We begin with two scriptures as our test: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away childish things” (First Corinthians 10:13).
“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:10-15).
Both passages have to do with the matter of “growing up.” We are to grow up physically and spiritually. Life is a process of growth from one level to another. And none can deny that the years of the young, and often of the older, the “growing up years,” can be very difficult years. As one young person put it, “One minute it seemed like everybody took for granted that I knew what to do when I really did not; and the next minute everybody was telling me what to do as if I knew nothing.”
Growth Involves Everyone
The more adult years have their problems of growth also. Sometimes people think that the younger years were easier. The young years have their difficulties to the young just as the older years have their difficulties to the older. Because we are all in the process of “growing up” it seems appropriate to understand just what this means.
In the physical world we expect growth. It seems that the passing of the calendar takes care of that if all is normal and well. Just a few months, a few years, then one matures physically. What many do not seem to understand is that the outward, visible and physical growth is not the whole story. In fact, it is not even the most important part of growth. The big part is the inner growth, the maturing of the mind, judgment, thinking and self-control. This has always proven to be more difficult.
It is unfortunate that many young people place a ceiling on their lives while they are young. Instead of building foundations they are erecting ceilings through which they shall never penetrate. They fritter away their time and opportunities for growth. I suppose we all have done this to some extent and we live to regret it. Youth has time, ability and opportunity to lay the groundwork for a fine and useful life. But the failure to seize these swiftly passing opportunities and use these qualities will restrict one’s usefulness and happiness in life. Once the young years are spent and the record made it cannot be changed. One of man’s strongest desires is to be able to start all over and do differently. The very best we can do is to start from where we are. The past cannot be undone. What a tragedy that some build their ceilings through neglect of education, wasting the development of the mind, forming attitudes and habits that harm his character and potential. While the young often resent being told, it is still true that youth is the time for gathering information, building habits and attitudes and properly laying good foundations upon which to build life.
We measure maturity in various ways. Birthdays are chronological measures but not always a very accurate measure of maturity. Some live decades and never grow up in the things that matter.
Physical size is sometimes used to measure but that is also a very fallible standard by which to measure real maturity. Boys of fifteen are often larger than many two and three times their age. But nobody would contend that a fifteen year old has reached maturity. Years ago my grandmother would have considered a boy to be a man once he began to wear long pants. But that is a fallacious idea. Girls thought that once they wore high heels they were grown. It seems laughable, doesn’t it? People may look grown and be far from it.
Isn’t it pitiable that somehow we have “educated” our society to think that the use of profanity, cigarettes, disrespect of authority, wild driving, strange dress and late hours are marks of maturity? So much that is mistakenly called “adult” today is more “adultery” than adulthood.
What are the real elements that determine whether one is grown up? One element is the way a person spends his time. Here is a real clue. Some have a distorted idea of bigness. Those who waste their time in constant play and watching television have hardly begun to grow. Having access to a car, seeing all the movies and being an athletic hero are life’s goals for the immature. “When I get like that, I have arrived,” is their idea.
But as one really grows up he sees things in a better and different light, the light of experience and reality. He realizes just how foolish and childish such things are. These are not evidences of being grown. They are evidences that there is much growing to be done.
We are taught to redeem the time, take advantage of it and use it wisely and constructively. Life is composed of time and we ought make every minute count. Those who realize that show signs of maturity. While we do not expect the young to fully grasp this, the fact that they do not is evidence of their immaturity. But it is something you should expect from those who claim to be mature.
Values and Maturity
What do you consider to be the real values of life? This helps to determine your level of maturity. Many go through life and never learn what matters. When we want to know the value of things we often turn to a catalog and check the prices. God’s book is a catalog of what is valuable in life and we need to be better acquainted with it. If you want to know whether something is worthwhile or not, see what the Lord thinks about it. How does it fit into His standard of things?
