I have had to deal in recent times with various young people with varying degrees of maturity. It has been interesting to see them dealing with issues without the maturity that will come in time. That prompted me to think about what makes for maturity and how people get there.
The Bible speaks about such things, so I’d like to share some thoughts with you from what I’ve observed.
The word ‘maturity’ was not used in the original English translations of the Bible, but various aspects of maturity are clearly evident. More recent translations refer to being mature.
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4
That verse speaks of steadfastness or endurance working in us so we become fully developed, perfect and entire.
James leads into his reference about maturity with …
“Testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:3
So he saw that trials, having to hold on in faith, teach us to persevere, or to hold our position despite the pressure, and that leads to maturity and completeness within us.
That links to a statement by Jesus about how enduring difficulties brings great personal benefit.
“By your patient endurance, you will gain your souls.” Luke 21:19
So there is something significant about going through difficulties and not getting it easy. As we learn to hold on and push through such situations our inner life (soul) is built up, as we become mature and complete.
Apostle Paul explained that key ministers in the church will equip Christians for effective Christian living, leading to maturity.
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” Ephesians 4:13
We are to come to a place of maturity that is beyond that of ordinary mature people. We are to become like Christ, who stands far above the standards others measure by.
Paul then goes on to explain what we might be like if we are not mature.
“So we will no longer be infants, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Ephesians 4:14
This lines up with what I have observed in young people. Many don’t understand the significance of self-restraint and are unaware of themselves and their situation. This likely comes out of their childhood upbringing, where they are comfortable and not challenged. When they venture outside their home, away from the familiar and away from parents and siblings who understand them, they confront challenges with people that usually come from their ignorance and lack of self-restraint.
Along with that is the problem of children who can get their way at home, and who expect to be able to get their way in the wider community as well.
A child is distracted by anything that seems interesting or exciting. They are also impressionable and will believe what they are told. A child will also be lured to things they think will make them happy. So children are unreliable. They set off on a task for their parents, but can be distracted by what they see and hear, and by what others are doing and saying.
This is being ‘tossed to and fro’ and being blown around by the latest wind of teaching or popular ideas. This makes them vulnerable to cunning people who can spin a story and deceive them.
I am happy to report that some of the youth I mentioned earlier have begun to ‘grow up’ due to having to clip their own wings and fit in with others. They have begun to have their eyes opened to the fact that they don’t own the world and are not heroes, as they might have felt they were back at home.
They are learning to endure constraints they don’t want. They have to negotiate how to work along with people who are very different to them. They have to miss out on things they want to enjoy. They are beginning to see what they look like from someone else’s point of view.
It has long been observed by older people that marriage and having children helps people grow up. Spouse and family make demands of us that force us out of our happy hopes for doing what we want and being who we think we are.
The end result is the kind of maturity the Bible speaks of, where we stop wanting things our way and we become who God wants us to be and we do what God wants us to do, despite difficulties that come our way. We are not lured away by the latest hot theme, or disturbed by the latest attack on Christianity. We are not chasing our favourite topic, or buying into distracting arguments. We resist the lure of deceptive teachings and we know that all the fads and winds will pass, but God and Christ will remain unchanged. We too stand strong and remain unchanged, through all the pressures and distractions of our world over time.
Friends, choose to put your faith in God’s Word and to walk humbly with God. Allow God to challenge your selfishness and your childish ideas, and determine to be who God wants you to be, without regard for what is happening around you. Realise that fresh winds and fresh temptations and fresh attacks against Christ will come from time to time. We don’t need to be distracted by them or drawn into them, unless God tells us to confront them. We get on with the work of God’s Kingdom and we do it faithfully. And as we do we know we are Coming to Maturity.