Summary: A description of four marks of Christian maturity.
I found a poem on the internet that I would like to share with you. It bears some striking resemblances to a very well-known poem. Listen carefully, though, because it is not quite the poem that you might expect.
One night, I had a wondrous dream;
One set of footprints there was seen.
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"
"Those prints are large and round and neat,
But, Lord, they are too big for feet."
"My child," He said in somber tones.
"For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.
You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk-of-faith you would not know.
So I got tired and fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt,
Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand."
(Author unknown. Found at sermoncentral.com.)
What does it mean to fight and climb, to rise and take a stand, to take the walk of faith? What does it mean to follow where the Lord leads, not satisfied to stay in one place but striving to be on the move—stretching…growing…maturing?
Coming to know Christ is like being born again. In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Paul expands on this: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Like any newborn baby, babes in Christ are expected to grow. It’s not a requirement for entering the family, but it is the hope and expectation that every member of the family will grow towards maturity.
Babies grow at their own pace. Some learn to crawl and then to walk by the time they are eight months old. Some crawl for a long, long time before they are ready to take their first tentative steps along the edge of the couch. Some never crawl at all, but get around by scooting and squirming until they are ready to stand up and walk.
Babies grow at their own pace, but they grow. When they stop growing, stop maturing, stop stretching out for new challenges and new skills, then we worry, because something isn’t working the way it is supposed to.
It’s the same way with babes in Christ.
Paul is concerned that the Corinthian believers have stopped growing, that they aren’t growing up as they should. “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20).
It is the hope and expectation that every member of the family will grow towards maturity. In the case of Christians, full maturity is never reached until we join Christ in heaven, so the expectation of continued growth never goes away. Ours is a life-long journey of stretching, and growing, and maturing.
What does it mean for a Christian to grow towards maturity?
Yes, that’s a tall order. That’s why we must never stop stretching, never stop growing, never stop maturing.
Why is it important for believers to mature? If seeing the kingdom of God has to do with being reborn by the Spirit, why is it important to mature? If even babes in Christ are in Christ, then why is it important to mature?
The Bible is amazingly consistent about why it is important for believers to mature. Besides the fact that growth is simply a normal expectation for babies…besides the fact that it pleases God to see his children grow…it is important for believers to mature for three related reasons: 1-so that we do not stray, 2-so that we do not lead others astray, and 3-so that we can come to the aid of brothers and sisters who are still immature and who may be tempted to wander astray.
The Letter to the Colossians includes these words: “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments” (Colossians 2:2-4).
As the Letter to the Colossians closes with final greetings, the point is made again: “Epaphras, who is one of you [one of the Colossian Christians] and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12).