As parents our goal in life is to bring our children to maturity - maturity in stature (body), mind and spirit. There is nothing sadder than that of stunted growth and it is equally true in the Spiritual realm. The Bible speaks of both mature and immature Christians and gives each one instruction as to how to advance in and respond to maturity. There are many places in the Bible that distinguish between the mature and the immature and encourages us to become mature and to be patient with those who are not.
FOOD: How does one mature? The first and most important thing for maturity or growth is food. When a baby is born the first thing he or she wants is his or her mother's milk and in fact they cry for it. Peter tells us that we are to be like newborn babes desiring the MILK of the Word of God that we may GROW by it (I Peter 2:2). Spiritual growth comes from the food of the Word of God and it begins with the milk of the WORD not the meat (or solid food) of the Word. One would not give a new born baby a steak! But, it would be even more sad if that baby only had milk the rest of its life. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that solid food is for the mature and that the one who uses milk is unskillful in the Word of God, for he is a babe (Hebrews 5:13) . In fact, the book of Hebrews is written to urge us on to maturity. We do not stop eating as we grow rather our choice of food changes and increases. It is just as important for a grown person to eat as it is for a baby. The only difference is the type of food he eats. In fact when the Apostle Paul talks about wisdom among Christians, he says that he speaks wisdom among those who are mature (I Corinthians 2:6). So, the first step and the continuing path of growth and sustainment is food, or the Word of God.
FALLS: (OR TRIALS) - Another path to maturity is trials and falls. Have you ever studied a toddler as he or she begins to walk. I dare say you have never seen one who has just gotten out of the crib and started walking. Walking begins with a step usually followed by a fall. It is only after proper food and growth in body that the child is finally able to take stable steps and walk normally or we might say, in maturity. Trials and falls are to be expected in the Christian life. In almost every book of the Bible we are exposed to the fact of trials and the experience of trials for many of God's people. We are often critical of Peter and his many falls but those experiences are given to teach us that falls are to be expected and in many cases to instruct us as to how to avoid some of them. They also reveal God's great patience and restoring grace and the fact that "what God begins, God completes"! Unfortunately, for many of us we are also critical not only of Peter but of one another when he or she falls. Instead of taking them by the hand, lifting them up and strengthening them so that they too may go on to maturity we often judge and criticize. What is your first response to a toddler when it falls? You want to help it up and encourage it to try again. That should be our response to the fallen believer - to help him or her up and to encourage them in their trials. "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual (mature), RESTORE such a one in the spirit of gentleness: each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2). Too many of the members of Christ's body today are involved in "critical and judgmental downfalls rather than encouraging uplifts". Jude tells us that we are to have compassion on some, making a difference and on others, save with fear, pulling them out of the fire" (Jude 1:22-23). So, falls and trials will be a part of spiritual maturity just as physical maturity. In fact even grown-ups are subject to falls on occasion. So, lets strive to be patience with one another and with ourselves.
FUTURE EXPECTATIONS: A third aspect of maturity is TIME. We should not expect to be mature over night. None of us expect our children to go from the crib to the first grade or from the first grade to college. We know that it takes TIME and we focus our sights on the future when maturity should be achieved. But, we do expect it to be reached and we work toward it, both in ourselves and in others. This requires as I said before, PATIENCE! James chapter one tells us that trials come as a testing of faith to produce patience but we are to let patience have its finished work that we may be MATURE, lacking nothing. Again the goal is MATURITY!
So, I ask the question again, what do you think of when you hear the word, maturity? I hope after these thoughts that you will think of the importance of it in your spiritual life and that you will take the necessary steps toward it by desiring the milk of the Word of God, graduating to the meat of the Word of God - that you will realize that the falls and trials in your life and in others are a necessary part of that maturity and that you will strive to be patient with the weak (or immature) as well as yourself. And, that you will give maturity in your own life and in others TIME to develop. Remember too, that "He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus". "Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise GOD our SAVIOR,
be glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and forever". And, may you "GROW UP(mature) into HIM in ALL THINGS." (Ephesians 4:15) My children used to sing a song when they were young and I couldn't help but think of the words as I wrote this.