zealously in the front-line positions of church work. As brothers, the scope is enormous and calls for sacrifice especially in the areas of our secular work and home time.

The second problem is more acute simply because it is harder to eradicate. Perhaps this is what God meant when He said in Rev 3:15-18 that He preferred one to be cold rather than lukewarm. We have seen many older youths and younger middle-aged members shirk their responsibilities in church because they had served time in their younger days. Church service in this perception is likened to military conscription or national service. You may call me back for reservist duty but even then, I would be unhappy because this takes time from my career.

If a church faces the constant struggle of having to inspire the youths to love God and man, then training them in the Word, next, helping them overcome relationship and emotional problems, and finally teaching them to lead others, only to find these same youths “retiring” at this small peak of achievement in the Lord, the evangelistic and pastoral work will remain at a standstill. While the call for full-time workers must not diminish, it is time to realize the importance of creating and mobilizing the second wave of soldiers for the Lord — lay members who are totally reliable when it comes to church attendance and service to the Lord all the days of their lives. Meaningful work must be found for the sustenance of this group of people. Short spiritual meetings should be conducted at convenient times. Church facilities should cater for their young children .~o that they can concentrate on the work to be done.

Members have to be constantly encouraged to make sacrifices in their careers for the sake of the gospel. Nowadays there is a constant emphasis on the need for financial support. An offshoot of this is the call to members who “have the ability” to earn money for the Lord. We think that there is no necessity to encourage the direction that carnal man would naturally be attuned to. Why, for the sake of the one or two who would actually offer big bucks to the church, should we grease the way to condemnation for the many others who would slip along the way of riches? Is there any justification to put finance alongside the power of God and manpower as the three forces needed to spur the work of God in the Last Days? It is clear from Zech 4:6 that the Spirit of God is most important yet it is common to hear this verse being quoted with the qualification, “BUT money is important, too”. It is wrong to put money as equal to the power of God in importance. God’s Spirit is first, then most likely comes manpower and perhaps, at a distant third, will be money. For that reason, it is important to teach believers that the Christian phase of working for the Lord directly in the saving of souls is a life-long quest and premature retirement is an aberration of God’s will for us.


Marriage is such an important phase of a life with God that He made rules for the Israelites about whom they could marry (Deut 7:1-4, 22:30; Lev 21:7). Adultery continues to be a serious sin in God’s sight. There is even a quaint law that frees a man from military service for a year from the day that he marries so that he may “be happy with his wife whom he had taken” (Deut 24:5).

Marriage takes adjusting to and who knows this better than God the Creator? God’s original plan was that a woman would be a helper fit for a man (Gen 2:18). The two shall become one and this unified force is meant to be a help in the direction originally set out by God, which is to do His will. Yet, for many, marriage is the signal for both to retire from church work and to set off on a new direction of “happy ever after” away from the crowd.

This is the aberration most common in this phase of Christian life. Many believers do not know that shirking one’s responsibilities in the larger family of God is wrong. The problem is compounded in a modem society where both parents work and the line between the father provider-leader and the mother sustainer-supporter is blurred. Both pursue their respective careers, come home tired and share the housework. It is not surprising that the new family has no time for God.

As in the previous section of working for God, the solution lies in understanding the will of God and asking Him for strength to carry out what really is best for us. Sacrifice is necessary and if this entails forgoing fleeting pleasures of life (condominiums, big cars, overseas holidays), it must be done. If two incomes are necessary for subsistence, then the wife should fulfil her role as a helper to her husband in the work of God.

The church of God will move ahead in its God-given duty of saving the world if it moves as an entire unit. In the days of the Exodus, Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses. He proposed releasing only certain portions of the population but Moses rightly refused (Ex 8:25-28; 10:8-11,24-29). Today, those in the prime of life are usually the ones missing from the great work of God. The reasons are often the obstacles caused by a secular career and the perversion of marriage.

Attitudes towards this important group of people must change. There was once a group of youths who tried to persuade their seniors who were then in their thirties to help in the youth group. The reasons given by the older group for their unwillingness were that the younger ones were better than they and that they had young children to look after. They went on to imply that the younger ones did not understand their difficulties and that they would soon do the same when they came to a similar point in their lives. A minister even asked the younger group to get off the backs of the older ones because he sympathized with the latter’s situation; he felt that they were trying to change what was a natural phase in life. These youths have grown up and are now parents of young children. By the grace of God, they continue to attend all services in church as well as help in church work. Some of their secular careers may have suffered along the way but then again, some have had their secular careers blessed by God. Whatever it may be, what is important is that they and their families have not starved and they are doing the will of God. This happy state can be attained if we allow ourselves to be led by God. In fact, the church must have people in the prime of life together with youths, children and elders to forge the way to the Kingdom of God.

What is essential from this article is for the reader to review common perceptions on what is a natural, unavoidable and so acceptable, phase of life in the light of the Bible. Then we shall soon realize that some of these perceptions have been sown by our adversary, the devil, to lure unsuspecting Christians into a false sense of security and inertia in the important work of God. Being a lost sheep is not a phase of Christian life. It is an aberration that results from falling into temptation and failing the tests of God because of a lack of proper religious education and experience. Feeling left out after baptism is not a phase in Christian life. It is an aberration brought about by one’s inability to move on to the next phase of an independent personal relationship with God coupled with the inability of a weak under-manned church to provide fellowship during the transition period.


And so in the case of May Lee from New York, Christian parents must not see this as just a phase of life but as an aberration caused by sin. The psychologist will say that such a child will probably snap out of her lack of filial piety. The Bible roundly condemns such behavior (Ex 2 1:17). Who would you put your trust in?.



Consider the following phases in the life of a Christian from birth:

1.     Religious Education (RE) class (Deut 6:6,7)

2.     Personal experience of God (Job 42:5)

3.     Working for God (Rom 12:11)

4.     Marriage (Gen 2:24)

5.     Bringing up children in the Lord (Eph 6:4)

6.      Trials and tests by God (see the lives of Joseph, Moses, David)


For the convert the following should hold true:

1.       Personal experience of God (Acts 9:3-6)

2.       The baptism period – persecution, hindrances, joy (compare crossing the Red Sea)

3.       Independence in faith i.e. not totally relying on others (Jn 4:39-42)

4.       Working for God

5.       Marriage

6.       Bringing up children in the Lord

7.       Trials and tests by God



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Author: Tay Eng Guan