The Toys “R” Us jingle said, “I don’t want to grow up, ‘cause maybe if I did, I couldn’t be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid.” In the classic film Peter Pan, there is a song that talks about the desire to never grow up. It says:
“I won’t grow up, I don’t want to go to school. Just to learn to be a parrot, and recite a silly rule. If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up. Not me!
“Not a penny will I pinch. I will never grow a mustache, or a fraction of an inch. ‘Cause growing up is awfuller than all the awful things that ever were.”
Those silly words are humorous. But they are also true. Most people would love to avoid getting older. Most people would love to be young forever. But that just isn’t possible. At some point, people must mature and grow up. The same is true spiritually.
Maturity is not automatic. Physical growth appears to be automatic. But emotional, mental, and spiritual maturity are not. Some believe they will mature with little effort. The 18-year-old believes he is an adult and has all the answers because of his recent birthday. It simply is not that easy. The same is true of the Christian who is 18 years past his or her rebirth. They may think they have spiritually matured, but it is not that easy.
The Hebrew writer says there were some who should have matured, but they had not. Because of that, they needed to be taught the simple principles of spirituality once again (Heb 5:11–6:1). It is important to realize the Hebrew writer condemns those who haven’t matured. He implies they should have, but failed to take the appropriate actions to spiritually grow up. It takes effort to spiritually mature.
That cannot be accomplished by taking the path of least resistance. How does a child grow up? It isn’t easy. The simplest of tasks takes months of failure to master. Consider the act of walking. It seems natural. But to the infant, it requires failed attempt after failed attempt before the first step is taken. Even then, more falls will be experienced before walking is mastered. With every fall, the child suffers. But the child also grows.
In Ephesians 4, Paul says that God gave certain gifts to the church to help disciples grow. In v. 13 there is an interesting phrase: “…until we all attain…” It takes time to achieve that maturity. There is no quick or easy path to growing up.
This delay in spiritual maturity is perhaps what is most difficult in the process. Today’s culture is focused on immediate gratification. Results are desired without the necessary work and time it takes to achieve them. The attitude of “we want it and we want it right now” makes it difficult for most people to patiently grow.
This is made even more difficult by the public nature of our growth—or lack thereof. While one thinks his or her maturity is his or her business, that simply is not true. Each person’s maturity is on display for all to see. Jesus said you can know people by their fruits (Matt 7:15–20). That certainly applies to each person’s spiritual maturity.
Be careful! Don’t judge too harshly. The harsh judgment used towards those who appear less mature also reveals much about the one judging. Remember… the fruit of the Spirit should be held by every mature disciple (Gal 5:22–24). Included in that list are love, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness—all qualities that would cause the disciple to judge less and encourage more.
There is little doubt that pews are filled on a weekly basis by Christians who have simply never grown up. They aren’t producing mature fruit. They aren’t teaching as the Hebrew writer mentioned. They aren’t growing in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. This isn’t necessarily an intentional decision. It is often simply because their view of reality is slightly skewed.
This much is known. God expects disciples to grow and mature spiritually. He expects His children to grow up into His image in all ways. May God help us to spiritually mature so that we can reflect His glory and majesty to others.