I’ve heard it several times through my teaching years as students have visited the back of my classroom to look at the personal items I have on a shelf unit behind my desk. It’s the area where I have class pictures of every group I’ve ever taught and all three of my college degrees along with family photos. Invariable a student will zero in on the college degrees with their fancy writing, embossed seals, and ribbons and state, “Gee, Elementaryhistoryteacher...look at these college diplomas. You sure are smart!”
It’s funny how we gaze upon someone’s college degrees and instantly decide that person is smart or has maturity in their field. Those degrees instantly give us entre into a particular profession and they give us legitimacy with our professional peers and the general public.
Don’t get me wrong…I worked hard for every diploma I have. College degrees are important economically and socially in our society. Over the last few years our society has placed a huge importance on college pushing our kids to work harder and strive to reach that next rung in the ladder.
But my maturity or immaturity as a Christian has nothing to do with my college degrees.
I have a job as a Christian. It’s very simple. I’m supposed to devote my time to becoming a mature Christian. My bachelors degree took four years. My masters degree took another two. However, my job as Christian is a life long process. It is not something I can retire from.
Hebrews 6:1-2 tells us…Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith from God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Every parent hopes for one overall result for their children, and God is no different. He wants his children to experience growth and maturity.
So what is maturity? An online dictionary explains that maturity is being fully developed or a perfected condition.
Our maturity is evidenced in our character. One of the things I repeat to my students over and over is the mark of a mature student is he or she follows the rules and procedures even when I’m not around to prompt them. Preacher, evangelist, and publisher, D.L. Moody said it even better with his statement….Character is what you are in the dark.
Scripturally our source for maturity is found in James. James tells us maturity does not come from age, appearance, or academics. Maturity involves our attitudes. The word James uses reflects my online dictionary entry I linked to above. Maturity involves a complete or perfect work.
There are several characteristics of a mature person.
A mature person is positive under pressure. James reminds us that trials and challenges are going to be part of lives, but that testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…James 1: 3-4
James explains that those of us who remain positive under pressure will be blessed….Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him…James 1:12
A mature person is sensitive to people. Dealing with people can be difficult. In my position I never really can decide which is worse…dealing with an administrator, a fellow colleague, a student, or an upset parent. Perhaps this why I enjoy work days at school so much or why I celebrate the time I spend in my classroom over the summer. I generally go in during the month of July and spend three or four hours getting things prepared. The joke is, I guess, ….that teaching is a wonderful profession as long as you don’t have to deal with people. Unfortunately one of the necessary ingredients to teaching is dealing with people.
James 2:1 advises we are not to show favoritism while James 2:8 reminds us we are to love our neighbors as ourselves….harken back to Leviticus 19:18 and the words of Jesus quoted in Matthew 25:35-36…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…
Can you imagine how many problems in this world could be solved if God’s faithful would truly step out and help their fellow man?
James also explains a mature person has mastered his mouth. James 3: 9-10 advises…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
Do you realize what gossip is? It’s hearing something you like about someone you don’t like. It’s wrong. Talk should build someone up…not tear them down….Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen….Ephesians 4:29
Holding our tongue is probably the most important aspect of maturity….James 1:26 states…If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
A mature person is a peacemaker, not a trouble maker. James 4:1 asks…What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? If you are constantly having issues with others perhaps your motives are wrong….James 4:2-3 or selfish pride is your problem…James 4: 11-12.
Finally, a mature person is one who is patient and prayerful. Since my first surgery in August I’ve been waiting for some type of normalcy to descend upon my life. I’ve seen glimmers of a normal day….I’ve even had a few normal days in a row, but my problems persist. God is definitely reminding me He is in control, and I need to be patient. A mature person must wait sometimes a very long time without giving up.
James 5:7 advises…Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. James reminds us of Job's perseverance and let us not forget that Elijah prayed regarding rain for three and half years! Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops…James 5:17-18
The recipe for becoming a mature Christian is easy to read, but difficult to follow. Perhaps that's why we must work on perfecting the recipe every single day of our lives....