Intentional growth

Maturity is More Than an Age

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Although I strive for maturity, often I find myself acting more like a spoiled child or touchy teenager than a mature adult.  As children, my sister and I often played ‘grown-up,’ each taking a turn at being the adult–the prized role in our drama.

I was certain I was growing up as I was getting older. However, many of us know those who grew older yet never grew up.  It’s easy for us to identify people who never matured because we often bear the burden for their immaturity: The co-worker who never takes responsibility for mistakes. The neighbors who know-it-all yet display no evidence of this. Or the family members who make every gathering all about them.

On the other hand, we empathize with college students who struggle in their desire to be independent and mature, yet secretly long to become a carefree child again.

In my own life I’ve had to deal with the consequences of immature behavior.  When I blame others or make excuses for my bad choices they see right through me, a sinking feeling develops in my stomach, and I know I’ve lost credibility. If I ask a child to tell someone I’m not at home so I can avoid a caller, I’ve taught a lesson that will take more than words to undo, and my immaturity haunts me. Even though I’m a Christian, it is still hard for me to be Christ-like.  I want to grow up into His image, but my actions reveal I haven’t arrived yet.

My heart breaks, as I’m sure yours does, at the thought that the way I live my life could be a stumbling block to someone’s salvation. So how do we break the cycle we’re in and take steps towards maturity? My journey of discovery began in Hebrews. The writer defines maturity as eating the solid food of Scripture, not just the baby milk or easy stuff (6:1-2). It’s nice to say that God is love, but do we choose to show that trait when someone isn’t so lovely? Similarly, it’s wonderful to know we’re secure in our salvation and have the opportunity to share that great gift with others, but what about sharing the gospel with someone who “doesn’t deserve it”?

These are hard questions, not the questions of a child.

The Hebrew letter challenged the Jews who were looking for an easier way—one with fewer restraints—to mature by continuing to ‘taste’ of the Holy Spirit.  The writer was making two points about growing up in Christ. cheriquote2-may13

First, Real maturity comes by taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth. Click To Tweet That means taking a hard look at our failures, accepting responsibility where we can, and asking God to help us move forward from there. It means being honest in even the little things such as instructing our children how to handle a phone call when we are there but unavailable. These are the little choices we must make everyday. But consistently making good choices is only part of the equation.

The second point in Hebrews is that maturity in Christ means cooperating with the Holy Spirit so we can soak in His rain and produce a good crop (6:7-8).  Hebrew farmers understood this principle. A field that produced good crops was one that had been tilled properly and was able to drink in the rain. On the other hand, a field that had become full of thorns and thistles had not been properly taken care of and, thus, required burning or purification of all the bad seed.

In using this analogy to describe the mature Christian life, Hebrews is painting a clear picture of contrast. A life constantly tilled by going beneath the surface to reveal changes needed in the depths of our hearts, is bringing the hidden into the light and will produce a surface that God can water. Going to church and reading our Bible is a good beginning, but it won't get us beneath the surface until we ask God to reveal what needs changing. Click To Tweet

A life that looks good on the surface but isn't undergoing the hard work of maturity mature under that surface, is going to produce thorns and thistles. Click To Tweet Such a land is not receptive terrain for God’s thirst-quenching Spirit. If we find our lives filled with thorns and thistles: prickly behavior, harsh words, and thorny thoughts, we must first begin anew by setting fire to our fields, recognizing our refusal to grow up or put away these childish things as the sin that it is.

I’m still learning what it means to be a mature person in Christ. But now, when I lose my temper or say things I shouldn’t, when I’m brought through a trial and find myself wanting, I invite the Holy Spirit to come purify my soul. He remakes me anew, turning the ashes of my sin into nourishment for my soul so I might have a prized role in His earthly drama … a vessel worthy of His Name. He promises the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you sit with God, asking Him to search your heart and reveal areas in need of purging? What areas are you withholding from Him? In what ways are you keeping Him at an emotional distance or perhaps ignoring His voice and prompting? Or, perhaps you’re in the “tilling phase.” Can you share how God is working in you to make you more like His Son?

Cover image for studyShare your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! We also encourage you to subscribe to our daily devotions on Crosswalk and iBelieve to receive encouraging, faith-inspiring devotions sent directly to your inbox each day. You can read them HERE and subscribe by clicking the yellow subscribe button. We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Becoming His Princess Bible study, which will help you grow in your faith, center your identity in Christ, and anchor your feet in grace. Grab your free ecopy, PDF file, HERE. Grab your free Kindle copy HERE. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase a print copy HERE. If you’d prefer to order this book through Amazon, you can do so HERE.

 

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Difficulties and the Abundant Life

 

In every moment, we have a choice as to what we’ll focus on and, therefore, how we’ll feel. We live in a world that is all about me. What’s in it for me? In fact, when someone gives of himself or herself unconditionally or doesn’t appear to understand the gravity of their situation, how many of us question their motives or their sanity? What are they up to? What’s their agenda?

However, God never intended us to live this way.When someone gives of themselves unconditionally, how many of us question their motives or their sanity? However, God never intended us to live this way. Click To Tweet

In John 10:10b Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Abundant life refers to life in its abounding fullness of joy and strength for mind, body, and soul” (NIV). As I studied this, I realized that it didn’t say we’d have an abundant life with no problems, or an abundant life with no worries or difficulties.

I have a friend who is a great example of what it means to live life abundantly. Anytime someone asks her how she is doing, her response is, “I’m blessed, blessed beyond measure.”

With that response, you would think she lived a charmed life. You wouldn’t know her daughter was just diagnosed with MS, a crippling disease that will eventually take her life. You wouldn’t know her husband, who is 62, just lost his job—three years before full retirement. You wouldn’t know all of these things because she believes that the gifts she has been given, even the gift of another day with her daughter, makes her blessed. Her focus is on the blessings and she has real joy.

I love to share the story about a group of alumni, highly established in their careers, who got together to visit their old university professor. As they sat in his living room, their conversation turned into complaints about stress in work and life. The professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups—porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal—some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite. As he passed the tray around, he invited them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said, “If you noticed, all the nice looking and expensive cups were taken first, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. It’s normal for you to want only the best for yourselves. That is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the best cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. What all of you really wanted was the coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups.” All of the former students looked around the room at the cups each person held. The wise professor held up a plain, ordinary cup and continued, “Now consider this: life is the coffee. Jobs, money, and your situations are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the kind of cup you have does not define, nor necessarily change the life you live. By concentrating only on the cup, you fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided. “

God has offered us a life overflowing with joy and steadiness of mind, body, and soul–if only we focus on the coffee and not the cup. The abundant life is attainable for all of us, regardless of our circumstances.The abundant life is attainable for all of us, regardless of our circumstances. Click To Tweet

What about your “cup” are you focused on? Your circumstances, job, finances, struggles, personal weaknesses?

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What are your blessings? The coffee in your cup? Make a list of the blessings God has given you—mind, body, and soul.

Then begin focusing on those blessings (the coffee and not the cup) by practicing the phrase my friend says when asked how she is doing, “I am blessed, blessed beyond measure.”