Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 1 Corinthians 14:20 (NIV)
The Oxford Dictionary defines maturity as someone who is “sensible, wise and careful.” Webster’s Dictionary defines maturity as “that process of full development reached through continual growth.” Oren Arnold of the Kiwanis Club says that “maturity is the ability to live in someone else’s world.” Ann Landers said that “maturity is the ability to do a job whether or not you’re supervised, to carry money without spending it, and to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.” The Harvard professor, John Finley, defined it as “the capacity to endure uncertainty.” And Leonard Wedel said, “A mature person does not take himself too seriously – his job, yes! A mature person keeps himself alert in mind. A mature person does not always ‘view with alarm’ every adverse situation that arises. A mature person is too big to be little. A mature person has faith in himself which becomes stronger as it is fortified by his faith in God. A mature person never feels too great to do the little things and never too proud to do the humble things. A mature person is one who is able to control his impulses. And a mature person is not afraid to make mistakes.”
Maturity should be one of your lifelong goals. Specifically, as a believer you should want nothing less than to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” As you seize each day you should aim to keep moving from disorder to internal order and from external order to holy order. David DeWitt refers to these two types of growth in maturity as control growth and creative growth. Control growth involves growth in Accountability, Balance, and Consistency. Creative growth involves growth in Desire, Excellence, and Freedom.
The Scriptures speak about growth in maturity:
Accountability is taking responsibility for your conduct. It’s being responsible with your sexuality (cf. 1 Corinthians 5, 6), responsible in marriage (cf. 1 Corinthians 7), responsible with the type of food you eat (cf. 1 Corinthians 8, 10), responsible as you take the lead and are led by others (cf. 1 Corinthians 9), responsible in worship (cf. 1 Corinthians 11), responsible in the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 12), responsible with what you say (cf. 1 Corinthians 13-14), and responsible with your money (cf. 1 Corinthians 16).
Balance is the development of stability in body, mind and emotions. It’s found when you identify the activities in your life that are destroying or hindering your relationship with God (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Greedy people must stop being greedy. Swindlers must stop swindling. Gossipers must stop gossiping. Idolaters must stop worshipping other gods. Slanderers must stop slandering. Drunkards must stop getting drunk. Adulterers must stop being immoral. Stop doing whatever it is that’s bringing disgrace, discord, disheartenment, dishonour, or disillusionment into your live.
Consistency is remaining faithful to the same principles. It’s continuing to do what’s right. It’s staying fixed and focussed on the fundamentals of the faith. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:11, “Aim for perfection . . . be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Desire is that inner longing to be more like Jesus. It’s recognising that although you may appear to be washed and groomed on the outside your heart isn’t totally devoted to Jesus. It’s responding to the question that Christ put to Peter, “Do you truly love me?” John 21:15.
Excellence is going beyond the good and aspiring to God’s best. It’s pursuing the things that have outstanding merit or quality. It “involves discipline and tenacity of purpose” John W. Gardner. It’s taking up your cross and following Him (cf. Luke 9:23), losing your life for the sake of Him (cf. Luke 9:24), running the race to win (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24), being perfect like Him (cf. Matthew 5:48).
Freedom is taking the liberty we have in Christ to do what Christ would have us do. Maturity is not a question of doing as you like but doing as you ought. It’s not a “freedom to indulge the sinful nature” but a freedom to “serve one another in love” Galatians 5:13.
Anne Nunemaker sums up with these words:
If you can see a work which you have begun, taken from you and given to another without feeling bitterness – that is maturity.
If you can listen to someone criticize you, even unkindly, and receive instruction from it without hard feelings – that is maturity.
If you can see others chosen for a job which you yourself are better qualified to do without feeling hurt – that is maturity.
If you can see a person do an act which is against your Christian standards and react without self-righteousness – that is maturity.
If you can hear a man argue a point of view which is contrary to your own and accept his right to his opinion without a feeling of smugness – that is maturity.
If you can see someone you know deliberately snub you, and still make allowance for his actions – that is maturity.
If you can suffer nagging pain or ache, still singing and praising God, hiding your feelings for the sake of others – that is maturity.
If you can give yourself to help someone else who needs you, without having the idea that you are a “pretty good fellow” – that is maturity.
If you can crawl out of bed at an early hour to pray when you would rather sleep, because you realize that here lies your power with God – that is maturity.
If you can look upon every man as an object of God’s yearning, so that you become burdened for his soul – that is maturity.