Do you remember what it felt like to be young? For some reading this, that was a long time ago. For others, it was a really long time ago. One of the things I remember is that it seemed like it took forever to grow up; you can probably relate to that. Most of the time, as children, we are ready to be older and bigger than we are; it’s why when we are really little, we put that “and a half” with our ages, to let everyone know that we are not an immature 5 year old anymore—I’m 5 and a half. When I was 10 or 11, I wanted to be a teenager; that magical age seemed to be forever and a lifetime away. Then it came, and I wanted to be 16 and have a driver’s license.
When young children play, their role is always that of a grownup. Whether it’s playing sports and imagining you’re catching a touchdown in the Super Bowl, or playing house with dolls, children want to be grownups. But as we get older, we make a discovery: sometimes, being a grownup just isn’t very much fun. Now we might look at an infant and say, “wouldn’t it be nice to be a kid again, I wouldn’t have to do anything but eat, play and sleep. No decisions.” But, a baby doesn’t stay a baby for very long. They begin to feed themselves. They learn to walk. There’s some pain in those things isn’t there? That baby makes big messes learning how to feed himself or herself. That baby gets cuts and bruises from falling as they learn to walk. But, they keep on trying until they figure it out. As life continues on, we continue to learn more and more and grow more and more.
Similarly, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3 that growing up spiritually is hard. Listen to what he says:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? (1 Cor 3:1-4)
Everybody knows it hurts to grow up, as Ben Folds once sang. But even though it is hard, we must continue our growth. We must desire a deeper awareness of the truth of God’s Word. We must long for a stronger faith for living and a more meaningful maturity. God wants us to grow. God wants us to move on from milk to meat.
Spiritual infancy is a real problem. The spiritual infant is concerned with self rather than with service. There is a time of great rejoicing at the spiritual birth of a new Christian. It’s much like the rejoicing at a natural birth. All eyes are on the baby. The baby gets pampered and spoiled. You walk the floor night after night. An infant is upset over the smallest things, and they have a way of letting you know.
Sometimes, infant Christians are the same way. Some Christians have to be handled with kid gloves. They wear their feelings on their sleeves. They are like bombs, always ready to explode. Maybe they are extra nice at church and explosive at home. At church they may be ideal, and yet at home or work they can be impossible. At church they are always praising, anywhere else and home or work they are pouting and in a snit. The infant is a receiver and not a giver.
The spiritually mature person is quite different. The mature Christian is a believer with a mission. Mature Christians see their lives in terms of ministering to the needs of others. It is a matter of serving rather than being served. Reaching out to others with the love and the gospel of Christ, mature Christians see themselves as a builder of others, and as such they take seriously the building up of the body, the church.
Mature Christians care for the spiritual needs of the body of Christ. They view themselves as peacemakers. They live and teach the scriptures. They help to make others stronger.
Mature Christians have a biblical basis for every belief. It is not a matter of “I think” or “this feels right.” It is a matter of thus says the Lord. Mature Christians are not children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, but they know what they believe and they know why they believe it.
Our goal should be to mature as Christians, just as we mature physically. As we grow physically, we leave behind the relics of childhood. A little girl may have her favorite doll and a boy may have his favorite blanket or bear. But these things are put away in maturity. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul said that when he became a man he put way childish things. When we mature spiritually, we put away relics of spiritual infancy. We are to feed ourselves on the word of God and look to Jesus as our example; as Peter puts it, to follow in his steps. Keeping our eyes on him, following him, we mature spiritually.
We would not know what to think about a person who was in the prime of life who still was fed on a bottle and spent all of their time playing. But how many of us have been Christians for decades and are still spiritual infants? How many of us spend our time expecting to be served instead of serving? How many of us are too busy with our recreation to even show up and get involved, playing instead of working?
It’s time to grow up.