I Want to Grow Up Now

I’ve been thinking about the topic of spiritual maturity a great deal lately. It seems to keep coming up in conversations, often with students and young adults who are frustrated by repeating the same patterns of sin over and over again. I know too well the discouragement of thinking that I should be further along than I am, that I’ll never amount to anything of significance because I still struggle with some very basic maturity issues.

But here’s the truth: maturity is measured in years, not in days or weeks or months. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow. It bothers us that we still struggle with the same old sins, the ones we struggled with a year ago or ten years ago. Sure, there’s been some progress, but we want to be complete, fully mature. And we want it right now.

Whenever I feel that way, I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone:

Abraham repeatedly made the mistake of lying about his wife’s identity because he didn’t trust God to protect him. Yet he was eventually willing to trust God with his only son.

Moses needed 40 years in the wilderness before he was ready for something great. He continued to struggle with impatience and a quick temper throughout his life, but he was the greatest leader Israel ever knew.

David needed several years of running from King Saul before he was prepared to ascend the throne. Even then, his reign wasn’t a perfect one and his character was often questionable. Yet God continued to forgive him and to use him in great ways.

Peter was a fascinating mixture of rock-solid faith and reckless personal ambition. But his impact for Christ was unparalleled in the early days of the Church.

I’m not saying we should sit back and complacently accept our sin. Quite the contrary. What I am saying is that maturity and eternal impact don’t come easily. And they don’t always come quickly. We live in a culture that idolizes youthfulness and expects us to make our mark on the world before we’re 25.

But that’s not realistic, or even biblical. Maturity is measured in years…and years…and years. If you feel discouraged by your lack of progress or by your lack of impact, remember that your story isn’t finished yet. In fact, when you consider the scope of eternity, it’s hardly begun yet.

The solution to your immaturity isn’t to throw up your hands in despair. Instead, the solution is to keep chasing the goal of knowing Christ, of conforming to His image, until the day you see Him face to face (Philippians 3:7-11). And along the way, who knows how He might use your life?

Do you ever feel frustrated by your lack of spiritual growth? How do you deal with that frustration?

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The Quick Road to Spiritual Immaturity

Recently I was cleaning my desk (a rare event indeed) and I ran across some old forms filled out by students applying for college leadership positions. In the past eight years we’ve had hundreds of young men and women involved in our ministry as Bible study and service team leaders.

As I scanned the applications, I noticed a pattern. There was one consistent character trait shared by every difficult and unproductive leader. To my surprise, I had often noted it during the application and interview process. Most students who shared this trait clashed with authority, struggled to keep people in their groups, and experienced significant conflict with other leaders. Few of them lasted in leadership for more than one year.

It wasn’t a lack of gifting — in fact, many of these students were the most gifted ones in their peer group.

It wasn’t a lack of personal purity — some students who struggled with pornography, sexual sin, or eating disorders eventually grew to be faithful and effective leaders.

What was the one trait that predicted failure, then?

Lack of teachability.

Without exception, every student who failed in leadership simply refused instruction and correction. If anyone suggested areas of improvement, these students made excuses or changed the subject. Every time somebody tried to teach them something new, the unteachable leaders simply said, “Yeah, I know that already.”

As a result, they never grew beyond spiritual infancy. In some cases they seemed less mature when they left their leadership positions than when they started.

A person who never listens is a person who will never grow. That shouldn’t surprise us. Look at what Proverbs says on this subject:

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).

“A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Proverbs 17:10).

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2).

“Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him” (Proverbs 27:22).

Lack of teachability is the quick road to spiritual immaturity. If we want to grow, we must learn to listen. If we want to become more like Jesus, we need to understand that we’re not there yet. Not even close. The godly person knows that and so eagerly seeks wisdom and correction.

So take a look at your own life. Are you quick to listen, or do you always need the final word? Do you trust the authority God has placed in your life or do you argue and make excuses? Do you already know everything, or are you willing to learn?

The answer to those questions will play a huge role in determining whether you progress toward spiritual maturity or whether you remain in your folly.

Question: Are there areas in which it’s particularly hard for you to accept correction? How can you and I become more teachable in order to grow in maturity?

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