This is another installment in my series of posts on the I-Cycle. Here’s the post where I summarized the whole cycle.
The “God” phase is a quite momentous phase of the cycle, and one that often involves a radical transition from the phases preceding it. The “God” phase is where people come to believe that God has complete sovereignty over their lives, and that God ensures that His will shall be fulfilled through them. Unlike the previous phase (“God and I”), people no longer think that the fulfillment of God’s will is absolutely contingent on their obedience. God may choose to use them to accomplish His plans, but their obedience is something He predestined for them.
In general, one does not simply walk into the “God” phase. Many Christians are afraid to approach it, or feel that Biblically they cannot do it. Many of the objections involve fear that this phase’s conception of God’s sovereignty would cause Christians to abandon personal responsibility.
I view the “God” phase as a foundation for what comes next. I have come to think that if we take the mentality of the “God” phase as our highest truth, the concerns expressed by the critics of this phase may carry some validity. But at the same time, what happens if this foundation is missing?
There is a point which I believe the great majority of Christians could agree upon, which is that, excessive self-scrutiny and anxiousness over one’s spiritual state are not hallmarks of an ideal Christian life. The big question, then, becomes how to avoid these predicaments.
A common answer to this dilemma comes from the previous phase of the cycle, the “God and I phase”, where the belief is that when people choose to fully submit themselves to God, they enter a relationship with Him in which they serve Him out of love and He guides them continually so that they do not have to obsess over adhering to prescribed, written rules.
But, as described in my article on that phase, people can eventually get burned out in that phase when they become more conscious of the spiritual distance between themselves and the rest of the world. At that point, it seems that following God requires more and more conscious effort to avoid sliding down the ways of the world.
If people cross the bridge to the God phase, where they see God as completely sovereign, they often have a sense of relief. There’s a method to the madness. God’s hands are not tied. He does not have to simply yearn for people to follow Him. Even if people resist Him, His will is still being done in their lives.
This understanding of God’s sovereignty can address the issue of getting overwhelmed by the distance between one’s self and the world. In this phase, believers can see the operation of God through both saints and sinners. A believer’s life is not about striving to follow God instead of the world. Instead, it becomes about realizing that it’s God who has set believers apart from the world and instilled faith into their hearts.
If this understanding of God’s sovereignty is used as a basic framework for one’s faith, what does spiritual growth mean? We knew what it meant in the “God and I” phase, but now we’re in a whole new world. What does it mean to live and act in accord with the Holy Spirit under this new framework? What is the paradigm to orient our lifestyles?
The next phase in the I-Cycle theory seeks to address these questions. I should admit that I consider myself to still be in the learning phase with regards to the next phase we will discuss. Though I understand it at a conceptual level, I am still getting my head around exactly what it means on a practical, day-to-day level. But I invite you to join me as I examine material from several writers and speakers and share some ideas on what all of this might mean.