What a person thinks of others and how he treats them is a mark of maturity or the lack of it. How does he consider the authorities over him, parental, civil, religious, educational and occupational? The immature person resents authority over him. He feels depressed and that somehow others are taking advantage of him. He refuses to abide by the law; reneges on his agreements; is irresponsible in his work; cannot be depended upon; even rebels against the authority of God. No person is mature until he realizes that he is accountable to God for all of his life and everything pertaining to it. That individual who has the idea that the world orbits around him and for him and to satisfy him is sorely off beat. He will have little to no regard for others and consider everybody out of step but himself. He simply has not grown up. His reactions to whatever gets in his way reflects his maturity. The immature will pout, cry, kick, scoff and lash out. The mature person realizes that such is a part of life, takes it in stride and keeps on his own path without hesitation or distraction.
One of the biggest factors in growing up is the ability to make decisions. We all have to make so many of them. True enough, many of the decisions we make are relatively insignificant. But some are life forming and determine our eternity.
Some never learn to make decisions. They were never allowed to make them when they were growing up. They were never taught standards by which to make an intelligent decision. Therefore, when they reach a point in life that they are called upon to make decisions, they know not which way to turn. Learning how to make decisions is such an important part of maturation.
Someone has said, “In each boy or girl there are a number of different selves. There is an honest self and a dishonest self. There is a truthful self and an untruthful self. There is a kind and generous self and an unkind self. There is a selfish self and an unselfish self. There is an obedient self and a disobedient self.” In this matter of growing up each one must determine which of these selves will be the real you. As one decides to be honest, truthful, kind, selfless and obedient he is making great strides toward real maturity.
The Inspired Window
Think for a moment about Moses. The Bible is a magnificent window through which we can see this man as he grows up. “By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Hebrew 11:24-26). The American Standard Version translates “come to years” with the words, “grown up.” When Moses was “grown up,” when he was truly mature, he decided against the ways of sin and decided to be God’s person. He might have had everything else that this world could offer, but he was wise enough and mature enough to make the right decision. He chose God’s way.
All of the big decisions are not made in the capitals of the world’s nations. Bigger events are taking place in the lives of people everyday, everywhere. While some may consider the conquests of Caesar to be the outstanding events of the first century that which was far more important was the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the faith of Christ. Even today, as the leaders of the world ponder the gigantic ills and tensions, there may well be a decision made in the mind of some boy or girl that will have a greater effect in years to come on the world, or even have a bearing on things eternal. The decision to be a Christian is the most significant decision that a human being can make.
In God’s Image
Every young person ought to believe in himself or herself. Each must remember that he or she is created in God’s image and each counts before God. There are things of eternal value that can be accomplished when one goes God’s way. Anyone choosing a goal and purpose in life that fits God’s purposes has the assurance that God will be with him.
The greatest need of our world is more truly devout Christian men and women. Our needs are not for faster aircraft or rockets to take men to the moon. We need lives that will take people to heaven. Our need is not more missiles, but morals. We need not have creeds, but Christ. Physical food, as essential to life as it is, is not as needful as the spiritual milk that nourishes the soul. We need Christians to counterbalance the increasing wickedness and degeneracy of the world. We need those who will use what God has given them, prepare themselves and be exhausted in His service of doing good. To have that takes mature people.
The Day of Maturity
Every life has what we call “red-letter days,” that is, days that mark the more important events, such as the day of our birth, our marriage, our first job, etc. The greatest day in anyone’s life is the day that they declare, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” and then render obedience in baptism into Christ. All other days take a second place to that one. On that day you begin to do the things for which you were created; namely, to bring glory to God by your life. That is a mark of real growth. The rest of life continues to be a process of growth until that notable day of death when we pass from this world to the next. Unless we reach sufficient maturity to be ready for that day, our lives and our existence will have been for nought. Our regret will be eternal. Our immaturity will have taken us to our destruction.
1. What are the ways children should and do grow?
2. Do we ever cease the need to grow?
3. How do your define true maturity?
4. How do your values reflect your level of maturity?
5. How did Moses show he had matured?
6. What is the result of remaining spiritually immature?