Maturity of Life
As a Christian, you have everything you need to be what you ought to be. Spiritual maturity is not a process of gaining things that you did not have when you became a believer.
For example, consider a newborn baby. It isn’t born without arms, and then gets them later. It’s not a pollywog. It doesn’t develop into a frog. When a baby is born, it has all the physical equipment it will ever have. In fact, the older we get, the more stuff we lose!
When you were born in Christ, you were made spiritually whole and have all you will ever need to become mature. It’s only a matter of development until you function in a mature way. You have everything you need-there is no lack, you are complete in the Lord.
However, a Christian can arrest his development and even permanently damage himself by sinning. As damaging as sin is, we must acknowledge that we sin, not because we lack anything, but because we do not appropriate what we have. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Many believers have difficulty in realizing and facing up to the fact that sometimes God uses time in his development of our Christian life. This truth is brought home by the following story.
One day in the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Disraeli made a brilliant speech on the spur of the moment. That night a friend said to him, “I must tell you how much I enjoyed your extemporaneous talk. It’s been on my mind all day.” “Madam,” confessed Disraeli, “that extemporaneous talk has been on my mind for twenty years!” ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Kipling once offered the following tests for maturity. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, it you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too, if you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, or, being hated, don’t give way to hating…”── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Not, how did he die?
But, how did he live?
Not, what did he gain?
But, what did he give?
These are the merits
To measure the worth
Of a man as a man,
Regardless of birth.
Not, what was his station?
But, had he a heart?
And how did he play
His God-given part?
── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
"If you stop and ask yourself why you are not so devoted as the (early) Christians, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it."
William Law, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, Jon Johnston, 1990, SP Publications, p. 34.
Amy Carmichael once penned these thoughts: Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won through step by step by little bits of wills, little denials of self, little inward victories by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph no spiritual maturity. That is the work of the moment.
quoted in Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 130.
The work of Japanese painter Hokusai spanned many years before his death in 1849 at age 89. But toward the end of his life, the artist dismissed as nothing all the work he had done before age 50. It was only after he reached 70 that he felt he was turning out anything worthy of note. On his deathbed Hokusai lamented, "If heaven had granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter."
Today in the Word, September 16, 1992.
As water never rises above its level so what we do never rises above what we are...We shall never take people one hair's breadth beyond our own spiritual attainment. We may point to higher things, but we shall only take them as far as we ourselves have gone.
W.H. Griffith Thomas.
C.S. Lewis, on the freedom of reaching maturity:
When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am 50, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things -- including the fear of childishness and the desire to be grown-up.
Of Other World, Edited by Walter Hooper.
You're never too old to grow up.
Shirley Conran, Savages.
Strong sons of God are not perfected by childish pursuits.
David Breese, Living For Eternity, Moody Press, 1988, p. 78.
Though many of us have seen pictures of a huge eagle's nest high in the branches of a tree or in the crag of a cliff, few of us have gotten a glimpse inside. When a mother eagle builds her nest she starts with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and a number of other items that seem entirely unsuitable for the project. But then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs. By the time the growing birds reach flying age, the comfort of the nest and the luxury of free meals make them quite reluctant to leave. That's when the mother eagle begins "stirring up the nest." With her strong talons she begins pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface. As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles. Eventually, this and other urgings prompt the growing eagles to leave their once-comfortable abode and move on to more mature behavior.
Today in the Word, June 11, 1989.
Human beings grow by striving, working, stretching; and in a sense, human nature needs problems more than solutions. Why are not all prayers answered magically and instantly? Why must every convert travel the same tedious path of spiritual discipline? Because persistent prayer, and fasting, and study, and meditation are designed primarily for our sakes, not for God's. Kierkegaard said that Christians reminded him of schoolboys who want to look up the answers to their math problems in the back of the book rather than work them through...We yearn for shortcuts. But shortcuts usually lead away from growth, not toward it. Apply the principle directly to Job: what was the final result of the testing he went through? As Rabbi Abraham Heschel observed, "Faith like Job's cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken."
Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God, Zondervan, pp. 207-8.
History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstance.
Donald Creighton, Towards the Discovery of Canada.
A familiar Mother Goose rhyme goes:
PUSSY CAT, PUSSY CAT, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
I'VE BEEN TO LONDON TO VISIT THE QUEEN.
PUSSY CAT, PUSSY CAT, WHAT DID YOU THERE?
I FRIGHTENED A LITTLE MOUSE UNDER THE CHAIR.
Like that cat, Christians sometimes settle for petty involvements, trivial pursuits--chasing mice--when we have the opportunity to spend time with royalty, with the King! Instead of remaining content with minimum daily requirements, we can deepen our relationship with God and grow into maturity.
A while back on "The Merv Griffin Show," the guest was a body builder. During the interview, Merv asked "Why do you develop those particular muscles?" The body builder simply stepped forward and flexed a series of well-defined muscles from chest to calf. The audience applauded. "What do you use all those muscles for?" Merv asked. Again, the muscular specimen flexed, and biceps and triceps sprouted to impressive proportions. "But what do you USE those muscles for?" Merv persisted. The body builder was bewildered. He didn't have an answer other than to display his well-developed frame. I was reminded that our spiritual exercises--Bible study, prayer, reading Christian books, listening to Christian radio and tapes--are also for a purpose. They're meant to strengthen our ability to build God's kingdom, not simply to improve our pose before an admiring audience.
Gary Gulbranson, Leadership, Summer, 1989, p. 43.
Ingratitude denotes spiritual immaturity. Infants do not always appreciate what parents do for them. They have short memories. Their concern is not what you did for me yesterday, but what are you doing for me today. The past is meaningless and so is the future. They live for the present. Those who are mature are deeply appreciative of those who labored in the past. They recognize those who labor during the present and provide for those who will be laboring in the future.
Homemade, December, 1984.
I met a young man not long ago who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet. That also happens to some Christians. I've seen some of the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in a little puddle. But if you put them into a larger arena--into the whole creation--only then can they become great.
In The Last Days Newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, "Were any great men born in this village?"
The old man replied, "Nope, only babies."
A frothy question brought a profound answer. There are no instant heroes--whether in this world or in the kingdom of God. Growth takes time, and as I Timothy 3:6 and 5:22 point out, even spiritual leadership must be earned.
William C. Shereos.